Look, I don’t care how much you love or hate no-bookings policies, I’m just here to offer you these two meagre kernels of advice.
First, if you want to actually dine at Chin Chin, then yes, turn up early and be prepared to wait. Once you’re through the door, the bar is actually rather nice to be seated at.
Second, when you do actually start to get your food, bolt all your plates down. Nothing says “we want you get the hell out of here so we can shovel more people in” more than wait staff who try to take your communal plates with half their contents untouched and the diners very obviously in medias res of said dish. Pout.
Don’t take my word or Tristan’s: on the occasion I visited Chin Chin, I was suitably armed with fellow Melbourne foodie chums Andrew & Sam.
Tristan and I were uncharacteristically early despite my sprained ankle limp (sadly occurring a few days after Bloomsday and thus nullifying all Gerty McDowell jokes) and Chin Chin won’t seat you till all diners are present. This gave us an opportunity to admire our surroundings and share a bigger-than-a-stubby BeerLao: let not the miniature beer steins fool you.
Soon enough, our expected companions joined us and we all began to navigate the menus like the fatties we were – it was pretty difficult to decide what to choose! It’s great that everything is designed to be shared. I did sneak in a text to Billy who had dined here the week before but sadly Sam’s dietary requirements and preferences meant we didn’t get to act upon many of them. This did make for hilarity as we all heartily debated whether or not boar was really the brethren of pig and that if desired, we could indeed pretend it was related to cows.
It seemed funny at the time: Andrew often has that effect upon you.
Before the boar debate started, we ordered the kingfish sashimi with lime, chilli, coconut and Thai basil. What ho, do I smell Ben Cooper under the helm…? Does this mean he’s no longer doing St Ali nights? *lip quiver* The flavour palate does seem awfully familiar… What a note to start on: I could quite happily have eaten three servings of this and left for my provincial part of town feeling like I’d dined like a king.
Before launching into the fish and meat dishes proper, we shared a hot and sour duck liver salad with mint, coriander, lime and ground rice. Looking at some more recent photos of the menu, would appear that this item is no longer available. What, no suck (sic) liver salad?!?! What a shame as it was offally good… *ducks* Ah well, duck liver salad, long may you live in our not-for-consumption hearts.
It has to be said that ordering at Chin Chin is ridiculously difficult: there is a myriad of dishes that all have something tantalising in them and given the amount we all ended up ordering, we should have gone with their ‘feed me’ option which you need a minimum of two persons for. For 7 dishes, you pay $55, for 9 dishes, $66. However, we did not ask if this can take into account dietary requirements so you’d best ask before choosing this option.
After agonising deliberation, one of the seafood dishes we decided upon was the wild barramundi wrapped in banana leaves with coconut red curry, lime and Thai basil: notice a very similar flavour profile to the starter we ordered. I’m not normally barramundi’s prime cheerleader but this was irresistible.
Aside from Sam, the general consensus was that we had to order the wild boar stir fried with red curry paste, snakebeans, ginger and basil. The wait staff seemed to think so too, as this was the dish they tried to forcibly remove from us three times. Yes, despite us still very much scoffing it down greedily.
Because Sam couldn’t have the wild boar, she ordered the massaman curry of coconut braised Hopkins River beef brisket with pink fur apple potatoes and crispy shallots. The boar-eaters did, however, sneak a taste.
To continue with the medieval-style eating habits, we also ordered the Indian style barbecued goat with cucumber and mint raita. The goat was tender and made for a satisfying carnivorous experience.
We weren’t quite finished: the blokes were curious to try the son-in-law eggs with chilli jam and thus a serve was ordered.
Though there are no photographs, for liquid refreshment, we got both the punches offered on the menu (sadly, I was not able to discreetly snap a shot of their descriptions on the menu). One carafe had a massive crack in it and when we pointed this out to the wait staff, they very kindly supplied us with a complimentary full carafe! My favourite one was the first one which had a lot of Vietnamese mint in it and the table’s consensus was that it was the winning drink too.
Despite having to queue and ward wait staff off our still full plates, Chin Chin is an effortlessly swanky place to enjoy good food that uses various Asiatic corners for inspiration. The menu seems to change quite often (it is different enough now to what it was when we dined there in mid-June) and has invariably assured that I shall be revisiting, in the hope of catching dishes I didn’t get to experience the first time, fingers crossed that they will still be on the menu. Next time, I’ll have room for dessert too, dammit!
Now onward and outward to Cam’s 3D Amazeballs party!