Chin chin cher-ee.
Melbourne - a city full of dark magic! People like to dress in black and drink lots of potion called coffee; with bus that looks like train that look like bus that runs on wires; scribbles on walls they called it art; men wearing jerseys with no sleeves with a ball they called it sport. This mischievous city never stops to amaze me...
Honestly, I do love this city. My last visit was a short one but I did managed to check out a few restaurants including one of the most raved about restaurants right in the heart of Melbourne CBD, and Chin chin is her name.
Only a stone throw away from Flinders Station, Chin Chin is located at the "just-a-little-bit-fancy" food hub on Flinders Lane surrounded by Coda, Cumulus Inc, PM24 and the like. The restaurant is still pretty much on the "must visit" radar and is known to be notoriously hard to get a table at peak lunch or dinner hours. The only way to secure a seat is either you change your body clock to have your meal earlier than everyone else, or change your body clock to have your meal later than everyone else. Despite a mate who thought he could convince his friend, a fellow foodblogger who now works as a manager at the restaurant to let us have a table - how foolish he was, a no is a no. But second time lucky, I hit the joint the next day at 11am, for a morning-ish lunch.
The restaurant looks small from the outside but is a lot bigger on the inside with its open space set up. The kitchen is at the back, a cocktail bar on the side is where you can sit and drink, and wait until they come over and call your name when the next empty table is available.
Chin Chin offers modern Asian fusion with strong influences of Thai food, a similar establishment that I can think of would be longrain. The menu is extensive, designed to share from small plates to bigger plates, and if you are lazy, shout out "feed me" as the menu says, and they will serve up a selection of their favourite dishes for $66 per person, number of dishes in the package not mentioned.
First starter we share is a plate of spicy corn and coriander fritters. 4 bite-sized soft batter balls studded with corn kernels are deep fried to a dark brown hue, they are served as a wrap with iceberg lettuce cups, mint leaves and their house made chilli jam. I like the fritters as they are still piping hot on the inside, the coriander flavour is very subtle and the hero is definitely the chilli jam, hot but not enough to make you sweat. I do find the fritters a tad greasy but it isn't so noticeable when eaten together with the fresh lettuce leaf and refreshing mint leaves does help to clean the palates and wash the greasiness away.
Another DIY entree, this time we have the Chin Chin Pork "Roll ups", same same but different to the more common Chinese Peking Duck pancakes. These pancakes are actually served with shredded meat of red braised suckling pig and a Vietnamese inspired herb slaw of bean sprouts, lettuce, mint and coriander. A small bowl of Sriracha sauce on the side for who those who like it hot.
The suckling pig is incredibly tender and juicy with the texture of chicken meat but lot more flavour, I love the refreshing herbage of mint and coriander that accentuates the sweetness of the meat. Every bite has transported me back to Saigon.
Despite there are only three of us, we seems to have no trouble ordering enough food to fit a whole army. The son in law eggs here are good. These eggs are the bombs, they are not just some hard boiled eggs being deep fried and then drenched in chilli jam; they are sexy golden dragon eggs (that is my Game of Thrones talking!) that have been prepared with skills and accuracy to ensure the yolks are still runny when cut open. The salty and sweet chilli jam dressing is additively delicious, whilst the sharp peppery betel leaves cut through the intense flavour like a Samurai sword, cleaned and without a trace.
Every Southeast Asia country has its own version of braised pork and eggs stew. It is one of my favourite comfort food that I cook quite often at home. The Chin Chin's version of the Thai Moo Parlow is not what I have in mind when it arrives at the table. The colour of the dish seems a lot lighter in comparison to the others of this similar dish that I've tasted. The eggs should be a darker brown tone after hours of braising in the gravy. Nevertheless, it has its own merit, chunks of pork belly are tender enough but definitely can do a little bit longer in the braising, the gravy is mild in flavour but I am more than happy to drizzle it all over steamed rice and call it a meal.
Sorry, my version of braised pork and eggs is still better. ;)
Can there be too much pork? Never!
A dish inspired from one of Red Spice Road's signatures perhaps, hunks of caramelised pork belly are sticky sweet and salty, the slow cooked method makes the meat incredibly tender with layers of fat that just ooze out on each bite and melt into nothing! It is served with a side of salad, very similar to the pancakes, the sour herb salad is a mix of Granny Smith apple strips, betel leaves, coriander and mint on a chilli vinegar dressing.
Our last dish has an interesting name, "Scud City", it is also the most expensive dish on the menu. It is a jungle curry with one lonesome moreton bay bug, swimming in a "claimed to be" super hot curry sauce. I love the sauce, it is hot but definitely bearable. The moreton bay bug itself, sadly the sweetness of the meat has lost in the hot curry sauce. We also struggle to share this dish as there is simply not enough meat on the bug to really get a full appreciation of this dish.
By the time we finish our lunch, the restaurant is already packed with office workers and the noise level immediately turned up a few notches. It is time for us to leave as there is already a long queue waiting outside ready to take over our table.
I did enjoyed the food at Chin Chin, it is good, but Thai food is a lot better in Sydney. Just saying. ;)
Chin Chin 125 Flinders Lane Melbourne
Telephone 8663 2000
Opening hours: open 7 days lunch till late
walk in, no reservation