Having just updated my wish-list (doubling as my restaurant review index) I have three points to make. One – Melbourne has helluv-a-lot of good places to eat at. Two – I have been guilty of eating out much more than I ever have in my life, in order to feast my palate on all that opportunity. Three – there is no remedy for point two, so it looks like point two is going to stick around for quite some time *cough *cough…
125 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
03 8663 2000
Given how many posts are linked on urbanspoon and the fact that it has been more than several weeks since I actually ate here, I don’t see much point in me rehashing the whole news feed about Chin Chin’s extraordinary explosion to popularity. I will however linger slightly on its stark contrasts of décor with almost communist like wallpaper plastered around the foyer on one side, peeling vintage wallpaper on the other wall, and a bit of contemporary sleek splashed across the bar – which strangely enough works quite well together under the warm hue of lighting. It is loud with a casual warmth.
P.S. Looking back if I had waited a couple of weeks, I would’ve had my f2.8 aperture lens to tackle the shocking lighting without any flash. Either that or I should’ve requested a kitchen bench seat. So for now, please bear with the flash-crazy photos.
Grilled roti madtarbak – those squares of roti grilled to a golden crisp (without being too oily) were filled with a lightly but adequately spiced beef mince, going delightfully with the cucumber salad (or dip rather) that had a nice balance of fish sauce, chilli and sugar.
Spicy eggnet rolls – a delicate meshwork of egg that burst with juices from the spanner crab, cucumber, and flirting hits of heat from the chilli jam. I could not have enough of it, and would have ordered another plate if not for the amount of impending food.
Kingfish sashimi – placed against the last two starts, this is a complete turnaround from the largely traditional Asian notes, to this largely contemporary plate of kingfish scattered with the simplicity and clean palate of thai basil, lime and chilli. The coconut cream helps softens the edge from the chilli and lime. It might be a tad sour for some, but citrus and sashimi is definitely my cup of tea.
Massaman curry – This dish used tender pieces of coconut braised Hopkins river beef brisket alongside pink fur apple potatoes and crispy shallots. Flavour wise, one can appreciate the signature nuttiness and spices (presumably cardamom, cinnamon and star anise) in the richly sweet brew – excellent with a bowl or two of rice. However, as per tradition of bad habit, I have ordered way too much food to consider scoffing down that much rice. The potatoes though, were fairly firm & crunchy to bite, and I’d have preferred it a little softer.
Ok, so you can’t really see the pork here. So here’s another one…
Caramelised Sticky Pork – has been one of the much lauded dishes from the kitchen here. It boasts pork flesh that is juicy but not overly fatty, a sweet-sticky coating of absolutely moreish sauce, and a good hit of spice and refreshing acidity from the salad and fish-sauce themed dressing (akin to the Vietnamese nuoc-nam). As you may have noticed I am quite particular about certain things, and salt being one of them. I dislike under seasoning, but equally I dismay at over-salting, and I fear today’s fish sauce is a tad heavy handed if not served with some form of carbohydrate.
Crispy barramundi and caramelised pork – “It is a strange offering to have both fish and pork on the same plate”, I warned my father at ordering. But trying not to be overly controlling, I did not push on that point further.
Hidden beneath the green apple salad, were shredded pieces of barramundi with bits of deep fried crispiness from the remaining skin, which worked well with the tangy fish sauce. So far so good. Now onto the other half of the dish – on its own it is much stickier and gelatinous than the previous pork dish, with quite a savoury-sweet note – very much reminiscent of the Chinese pork hock dish. One might argue for the “contrast” of flavours or textures, but I strongly feel the pork is far too rich and heavy to work in harmony. So good elements, but poor balance.
Son in law eggs – As a “small” side to everything we already ordered, a serving of this gooey egg slathered in the intensity of caramelised chilli jam received no complaints from us. A little heavy, and somewhat gluttonous, but was something worth leaving some space for.
Rating: Yummy+1 –. Without a doubt there is a disproportionate level of hype around this place, but it does live up to expectations providing an eclectic mix of Thai, Malaysian and Vietnamese influences with a fresh hint of contemporary. Definitely worthy of revisiting, especially considering not too much damage was done to the hip pocket.
The only point I’d like to make – contrary to Foodblogger try-as-much-as-you-can mindset – is that try not to order too much, and leave room for some accompanying carbohydrate and dessert. Try your best, but don’t fret if you fall into the trap anyways.
And just in case you can’t find it… look for the BRIGHT sign!