My first review of Melbourne’s rich dining scene and boy what a start to this calender year of eating out in this vibrant city!
My enthusiastic Melbournian, self-professed foodie mate raved about this place and suggested we go there to catch up on Sunday evening. I took another newbie along to find out what all the excitement was about. Everyone I sounded out about Chin-Chin spoke highly of the food but bemoaned how busy the place always was and how hard it is to get in. There are no bookings (unless you have 10-12 folk) and you have to take your chances as it really is hectic and waits of two or more hours are the norm at peak dining times. We planned to go at 5:30pm on a Sunday for just that reason! I know of folk who have turned up at 7pm on a Tuesday night and told that they would be waiting till 10:30! Fortunately there is the Go-Go bar downstairs for those who want to indulge in a pre-dinner cocktail whilst waiting. If you do have 10 handy mates to go with you, then its a sweet deal of pretty much all you can eat for under $66!
Chin Chin is a fusion of the freshness of Vietnamese cuisine and the flavour assault of Thai cooking. Succulent meats in tangy, sweet and savoury sauces all perfectly balanced and equally spicy cocktails to wash everything down with. There is an option of letting the waiter choose your menu for you whilst you sit back and sip on the exotic drinks (just say ‘Feed me”!), but we decided to go our own way with my mate helping to navigate the extensive menu.
The feasting began with the namesake pork “roll-ups” which were a delight to put together and share, the pork just easily melting into the crispy salad and tangy sauce, all encased in tender translucent pancakes.
The crispy Barra and caramelised pork combo also raising eyebrows with the sophistication that this unlikely duo brought to the table, again beautifully foiled with crisp sweet green apple, tangy lemongrass and glorious chilli. The portions were good and the food kept coming with a Massaman coconut braised beef curry that I loved and was clearly my favourite of the savoury dishes accompanied by hot flaky roti and the smashed green papaya salad. The heady Thai explosion of hot, sweet-sour all ensuring our taste-buds were stunned into submission and ready to receive the much anticipated desserts.
My local-guide was keen to share with us the wonders of the palm sugar sundae, but being so full from the feeding frenzy of the mains, we decided on the rather unusual Coconut sago dessert which was served with creamed corn icecream and puffed wild rice.
It was pure heaven in a bowl, especially given my penchant for textural variety. The creamed corn ice-cream was a pleasant treat and the puffed wild rice, a nice twist. Hidden in the soft gooey mess were sparkling shards of caramel brittle which added a final dimension. We were so enamoured by the sweets that we felt cheated having only one between the three of us and so ordered the Palm sugar sundae after all. Again lovely, but no match for the gooey crunch of the coconut sago dish. Although we didn’t get a chance to try it on this night, I have since had the banana-roti dessert which is also divine and much recommended.
Go, try it and enjoy a great introduction to Melbourne. I loved the freshness coupled with the intense contrasting flavours and I’m glad my friend has booked her birthday party there in a couple of weeks. Chin-chin to more feasting I say!