When travelling to Melbourne, my culinary expectations increase. The city is full of great options and there is something for everyone. The challenge is finding the time to fit in as many restaurants and cafes in a trip as possible. Out-of-towners rely on reviews and reputation to make those choices, and Chin Chin apparently has a stellar one for amazing food. Unfortunately when we first walked past Chin Chin, they weren’t open yet and we snuck a peek through their window as the staff prepped in the kitchen. We continued onward to find some breakfast and decided we would come back for lunch.
By that time, every table in Chin Chin was occupied and there was a bit of a line. I was told it would be an hour to an hour fifteen minute wait for a table. At the time, it seemed reasonable and we went downstairs to the GoGo Bar for drinks to pass the time. The bar was extremely short staffed with only one bartender making up cocktails and another serving them both to customers in the bar and up in Chin Chin.
Perhaps we should’ve taken it as a sign when the bartender ignored us for about 10 mins. Or when she didn’t smile the entire time we were standing there to get our drinks. Or that she spilt half the cocktail as she poured it into its glass without apology nor offering to make another one, and served it anyway. Serving a customer only half a drink after they’ve paid $?? is extremely poor form for any hospitality establishment.
The hour wait turned out to be almost 2 hours and we were getting extremely hangry by then, but we finally got a table and quickly made our order in the hopes we would finally get some food in our bellies.
I’m a sucker for green mango and green papaya salads. Their tangy sharpness is both refreshing and moorish – I cannot stop at just one bite. Chin Chin‘s interpretation of this classic salad was a bright wake-up call of sour and heat, perfect in every way – except in portion size. For AUD$16, I had expected a heap at least the size of my fist or more, but we got far less than that. What appeared before us was at once disappointing, because it was the only dish I was allowed to partake in during my vegetarian month (and strictly speaking, it would have fish sauce in it, so it’s not 100% vegetarian).
The other dishes did not fair much better. All had beautiful flavours, but the portion size far too small. The chicken satay only had 4 skewers and the pad thai was literally buried under a mountain of crushed peanuts. It also seemed Chin Chin’s operatus morandi is to supplement these dishes with a very generous amount of fresh cucumber and other vegetables (not necessarily a bad thing). The only dish that didn’t have this issue was the beef pad seuw.
I can see why Chin Chin is popular, but with the extremely long wait times a norm and the small serving sizes, I don’t think I could bring myself to visit again. As a visitor to Melbourne, my time in the city is limited and I’d rather not waste it getting hangry.