Modelled on the bustling workingman’s dining halls of Bangkok, Chin Chin is a fun and modern take on casual, street-inspired Asian food, with an emphasis on shared plates and flexible, come-any-time dining.
In keeping with Melbourne’s current predilection for informal yet stylish dining, restaurateur Chris Lucas (Pearl, ex-Botanical) was keen to steer away from any notions of formality and uptight dining conventions. This means you won’t see uniforms on the staff, you won’t need to book, and better still, you can happily rock up at 2am and eat like a king.
The mantra here is one of laidback, unrestricted, fun eating. “People don’t want menus explained to them,” says Chris. “Today’s diners know so much more about food and wine than previous generations now, so we just wanted to offer something that was well-priced, accessible and unpretentious.”
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Having lured Sydney chef Andrew Gimber (ex-Jimmy Liks) to southern climes as executive chef for his new project, Chris hopes to see Chin Chin give Sydney’s reputation as Australia’s Thai food capital a bit of an overdue shake-up. Andrew certainly has the chops, bringing with him an impressive swag of experience working alongside the likes of Thai master David Thompson (Nam, London), Christine Manfield and Neil Perry. Joining the team in a couple of weeks is Ben Cooper, ex-St Ali and MoPho Noodle Bar.
The flexible, pan-Asian menu makes it easy to get adventurous with lots of little dishes: think dumplings, son-in-law eggs, Thai-style crunchy school prawns or suckling pig pancake rolls. There are plenty of Asian-inspired soups and larger format dishes to choose from too, as well as the ‘Feed Me’ multi-course chef’s selection.
The all-Australian wine list is another unconventional feature, supporting strictly local, artisan talent and making a point of naming the makers, not just the labels. Cocktails too are a focus, with plenty of creatively Asian takes on the classics.
Talented local design team Projects of Imagination were responsible for creating the smart fit out, where high pressed tin ceilings and huge timber-framed windows give the place a lofty, New York feel. Up-cycled light fittings, that were originally wool containers salvaged from an outback shearing shed, add an earthiness and balance to the space. There are also some playful, vintage Asian touches like the retro pop art posters and antique Vietnamese cyclo flanking the entranceway.
It's exciting to see a casual eatery like this opening up options for late night dining in Melbourne.