I need to start this review with high praise for the Melbourne Chin Chin – it is my favourite restaurant of 2017 so far. I had the best dining experience and fell in love with everything about the place. It was a flawless experience. For my review on that marvellous Melbourne institution click HERE. When I heard they were opening the Sydney venue I lost my shit with excitement, there would now be one close to home that I could venture to regularly. I followed the progress of the build and stalked the venue on when I could visit. As soon as bookings were open I made a booking for twelve bloggers, every single one of us a foodie fam that write and shoot pics of food. I raved at the awesomeness that was CHIN CHIN…… and then we attended this past Wednesday.
CHIN CHIN SYDNEY VENUE:
CHIN CHIN is located inside the 100-year-old, heritage-listed, wedge-shaped Griffiths Teas building that has sat empty for about thirty years.The shape is unique but I can see how they looked at it and knew it could work as a venue. The street has a slight slope and the parking wasn’t too difficult, but be warned the council revenue collectors know they can meet their quota in the surrounding streets now so don’t miss topping up the meter if you need to. One of our guests received a fine at 9pm.
The venue entry greets you with a giant pink neon rabbit behind the counter and some concierge-style staff to direct you. To the right is the large, well lit and bright white embraced restaurant CHIN CHIN and in the same style as their Melbourne venue they have a GO GO – this is the bar section. This is to the left, it is incredibly dark, the music is much louder and the wall is lined with large female bondage photography. There are tables for drinking and a lot of booths designed for about six to eight people comfortably. People also dine in GO GO – it is there spill over I would imagine. At the end of the room is a bar filled with wonder and staffed by wizards whipping up some epic indulgences.
The venue is loud, do not visit if you want intimate conversations, but visit if you want to eat like you are at the coolest party of the year. And do not visit if you want space – head to LONGRAIN for that (pretty much next door). GO GO is a sardine factory designed to rack ’em and stack ’em. There is sporadic neon everywhere and the interior design (in the Go Go section anyway) will win awards. It is modern and it is unique so will be embraced.
The toilets are a little odd – they still look like they are under construction. Unisex cubicles are located in a row behind the wall separating CHIN CHIN and GO GO. The rushed design of the toilet in no way matches the rest of the venue. The corridor itself feels like toilets are in a storage corridor – I wasn’t a fan of them at all. One of my guests found a beautiful piece of art on the wall in the corridor, I failed to see it trying to get back out to the table and thought I literally saw boxes stacked in the corridor.
SADLY THE SERVICE RUINED THE EVENING:
Our evening was a shit fight of poor service. I have a lot of patience for new venues and completely appreciate them trying to get off the ground, but this just took the piss. It all started when I made the booking. I made it originally for ten people. Then two more wanted to attend. I emailed the venue, no reply, I waited a week and emailed again, still no reply. After another week (or two) I drove in to the venue four days prior to booking and asked for the booking to be increased by two people if possible. I explained there would now be twelve people attending who were all bloggers and checked it would be ok to take pics. All good – the venue explained they were only now starting to reply to all their emails.
We arrived at 550pm for a 6pm booking. I was informed there was a 6pm dining session of an 830pm session when booking. I assumed this would mean we had 2.25hrs to eat and piss off so the next people could dine. At 550pm we were advised they were still setting our table now and would we like a drink in GO GO prior to dinner – HELL YES!!! At 620pm we were advised our table was ready and we were steered to a booth in GO GO – I wasn’t happy about that part at all. It was dark as hell and selfishly I wanted to take pics, as did all my guests. That was our problem – we were then led to a table that would be for 6-8 people in a normal venue – but CHIN CHIN wanted the challenge of wedging 12 in.
Wedged like sardines with two of us sitting in the walkway commenced the hellish dining experience. I asked the waitress if we would need to order from the bar – “no” she explained – “I will look after anything you need.” And then she promptly ran away to ignore us for as long as humanly possible. After 25mins I went and located her and asked if we could have the drink menus and place some drink orders. Drinks arrived about 15mins later. And then the marvel that is food started arriving but we were so wedged in the waitstaff had difficulty putting them on the table so we had to take the plates from the waitstaff and pass it along.
A long while later I asked our waitress if dessert was included – this was an affirmative. She would return to clear the mains and get those desserts coming. 30mins after that I went looking for a waitperson and requested the mains be cleared and the desserts be brought. One person had left by this stage – we had been there for 3hrs so far. To clear the table two people took the plates, and one wiped the table down – his best method was to scrape the table refuse onto the seats – WTF?? To do this people had to vacate the booth so he could get to the table – and I assisted (dumbfounded) by removing the scrape from seat to floor.
On top of this my second cocktail came in a beautiful crystal glass with a chip and a crack in it. This was discovered half way through drinking and left unfinished.
THE BLOODY SURCHARGE:
The best part – a 10% group surcharge. I never understand the group surcharge – sure it’s in fine print – EXPLAIN IT TO YOUR GUESTS WHEN THEY ARE SITTING DOWN SO THEY DON’T GET NASTY SURPRISES WITH THE BILL. Hell, explain it to them when they MAKE THE BOOKING. I had words with the manager and explained my displeasure at the experience – how on Earth do you charge a service surcharge when you don’t provide service? He was kind enough to remove the surcharge.
Twelve satisfied but incredibly disappointed food bloggers left 3hrs and 35mins after arrival.
THE FOOD IS SUBLIME AS ALWAYS:
One saving grace of the experience was the food. Nearly as good as Melbourne, this was to be expected. CHIN CHIN group executive chef Benjamin Cooper is up from Melbourne to get the food running smoothly with former Spice Temple chef Graeme Hunt. That combination is culinary porn. The cuisine is modern Thai food feast. It is not traditional, it is not silver service. Like Melbourne it is balls to the wall free for all large platters, big plates, best for sharing. Thai food that will make you squee.
The cocktail waiter was a wonder – the cocktail menu a treat. For some reason the cocktail list is a pyramid. I think it is somehow loosely based on a food pyramid. I ordered from the bar when I first arrived and the waiter said “what do you like?” – my standard reply “anything gin and fruity.” He then made me the best cocktail of the year. Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz gin with sunflower, lemon bitters and dragonfruit. I considered proposing to the waiter over this drink. The second one was a little weird, besides the chipped crystal it was quite nice with Martel Cognac, egg, Green Chartreuse, preserved lemon, passionfruit and coconut – oddly this tasted like mango. It was OK – but more of a dessert drink. Everyone that had cocktails enjoyed them.
If dining at either of the CHIN CHINS I highly recommend you just go the FEED ME option. In Melbourne it was my favourite dining experience of the year and the food lived up to the challenge in Sydney. Its $69.50 a head and they feed you more food than you will comprehend. There felt like more food in Melbourne but it kept on coming in Sydney – it may have been than it was difficult to lean over people and glasses to get to the Sydney food that felt like less and by the end my appetite was gone. You can pay $88- a head for a duck and crab feast also – when I return in three months I will give that one a shot.
WE WERE FED……
- CORN & CORIANDER FRITTERS w/- iceberg lettuce & chilli jam
- CHIN CHIN PORK “ROLL UPS” – slow cooked pulled pork pancakes, slaw & plum sauce
- KINGFISH SASHIMI w/- lime, chilli, coconut & thai basil
- PAD SEUW – BRAISED WAGYU BEEF w/- gai laan, rice noodles & shallots
- STIR FRY PRAWN, BUG TAIL, EGG NOODLE w/- garlic chive & hellfire chilli oil
- MASSAMAN CURRY OF BRAISED BRISKET w/- kipfler potatoes, peanuts & shallots
- ISAAN STYLE SPICY HOT BBQ CHICKEN w/- chilli & shallot nahm prik
- STIR FRIED GREEN BEANS w/- shredded coconut, burnt chilli & cashew sambal
- COCONUT SAGO W LIME CURD & PINEAPPLE GRANITA
- VIETNAMESE ICED COFFEE PANNA COTTA W CASHEW PRALINE
THOUGHTS ON THE FOOD:
INSANELY AWESOME – this is what I was expecting from this wonderful venue!!
There was nothing I didn’t like. There wasn’t enough fritters for the entire table however – if ordering for 12 people then 12 fritters would be ideal!
The pork roll-ups were wonderful and the sashimi was oddly abundant – I think we were given five plates of that and one of the fritters.
The Pad Thai at the Melbourne venue is the best Pad Thai on the planet and I was very much looking forward to having it in Sydney but NOT ON THE MENU!! They have mixed it up with a Pad Seuw and it was the best Pad Seuw I have eaten but not as good as that Pad Thai. The stir fried Prawn, Big Tail and Egg noodle was my favourite dish but the hellfire chill oil turned half the table off it. I was stoked – I had seconds and thirds!
The Massaman was pretty standard but so fracking tender I did have seconds. And the Isaan style Spicy Hot Chicken was the table favourite but I wish I didn’t lather mine in the chilli and shallot nahm prik before eating – it was too hot for me to finish.
The stir fried green beans are a favourite of mine – I inhaled a bowl in Melbourne.
And the desserts were quite tasty. The Panna Cotta was amazing with the coffee flavours and the Sago was the table favourite.
The food from CHIN CHIN SYDNEY is on par with Melbourne (sublime) but the management needs to get its shit together to bring the service up to speed. The seating was an abomination but the cocktails were fantastic. I look forward to returning in three months in the hope of seeing the venue find its groove. Everything was split down the middle for this experience and hence it gets a 50/50 score.
SCORE BREAKDOWN: 3/3 food, 0/2 service, 1/1 drinks, 0/1 venue & ambience, 1/1 cost, 0/1 toilets and 0/1 bonus
Chin Chin Deets:
PH: 02 9281 3322
69 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
BOOKINGS: HIGHLY RECOMMEND
HOURS: 11am to late – 7 days
BAR: Fully licensed
LOCAL DELIVERY: No
VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: Yes
GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS: Yes
KID FRIENDLY: No
*** THIS MEAL WAS PAID FOR ***