Chin Chin @ 125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
9 July 2011
Epically popular, Chin Chin is part of the plethora of new restaurants to hit Melbourne recently. Situated at the top end of busy Flinders Lane, it has in its short existence already firmly entrenched itself in the stable of impossibly busy restaurants, standing shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Cumulus and Mamasita. In the restaurant game, that is enviable success. But then, with the combination of its proprietor - one Chris Lucas of Pearl fame - fashionable modern Asian cuisine, a typically Melbourne feel and advantageous location, its success is hardly surprising.
In line with Chin Chin’s social setting, the menu items are primarily designed for sharing, with dishes divided into the following user friendly sections: “Little something”, “Green stuff”, “Soups”, “Barbeque”, “Curries”, “A bit more” and “Sweet and refreshing things”. The menu is abundant with options and so for the indecisive and adventurous, the “Feed me” option, which allows diners to sample a blind selection of 7 dishes for $66 per person, may be prudent.
To date, we have made two visits to Chin Chin and have sampled a wide range of dishes. Below is a snapshot of the dishes that captured our attention, both positively and negatively.
The kingfish sashimi, the only cold item that we ordered across our two visits, was a positive highlight. The thick slices of very fresh kingfish were served with lime wedges, chilli, Kaffir lime leaves, Thai basil and coconut cream. The dish was notable for the quality of the kingfish and the interplay between the tartness of the lime wedges and the richness of the coconut cream. It was a simple but well executed dish.
Similarly enjoyable were Chin Chin pork “roll ups”. The “roll ups” comprised of thin, Peking duck style pancakes with shreds of red braised suckling pig and an aromatic salad of pickled bean shoots, chilli, basil and coriander. It was a playful mix of ingredients with the rich pork meat being contrasted with the acidity of the bean shoots and the fragrance of the basil and coriander.
The most enticing dish we sampled at Chin Chin consisted of spicy “eggnet” rolls. The mildly crisp egg sheath encased a juicy melange of sweet spanner crab meat, coriander, chilli jam and coconut dressing. It was a delectable mix of sweet and salty components that allowed all ingredients to be enjoyed.
Chin Chin offers a range of contemporary South East Asian soup-based options. I would advise bypassing the blue swimmer crab and ginger wontons in barbequed duck broth, despite its tempting description, as its mild flavours are decidedly disappointing, and heading straight for the Hopkins River beef brisket with hand rolled rice noodles. The latter was particularly noteworthy for its fragrant and complex broth which was appetisingly laced with a sufficient amount of chilli, and its fresh and silky noodle rolls. In terms of favourites, this soup runs a close second to the eggnet rolls.
On the other hand, the salt and pepper crusted soft shell crab with green papaya salad and nahm jim was a minor disappointment as the crab meat lacked sweetness and the crispness of the shell left much to be desired. For a superior alternative, we recommend Cumulus’ dish of soft shell crab with chilli and lime – one of our perennial favourites.
Chin Chin’s rendition of the traditional Thai dish, son-in-law eggs with chilli jam, was also regrettably anti-climatic. The deep fried boiled eggs were overcooked and as such, lacked one of the key attributes that makes the Gingerboy version so appealing – the runny egg yolk.
For dessert, the palm sugar ice cream sundae with salted honeycomb and lime jelly was a delight. While the salt in the honeycomb was somewhat imperceptible, the honeycomb pieces nevertheless possessed the right level of sweetness and crunch, and provided a pleasant topping for the smooth palm sugar ice cream.
While it failed to make a menu appearance on our second visit, I would suggest keeping your distance from the floating gem dessert soup if it were to reappear on the menu. With mango granita, jasmine syrup, tropical fruits and toddy palm, it assembled a mismatch of ingredients which will, quite literally, leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Chin Chin does have its faults, but unlike so many establishments, it manages to live up to the social media generated hype. On the whole, the offerings at Chin Chin are tasty, fresh and impactful. I only wish that it was easier to secure a table.