The Retro ‘IT’ Chin Chin

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Transporting us to old China

It is a new movement in Melbourne. Asian inspired tapas style dining experience. And, Melbournian just couldn’t get enough of it. This could partly explain the draw of the latest IT restaurant in Melbourne – Chin Chin. Even the name is catchy! Just like Mamasita (which is still ‘hot’ from the looks of it), I’ve heard stories of long queue which probably a more common scenario for a bar than a restaurant elsewhere! Fresh off from my recent Hong Kong trip, I was excited to experience if the rumoured queue is well worth it.

Strategically chosen a Saturday afternoon lunch, we were lucky to be seated within 15 minutes. Once I entered the restaurant, I begun to understand the magnetic draw of Chin Chin. With its wall paper adorned  sketches and the name of the restaurant all across it, Chin Chin reminded me of a bar called “Double Happiness” which reminiscence of Maoism in the old China. Contrasting to that, Chin Chin also exudes certain retro and hip look and feel to it with fluorescent bright pink light of the shape of a bunny on a giant glass which reminded me of Playboy bunny instead! Melbourne is probably one of the few cities that can carry such contrasting style so well with its laid back cool charm.

As it is a sharing menu, we’ve decided to order the food like how we would usually order a-la-carte dishes in a Chinese restaurant ( Check out my tips on how to order like a Chinese in a Chinese restaurantclick here). We’ve decided on eggnet rolls for appetizer, sour curry (sour),sticky pork (savoury and sweet) and cuttlefish salad ( greens to balance flavours and for health reason) to complement each other and served with jasmine rice. So,with so much hype of the restaurant,I pray hope for my own sake, they live up to my expectations. Here goes..

Spicy eggnet with spanner crab and chilli jam

Eggnet is a Thai dish of a delicate mesh of omelette wrapped around an abundance of flavours of what you chose to be in it. In Chin Chin, the spicy eggnet of spanner crab and chilli jam sounds to be very promising on the paper and plate. I’m sorry but to disappoint you that the taste didn’t quite live to its look and impression. Firstly, it didn’t even match its description of spicy ( I know I can take my spice but it is nothing near there and I have to reread the description again). The coconut base in this dish reminded me of a traditional Malaysian dish ‘otak-otak’ which is a fish cake made of mixture between fish paste, chillies, garlic, shallots, turmeric, lemon grass and coconut milk. What could have been a promising packed with full flavours dish turned out to be quite bland- to put it blandly(I apologize for my literal description).

Sour fish curry

If you like your food sour, then this is the dish for you. At least this one fits the description! This is not your traditional curry of coconut base. The broth is quite clear and the white radish,which is an interesting choice, soaked up the flavour of the soup. I just wish the sourness of the soup could be more delicately balanced with a touch of sweetness. Alas,it is a sour curry as how it was expected to be..(maybe I’m asking too much)

Cuttlefish salad

I love the combination of colours on the bowl;fresh greens of mint and coriander, whiteness of the cuttle fish tossed with stringy clear glass noodles and bright orange strips of carrot served on a traditional bowl of dark blue prints. The salad looks fresh and we were eager to duck into it. It seemed that bad things happen in 3 and it seemed to be the case. The salad tasted so salty that I wonder if the chef did that accidentally. With salt  ‘rationing’, the dish will probably live up to its lively appeal. ( I think you’ll be beginning to wonder if I’m reviewing the same restaurant everyone is raving about!)

Sticky pork

Could the last dish live up to its expectation? I heaved a sigh of relief as I bite into the flavoursome caramelised sticky pork.At last, a dish brought a nod.The skin was crispy and the dish would have been a real winner if the meat was more tender. The sweetness of the pork complemented well with the other sour dish we’ve ordered. As I was rushing off somewhere, we didn’t get to have desserts. Perhaps the desserts could have been the savior.

So,I can see you scratching your head. If this rated No. 1 most talked about restaurant didn’t quite live up to my expectations (1 out of 4 is not an impressive ratio), why are people lining up for it? I have few theories. Firstly, I call it Human Curiosity effect, if you’ve been to a club before, you’ll know what I mean. You have people queuing up even though the bar is almost empty. Advertisers have long used this effect to the fullest. Second, most of the time, dining is more than having a delicious meal but a sum of food, company, ambience, service and a celebration. Even though the food wasn’t memorable to me, Chin Chin restaurant has been to me. From a business standpoint of view, Chin Chin has definitely build up a great momentum. I just wish the food was just as good as the hype and maybe then you’ll see me queuing with the rest of the crowd. Now, I bet I’ve perked your curiosity to try it out on your own. See, it works and NOW you know why!

Please share your Chin Chin experience! I would love to hear from you!

Chin Chin Restaurant

125 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000

03 8663 2000

Open: Mon -Sun

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner -Late

Price: $$ ( $15-25 per meal)

Cuisine: Asian fusion

Description: Restaurant,Bar

Ambience: 8.5

Service: 8.0

Food: 7.0

Value:  7.5

My Rating: 7.75

Chin Chin on Urbanspoon

2 Responses to “The Retro ‘IT’ Chin Chin”
  1. MoMo & Coco says:

    Hello again! Absolutely agree with your interesting theory there, and your assessment of Chin Chin’s food. It’s a good thing you didn’t also experience terrible service as our dining companions did. You have probably seen our review too? We were one of the first bloggers to diverge from the hype, and it’s good to see that we are not entirely mistaken a few months down the track that the hype is still not warranted. 🙂 Any good Thai/South-East-Asian non-fusion places you can recommend? Cheers!

    • foodloca says:

      “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.” Pheww.. I thought I was against the whole of Melbourne! I’ve just read your review and it seemed that we probably share more or less the same meat tastebud! I’m glad that we stay true to our experience even that means it’s against the ‘mainstream’ opinion.

      Mmm..most of the good Thai/South-East-Asian places I’ve been are fusion namely Gingerboy,CODA, Golden Fields,Longrain which I’m sure you’ve been to. There’s only one good Thai restaurant that came to my mind – Ying Thai on Victoria Street. It’s not exactly a ‘fine dining’ experience but the food is definitely worth a visit. I’ve not tried the desserts there so perhaps you can let me know!

      Bon appetite!

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