On the trendy beach end there is Golden Fields and on the chic city end there is Chin Chin. Raving reviews viral on the Internet and customers flock to this ‘hawker’ style restaurant buzzling in Flinders Lane. Chin Chin’s marketing strategy is exemplified in the extensive information in its Urban Spoon entry but little on its homepage.
We could not bear the thought of missing out on the hottest restaurant, so we lined up for 1.5 hours from 5.45pm, with the persistence and devotion of real ‘foodies’. The memory went back to Mamasita when it was first opened at the start of the year. Walking past there the other day, the line still extended from the waiting area upstairs to the corner of the street.
Success factors of Chin Chin and Mamasita: Exotic cuisine. Cheap/moderate pricing. Funky urban crowd. A sharing menu with a lot of love from the chef. Popularity on Urban Spoon.
The first impression of Chin Chin was a cultural mesh-up. Warehouse setting from Europe. A giant neon rabbits from Japan. Table and chair setting inspired Singaporean ‘hawker centres’. I couldn’t quite remember but there was definitely something Chinese either on the waiters’ uniforms on on the windows of the kitchen.
It was loud and casual. I like to describe a restaurant by what kind of people I would bring to dine with. Among the South East Asian-/Thai-inspired restaurant in the city, I would say, Long Grain is for a first date, Ginger Boy is for friends that I haven’t seen for a while and Chin Chin is probably more suitable for a couple of close friends. It is the kind of place where you can yell at each other in a loud crowd without worrying about spitting saliva in each other’s plate. You can cut a pork belly into three pieces without worrying whose fork you are using.
The cocktail menu is very similar to Longgrain’s style. Or maybe a mix of Longgrain and Double Happiness. Leaving originality aside, it was well made, refreshing and a cheerful start to the meal.
Chin Chin Pork Roll-ups. According to our friends, this is a must-try. Having been to Vietnam, I certainly enjoyed rolling up my own meat and herbs. It is probably my personal taste but I would have liked it even more if the suckling pork came with a bit of fatty skin which would complement the sour sauce and raw herbs.
Salt and pepper crusted soft shell crab, with Nahm Jim. Nothing beats the crab flavour but the crust would have been crispier if the dish came straight from the frying pan to the table.
Steamed spanner crab and chicken salads with grapefruit and coconut. I am quite sure we had crab obsession that night.
Caramelised sticky pork with water cress and chilli vinegar. Another must-try. Sticky pork was as good as the famous ‘Wuxi Ribs’ from my hometown but we were slightly disappointed that the flavour was very similar to the other dishes, sweet, sour, chilly, heavy of lime and lemongrass, typical of Thai cuisine, of course.
Beef stir fried with fat noodles, almost like rice cakes.
Three layered pudding: sweet beans, pandan infused tapioca, caramel and coconut crushed ice. Now this is a creative re-invention of a classic street style Singaporean dessert. My high school years in Singapore were filled with memories of eating artificial coloured red bean ‘ice kachang’ in so-called hawker centres. Chin Chin’s ‘three-layered pudding’ is inspired by ‘ice kachang’, with more refined and subtle tastes, and obviously, a much smaller size. Just look at a traditional ‘ice kachang’ below you will get what I mean.
A simple verdict:
Would I come back again? YES
Would I come back again if I have to line up for half an hour? NO
Visiting a restaurant is like a date in some way, if your expectation is too high, only an impressive experience would satisfy you. That’s not a qualified reason for rejecting a second date is it?
@118 Elgin St, Carlton
We knew there was going to be a lot of food, we knew it was going to be hearty, neither of us had much to eat for lunch – we still underestimated how stuffed we were at the end – in a GOOD way!
$115 is not what I pay for dinner everyday, but after three hours of gastronomically and emotionally satisfying food and drinks, we decided it was well worth it. So here it is – a six-course degustation menu featuring matched wines by Dr. Loosen, Franz Hirtzberger, Wittmann & Pitnauer.
Well the first half of it – trust me, it’s too much for one meal.
Flavoursome Ox Tail Broth, spiced with an infusion of william’s pear
Beer: Eggenberg ‘Urbock’
The broth did live up to the expectation of being ‘flavoursome’ – to the extent that when I took the first sip, I thought I tasted alcohol. It has definitely been cooked for a very long time. The slightly sweet beer went very well with it.
Munchner Weiswurst – made from Jacobsmuscheln, with sweet black radish salad, mustard pickles & fresh horseradish
I’m glad we started off with something typically German – a much more exquisite version of those hotdogs you get from the Victoria Market – just kidding. The inside was extremely soft and it was very tasty indeed.
Verhacktes from Belgian Blue Steer, with wild honey & green apple rye bread
Wine: 2009 Wittmann Pinot Gris (GER)
I’ve had not-so-pleasant memories with beef tartares, but this one sat surprisingly well in my stomach, together with the crispy rye bread.
Cured Nordic Spiced Ocean Trout, Kartoffelpuffer & soft Quail Egg
Wine: 2008 F. Hirtzberger Gruner Veltliner (AUT)
The trout was very well cooked. Served crispy on the outside and tender inside.
Pan-fried Veal Liver & Wild Mushroom on a golden toasted Milchbrot
Wine: 2009 Villa Wolf Pinot Noir (GER)
This was definitely one of my favourite dishes of the night. I’ve always been a huge fan of wild mushrooms, and tossing them with sliced veal liver in a savoury sauce has given it the ‘Asian fusion twist’ that very much agreed with my taste buds.
By then we had already reached the level of full-ness where we would normally stop eating (or go straight to dessert), which made it all the more impressive that we were able to finish AND enjoy the rest of it.
Coming up – Part II of the Oktoberfest Feast
‘At home we say that all those who are different have horns. The horns are only a sign of difference, not badness.’
As soon as we arrived at the understated Meat Market Arts House ready to be satisfied in all our senses, it was the smell that captured us first. I would describe it as the smell of Chen’s future apartment, but that’s a whole other story. It was as if we had entered into one of those Middle Eastern boutiques that sell embroidered cushions, among other things.
Neither of us had done much homework before the show (or dinner?), but we found ourselves in a cozy, comfortably dim room with 8 to 10 round tables. Four huge screens surrounded the room – it was a dining experience that we were not used to.
The artist’s name is Ali Zaidi – Indian by birth, Pakistani by migration and British by chance. The installation had him, and us, relive his experience from childhood to the present, through a combination of story telling, images and pieces of videos and movie extracts, and of course, food.
Home cooked meals
All those were themes of the evening, and perhaps of the food as well. I am not sure how much effort the artist has put in in developing the menu to represent these ideas and experiences, or how much I should read into the particular order of the degustation that was recommended by him. Either way, it was a pleasant, and different meal.
All of the offerings (as they were called in the menu) looked absolutely exquisite and were strictly vegan, which usually means more flavour and more interesting.
Plantain, karela (bitter gourd), dates, lime, chilli, pepper, gogi berries & olive oil
Aubergine, chana (chickpea), beetroot, garlic, yogurt, coriander, olive oil & agar
Star fruit, sweet chilli, avocado, sumac, lavender
Zucchini, sweet peppers, okra, coconut milk, cumin, olive oil, pumpkin seeds & agar
Rice, masur dal, mung beans, celery, onion, ginger, mixed seeds & agar
Potato, sweet potato, dill
Spinach, toor (banana flowers), garlic, chilli, cream, lime, cashews & mozzarella
Vermicelli, carrot, sugar, saffron, khoya (curdled milk), lime, pistachio, sesame seeds & lavoche
Melbourne Spring Fashion Week Runway Show
389 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, entrance of Hardware Lane
Reasonably priced, $15-$25 sharing menu
‘Aspro Ble is greek for “White Blue” which are Greece’s national colours and the iconic colours of the Mediterranean.
Providing a fresh take on the traditional Greek Meze (share) menu.’
The crisp white and romantic blue reminded me of sailing boats, seagulls and honeymooners on the Aegean sea. Homely food, casual, cosy with two long tables for big groups.
Pan-fried Haloumi Cheese with Olive Tapenade and Roasted Cheery Tomatoes, and our favourite, Prawn and Calamari Dumplings in a creamy, dill sauce.
Greek Island Goat Stew, cooked with Muscat essence, Grapes and herb-infused Pilaf. The goat is imported from a particular island in Greece, and has a unique, sweet flavour. The sweetness can be a bit overpowering for some people, but it is my personal favourite, probably because my hometown cooking tends to be quite sweet too. The Pilaf is made with Orzo, a rice-shaped pasta, which would be a nice complementary side to any home cooked stew or roast.
Brussel Sprouts, generously tossed with butter and probably a bit of honey. We always love brussel sprouts with our hearty meat dishes (and green beans, too).
Slow-Cooked Lamb, compared to the other dishes, it lacks an element of surprise. Earlier in that week, I had a slow cook beef in a French Bistro which tasted quite similar. I think slow cook meat only works its magic when the marinade has its own distinct personality.
Greek Doughnuts. The beetroot cake sounds imaginative on the menu but they ran out that night. Or maybe just a little trick to get us to go back :)
Teaser photos for a great brunch spot =)
With a rather general title, our blog is officially born – though when I take a quick look back at the past few weeks to search for something ‘we’ve tried’, it is likely that this blog will soon be filled with photos of mainly duck confit, xiaolongbao, martini, and panna cotta with mixed berries.
But that’s ok. I guess.
As girls in the early 20s, we are extremely lucky to have travelled through continents, and tasted the delicacies of the world. I thought I’d start off with a cute photo of the cappuccino and the chai latte we had last week in Brunswick, as we live in the city of great coffees. There are too many places here to just sit, sipping on the coffee, while having pseudo-intellectual conversations in the lazy afternoon sun.
More on the coffee later =)