Chin Chin first opened its doors, joining other culinary greats on Flinders Lane in 2011. They are well known for their millennial-style seating method whereby they strictly don't take bookings for groups under 10 people. I first heard about this place a few years ago on a work trip to Melbourne and the stories were all the same - don't bother trying to go at dinner time. Over the years I have known of many of friend making the pilgrimage but I have not known a single person to have eaten there after 6pm.
The hardest part is getting inside So we were in Melbourne, it was 11am and we were looking for brunch. I was in the mood for eggs on toast. We were walking along Flinders Lane and happened to peek inside - the restaurant was empty! We couldn't let the opportunity lapse and so this became the story of that time we had Thai food for brunch. We were seated immediately (it's true!) and shortly another couple were seated in the neighbouring table - they confided to us that they came especially at this time in the hope of getting a table. They were on the money because within an hour, the place was full and the lines had started.
Chin Chin is not just about the taste, although that is what brings the patrons to the door. They pride themselves in the whole experience - the retro art on the walls and the alleged soundtrack (but by the time the crowds teemed in, it was too loud and I have no memory of this whatsoever). The high ceilings and large windows flooded the restaurant with natural light which was beautiful, but to be honest, I don't think I was quite cool enough to enjoy the myriad of retro prints lining the walls. The waitstaff themselves were hip and enthusiastic and actually genuinely seemed to enjoy themselves. We were served by a few different waiters during the meal, all of whom were jovial and full of witty repartee.
Worth waiting for They say that all good things come to people that wait. Okay, we didn't have to wait (but most people who come here do). There are two options on the menu which divide patrons into those who are decisive and those who are not. There is the "feed me" option for those who need the decision to be made for them, whereby they will serve up a few favourite dishes at the price of $66pp or the traditional, old-school option of ordering from the menu. We chose the latter and ordered the pad thai, massaman curry and the stir-fry salt and pepper tofu. Not the most original order, but I started the day thinking I would be having eggs on toast.
All of the food was good, but the surprise standout for me was the silken tofu. I am not sure what I was expecting but to me "salt and pepper" conjured up expectations of fried vegetables covered in batter. I was obviously wrong. The tofu was so expertly fried that it was lightly crispy on the outside but full of silken tofu goodness on the inside. It was able to also nicely absorb the flavour of the accompanying broth which was amazing! Such a good, balanced combination of the sweet, sour and salty flavours that are signatures in Thai cuisine.
I personally washed my meal down with a Thai Milk Tea (because I love it), but our neighbours told us the cocktails are good too.
Unsolicited Advice The one piece of advice I can offer for going to this place is to save yourself the wait and let go of any pre-conceived notions about your normal mealtimes - embrace the new age and have Thai food for breakfast or afternoon tea.