That’s the door Ho in the foreground.
Two of the hottest restaurant openings in the last fortnight are Golden Fields and Chin Chin. The punters have packed both places and the brains behind each – Andrew McConnell and Chris Lucas – both say that for the first time they are seeing the message spread through social media.
In the case of Chin Chin, I should declare I have a conflict of interest in writing this review as I helped Lucas with a wee bit of consultancy advice with his chief tweeter/Facebooker and door ho Jess Ho.
The deal is a funky venue with well-balanced Thai food from executive chef Andrew Gimber (ex Jimmy Liks) and the about to be joined by Ben Cooper (St Ali, Nobu, Ezard) that is at decent prices. Great value wine by the carafe is exclusively for the venue made by Yabby Lake winemaker Tom Carson. And a decent curated music collection. And importantly, no tablecloths.
This, says Lucas who is pessimistic on the future of fine dining, is the future of dining. And if it is I like it because two of us filled-up the other night and drank two carafes of wine for $105, which in my book is a bargain. I returned a few days later for an $18 green curry, which comes with rice, matched with a long neck of Beer Lao at $14.
The punters like it too. Opening night last Thursday was packed. Friday and Saturday saw 250 covers each and about 80 turned away. Last night, a Tuesday, put 200 through. This is a restaurant Melbourne has been waiting for and the message has spread virally through the web.
The space, that until last year housed the infamous, Icon nightclub manages to be cavernous yet intimate. In the entrance large Asian-style posters are pasted on to the wall. And the look by designers Projects of the Imagination (who also are responsible for Golden Fields), has flanked the room with a bar lit under lampshades made from found objects – large cylindrical liners of wool containers (that apparently stank and had to be washed thoroughly several times).
You can sit at the bar, which is ideal if you are alone scoffing like me, or grab a table. But there are no bookings, unless you are one of the Friends of Chris Lucas (FOCL).
So to the food, finally. Small dishes are about $8 to $16, with the crunchy school prawns with nahm prik pla gapi worth special mention. Curries, such as sour orange curry of kingfish head with daikon and betel leaf, are from $13 to $18. Larger dishes are mainly $21 to $28 although a whole steamed line caught snapper with chilli and lime dressing comes in at $33.
There are plenty of places that offer Thai food in Melbourne, most of them ethnic. This means you either have to endure strip lighting over formica tables or coming out smelling of deep fried food or a combination of both. Then there are high-end restaurants such as Easy Tiger, Longrain and Gingerboy which are gorgeous but expensive and often a little too sweet with the food.
Out of all these Chin Chin is my first choice, for value and experience. But there again I’m baised. But at least get along there and make your own mind up.
I’m now contributing to Agenda Melbourne weekly on restaurants.You can see my review of Chin Chin here.