It was last week that I visited Chin Chin for the first time. I was with a real FOCL making me a mere FOFOCL which incidentally doesn’t mean Fall Off Chair Laughing but I do prefer it to ROFLMAO. So when the CL himself walked in and, alarmed by our liquid-only leanings, he decided to order for us. It’s only now that I’ve fished the crumpled, soiled menu placemat from my handbag and acquainted myself with his take on the pan Asian dining experience.
I love the menu, especially as the first thing on it is a ‘Can’t be arsed’ option. Those are my words not his, he hires much too well for such coarseness to appear in print (Hi @ThatJessHo ). Simply say to your waiter ‘Feed Me’ and stuff just happens. For $55 or $66 you get seven or nine dishes. They’d probably call it degustation except that only applies to meals costing over $100 and accompanied by a charismatic winemaker.*
Favouring young local wine makers such as Mac Forbes who I recently encountered in wine form at Ra Bar to celebrate Chardonnay Day. I fell deeply for his Woori Yallock 2008 Chardonnay. That same night Dan Sims of The Wine Guide was lusting after Tom Carlson’s Yabby Lake Chardonnay. Tom has made the house wine for Chin Chin; a Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir with grapes from the Strathbogie Ranges. Cleverly the wine has be made to a high standard but kept to a low cost by eliminating the use of corks. This of course has been done before so not wanting to be thought of as backward they went even further and removed the whole bottle. The wine is trucked straight to Chin Chin in stainless steel kegs and served on tap. To avoid awkward requests for a bottle of house wine they came up with the genius idea of carafes. This no-bottle concept is super efficient and green and the benefits are passed on to diners with plonk pricing for a premium product.
Glass: Pinot Gris (PG) $6 Pinot Noir (PN) $7
Carafe 500ml: PG $18 PN $21
Carafe 1l: PG $36 PN $42
So while I claimed that the wine list is true blue a little clarification is required. Not content with flouting old world wine rules locally these wine making upstarts are having their way with traditional varieties in their natural environment. Enter Mac Forbes with his Blaufrankisch, an indigenous Austrian variety “with the perfume of Pinot Noir and tannins more comparable to Cabernet Sauvignon.” There’s also wines from Spain and Argentinian made by local lads and lasses.
To have a sommelier in a place as student-friendly and lively as Chin Chin might seem a bit wanky so instead Neil Prentice, also the vigneron of Hollys Garden, just wears an apron that labels him as ‘The Wine Guy’. While some dishes at Chin Chin are delicate many are bold and some wine matching advice might be appreciated so he’s on hand to assist.
I didn’t make it to a table or benefit from the wisdom of the wine guy as I’d settled in at the bar. Personally I was thrilled to discover that violet liqueur is gaining currency as a bar standard in Melbourne and Joseph Williams, the bartender admitted he bought it especially to make Aviations, my favourite cocktail. So I didn’t venture on to the actual cocktail list. I should warn the kids out there that the Chin Chin Aviation comes garnished with a real cherry. That cherry alone contains two standard drinks worth of alcohol.
I hear the Tamarind Cocktail is the one to try (thanks @eMeow33 for the tip) but the first thing that struck me about the cocktail list is the number 15. Cocktails for only $15 each? That’s 2008 pricing. Try ‘em all before they wake up to this charming oversight.
Meanwhile beneath Chin Chin much work is underway to build the accompanying Go Go Bar in what was the Format Furniture shop. Entry from Higson Laneway but don’t expect small and discreet. If the restaurant is anything to go by then the bar will belie it’s warehouse style space with clever design and heaving crowds.
The name, well Chris Lucas having lived in Japan should have known better really. Saying ‘Chin Chin’ is not a popular way to raise a glass and toast a drink in Tokyo. I like to think that the name was a tribute to his friend Roberto Scheriani just across the road at The Italian as they’ll no doubt continue toasting and testing each others hospitality offspring.
Preempting requests by the local poster posting companies for weekly redecorating Chin Chin is plastered with their own propaganda. Happy Happy Joy Joy lead by DJ Happy Chow takes place August 12. And of course the Chin Chin Pho-To (geddit!) Photography Prize of 2011 gets a mention. Is this just art? Should you take any notice? Time will tell if these events exist. ByMichelle Matthews
Oh heck! I forgot to mention the food.
125 Flinders Lane
Tel: 8663 2000
Open: Daily from 5pm Sat-Thurs, Fri from 4pm. From 11am from June 14.
*I made that up
Have you dined at Chin Chin? Please share your favourite dishes, beverages and experiences.