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Chin Chin

11 May

Chin Chin has definitely grabbed the attention of all food lovers attention in Melbourne over the past year. New establishment began in mid 2011 but has topped the ‘talk of the town’ list on Urbanspoon for more than 6months! They’ve achieved amazing recognition in such a short time. The food and ambience is based on a modern Thai genre. They’ve got a bar down in the basement, dining area is on the ground floor which has a pretty noisy environment, where frequent laughters coming from happy customers.

Caution: Chin Chin does not accept any reservations. Reaching the restaurant early doesn’t guarantee you a table as well. My first visit was on a rainy Saturday evening at 6pm and the staff told me that I would be on the waiting list and they expect my table to be ready in 2.5-3 hours. True enough, they gave me a text message after 2.5hours but I had already finished my dinner elsewhere. Such hype made me go back a second time. So, on a Friday night at 8pm, I was told that I have to wait 1-1.5hours and this time, I did.

So here we go… My review of the Melbourne hype. Was the food good? Were the hours of wait worth it??

Kingfish Sashimi w Lime, Chilli, Coconut, Thai Basil (A$14)

This appetiser/starting dish, is DIE-DIE-MUST-TRY!! It’s a Thai rendition of sashimi and it is absolutely mind-blowing. Fresh sweet juicy kingfish paired with all the traditional thai spices of lime, chilli, coconut and basil, it’s like having a dynamite exploding in my mouth. This first impression set the standards really high for the rest of the dishes. I like how all the spices and flavours complement each other. Great appetiser, definitely.

Chilli Salt Chicken Wings w Coriander and Fresh Lemon

I’m not too sure about this one. There was just a tiny hint of spiciness, with lots of salt. Sadly, this dish was very much a let-down for us. We could easily get a better quality of the same dish elsewhere. It wasn’t captivating enough, with very ordinary flavours and a very salty skin.

Chin Chin Special Fried Rice w Crab, Chicken, Pineapple and Coriander

The fried rice was somewhere between average and good. It’s got the basic fragrance of how a fried rice should be, but I was disappointed to find very little crab in the dish. Actually, it also tasted pretty plain, which was probably why the bowl of sauce was there, to allow us to blend the saltiness to our taste. Good idea, but doesn’t seem like a very glam thing to do, to be tossing and mixing your rice when other are looking.

Western Plains Organic Pork Satay w Cucumber, Pineapple, Crushed Peanuts & a 3 flavour sauce

I have to say that presentation was really bad. And I was a little hesitant on how to start on the dish. There are several individual components and is there suppose to be a suggested order of eating? There are big slices of cucumber, big slices of pineapple, some green chilli padi and basil. I thought I would go orginal and have the pork satay with the dipping sauce. The sauce had this sweet and salty punch to it, but the pork was a horror. The meat was really tough and difficult to chew. I went on to blend in the rest of the individual components and they actually did go well with the pork, which made it refreshing. Wrapping this up, I would have to say that it could potentially be one of the best dish, but the pork satay being the centre of the plate was extremely disappointing. It would be great if a different cut of meat was used and the presentation could be improved to allow diners to understand how to blend the individual components together.

 Green Curry of Grilled Chicken w Salted Duck Eggs, Pea Eggplant, Kaffir Lime Leaf & Thai Basil

I’m not a big fan of green curry but I would have to say that they are pretty generous in the amount of eggplants in the bowl. It was pretty special in the sense that salted duck egg were used. Again, a Chin Chin interpretation/rendition of a green curry. So as expected, it was slightly too salty. Not the traditional kind of green curry that we are used to having. Lastly, as a warning, it is pretty spicy!

To sum it up, I wouldn’t be willing to queue for hours to get a seat in this restaurant. Most of the dishes were only mediocre and some were pretty disappointing. I don’t see how some people can re-visit this place again and again despite the never-ending queue. BUT, Chin Chin has successfully saved themselves with the unforgettable Kingfish sashimi which is so distinct. I might go back again when the hype has quiet down.

Opening Hours:
Lunch till Late
(Mon to Sun)

Address:
125 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000

Ratings:
Food: 2/5
Ambience: 3/5
Value: 2.5/5
Service: 2/5
(Kingfish sashimi gets 4.75/5)

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Mamasita

20 Dec

One of Melbourne’s top rated restaurants on Urbanspoon. Because they open only at 12noon and do not take reservations, be prepared to queue even if you arrive early.

At the end of Collins St near to Parliament Station, the little door leads up to the dining area on the second level.

Beautiful bar area with a full range of alcohol where you could grab a drink and hang around if you are still waiting for a table. Feel free to chat with the really friendly bartenders.

The first question the staff will ask if whether you have been here before. If it is your first visit, they will patiently explain the entire menu to you. It is a pretty small menu but you are in for a Mexican feast! (Note that menu has recently been changed. Refer to their website for an updated copy)

Elotes Callejeros – “Street Style” chargrilled corn, queso, chipotle mayonnaise & lime (A$4.90). You should kick yourself if you come here but miss this out. It used to be A$4.40, but nevertheless, this is a MUST-TRY. Sadly they do not allow takeaway for any of their food. I would happily walk in and ask for 2 sticks of corn and munch on it as an afternoon snack. Fresh juicy grilled corn with melted cheese and spice, it will simply blow you away. I cannot emphasise how much I love this simply looking yet flavour wise it taste so sophisticated.

(From left) Tostaditas de Carnitas – Slow Braised Pork Shoulder, Encurtidos & Jalapeno (A$14)
Tostaditas de Pescado – Market Fish, Lime, Guacamole, Serrano Chilli & Nasturtium (A$15)
Tostaditas de Pollo – Chargrilled Chicken, Avocado, Queso Fresco & Chipotle Mayonnaise (A$14)
Tostaditas de Cangrejo – Crab Meat, Avocado, Cucumber, Tamarind Mayonnaise & Habanero (A$16)

These bite size tostaditas are absolutely flavoursome. Every order comes with 4 pieces. Put the entire piece into your mouth and it instantly goes booooom! Layers and layers of taste comes through to you. My favourite will be the pork and chicken one. Whereas my friend loved the crab meat and fish one. I guess you gotta order all of them to know which is the best!

(From left) Ceviche de Salmon – Atlantic Salmon, Yellow Peppers, Chilli, Orange, Lime & Mastard Oil (A$6) (Snapper version now $8)
Ceviche de Yucatan – Market Fish, Green Tomato, Chilli, Mint, Lime & Coconut Milk (was A$6, now A$7)

I need to mention that my visit there was in April and they’ve changed the menu since. The Salmon ceviche is no longer served and is replaced with a snapper version. But I must say, ceviche was pretty new and interesting to me. It is made using raw fish and ‘cooked’ with lots of acidic juices. Be prepared when you take your first mouthful because your face and body will twitch! Strongly recommend the salmon (now snapper) version of the ceviche. The fish has a better bite to it and I prefer without coconut milk. Ceviche just prepares my palate for the main courses coming up!

Taco de Camarones – Marinated Prawns, Habanero Chillies & Chipotle Almond Salsa (A$7). The prawns were really fresh but as a taco, it felt pretty tasteless to me. Probably because of the previous dishes which were so packed full of flavours, this one was much more subtle. But I heard the Braised Pork version is incredible. The pork filling is same as the tostaditas and I could imagine how amazing it will taste like.

Quesadilla de Pollo – Chargrilled Chicken, Coriander, Queso Criollo, Pico de Gallo & Queso Fresco (A$14). I would pretty much call it a tortilla pancake. The chicken version was just average to me, not too fantastic compared to others. I believe the menu changes frequently because there used to be a beef one which is now replaced by lamb

Cerdo en Nogada – Mulato Rubbed Pork Fillet, Walnut Sauce, Pomegranate & Tequila Soused Raisin (was A$24, now $27). Beautifully cooked piece of pork fillet which remains tender and juicy on the inside. Portion is good for one or two to share. Any more people sharing into it will get you only ONE bite.

Pescado a la Veracruzana – King Fish and Clams Poached in Tomatoes, Olives, Capers & Jalapeno Chilli (A$26). Sadly, this dish is no longer featured in the menu. But I absolutely love this Mexican version of a seafood soup. The sweetness comes from the fresh seafood and juicy tomatoes. They were pretty generous with the king fish. I had to start scrapping the bowl towards the end because the soup was that good!

Been to Mamasita twice and I will definitely be back again. Mexican food is all about giving bangs of flavours. They are also very well balanced in terms of sweetness and acidity. To sum it up, Mexican food is so much fun and excitement!

Opening Hours:
Mon – Weds : 12pm to 12am
Thurs :  12pm to 12.30am
Fri : 12pm to 2am
Sat : 5pm to 2am
Sun and Public Holidays : Closed

Address:
Level 1 / 11 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: +61396503821

Ratings:
Food: 4.5/5
Ambience: 4.25/5
Value: 4.25/5
Service: 4/5

Circa The Prince

14 Apr

A 2-hat Restaurant on The Age Good Food Guide 2011. I was there in November 2010 for a friend’s birthday dinner.

A simple menu to begin the evening. As we had 6 people, we went for the ‘to-share’ section and ordered 3 dishes. The menu was designed simple, basically all you had to do was to decide on which meat you would prefer, and there was only one choice. That’s because Circa put in much effort on every dish to make it, in their opinion, the best version of that particular meat.

Not to mention, bread was served while we waited for our mains while took a pretty long time to arrive.

 

There were special Shrimp Dumplings with Green Tea Salt (A$4 each) for the evening, so we decided to give it a shot. Fresh and juicy shrimps on the inside with a pretty new combination of green tea salt. If it was less oily, I could have a few more. It’s addictive

 

Roasted Moroccan Chicken, Chick Pea Chips, Eggplant Pickle, Parsley, Pine Nuts and Currents (A$70 for 2person). Served in a pot, the whole roast chicken was really soft and tender. I felt it tasted more like Hainanese Chicken for it lacked the roast flavours. There were lots of little nuts and currents and spices in the pot. I guess I liked the roasted eggplant much more than the chicken.

 

This was served together with the Roasted Moroccan Chicken. We couldn’t figure out what it was but somehow it tasted like fried cheese. It was soft like tofu and smelt really fragrant.

 

48 Hour Mutton Shoulder, Broccolini, Roast Peppers, Olives, Skordalia (A$75 for 2person). I’m a lover for mutton. Mutton shoulder is an excellent cut because of the fats within and the 48hours just made it so tender. There was only a really light mutton smell and how could you call it mutton if it didn’t smell like one! It was really great to have it as a sharing portion with friends because after awhile, it became a little blend without any sauce to go along.

 

Char Grilled Wagyu Sirloin, Caramelised Onion Tart, Fresh Horseradish Cream, House Seeded Mustard (A$80 for 2person). I couldn’t eat beef. But the caramelised onion tart sounded quirky, so I decided to try. At that instant it went into my mouth, my entire body just fell apart. It was so wonderful. I can’t emphasise how much about the ‘melt-in-your-mouth’ feel.

 

Our Vegetables, Tuber Crisp, Parmesan Yoghurt (A$19). It was an awesome piece of artwork, not something you would expect to be served as a salad. I guess it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth paying the price for such an artpiece.

 

Nougat Praline Parfait, Strawberries, Warm Doughnuts (A$15). The nougat ice-cream was refreshing. But what I liked most was the strawberry bits. It was most memorable.

 

White Chocolate and House Brandied Sour Cherry Trifle (A$20 for 2person). It was a great combination of white chocolate ice cream with chocolate cake (hidden below). The honey almond slice gave it an extra bite. What’s best is the brandied cherries. Full bodied cherries, who can resist?

 

Double Chocolate Madeleine, Wattle Seed Crème Brûlée (A$16). The chocolate Madeleine was think and really powerful, but I wasn’t sure if I liked the Crème Brûlée which was a little too soft.

 

As a summary, yes, it is indeed a 2-hat restaurant. Reasonably priced, accessible location and food was served with details.  

 

Opening Hours:
Dinner from 6pm daily

Address: 2 Acland Street
St Kilda VIC3182 

Ratings:
Food: 4.5/5
Ambience: 4.5/5
Value: 4.5/5
Service: 4.75/5 

Montalto

21 Feb

One of the best restaurants in the Peninsula. When I visited in Aug 2010, they had 2-course with wine lunch for only $55. But it seems like prices have increased to $72 because they’ve gotten more awards recently. They’re a one-hat restaurant for 2010 and 2011.

 


Just a really simple interior design, nothing fancy, good enough to bring out the experience of dining amongst the vines.

 


Nothing can be more relaxing than sipping wine and having good food with nature within an arms length.

 

Wines were served first and we had a choice of either a Chardonnay or Pinot Nior (can’t remember if it’s Pinot Noir or Tampranillo). Needless to say, we had one of each. They were so smooth on the palate, not over powering and the scent of fruits can easily be identified. Personally, I would prefer to drink it on its own than go with food because the original taste changes when it’s been interacted with other flavours.

 

Warm sourdough was served with Montalto’s extra virgin olive oil. Mamamia~ I can just have this for lunch.

 


Appertiser/Starter to help our taste buds get underway. I didn’t quite catch what this was, but I simply love this. It seems like some bread biscuit topped with tomatoes tossed in olive oil and herbs and anchovie. The topping is so juicy and has a burst of flavours, while the biscuit at the bottom gave it crisp. One is never enough.

 


We ordered 2 entrees. The first one, risotto. Couldn’t remember if it was spinach or broccoli risotto, but the flavours just came right through. The rice itself was cooked just right, wasn’t too hard nor soft. Being an entree, there was any meat chunks or seafood, and it may look plain, but it really wasn’t that bad!

 


The next entree, king salmon. It is a freshly smoked salmon. Unlike the slices we usually have in sandwiches, this whole chunk of king salmon is totally different. The smoky flavours was more of being aromatic than being salty. Not only that, the sweetness of the salmon is not lost. I haven’t tasted salmon this sweet before.

 


We had 2 mains, the first one, veal liver. I love pig lover and have been eating them all my life, but never tried veal liver before. Slightly seared on the outside, it is still soft and raw red on the inside. Only for people who can appreciate such stuff, I swear you will go crazy with this. The liver juices simply explodes in your mouth. It is intense and this taste lingers for a long time. Top it up with some red, slowly savour the lingering taste.

 


Bite into it and feel the burst of liver juices, yum.

 


The next main we have, snapper. To fish, it difficult to do up a good fish dish. Two aspects much be present. Crispy skin, and juicy meat. As we all know, fish cooks really fast. If you take it off the pan too soon, the skin will still be soft and rubbery, but leaving it too long to do the crisp on the skin, the meat will lose its moisture and be too dry. Montalto seems to focus more on doing the skin. Coated with rock salt, the skin was perfectly done. Althought the inside has lost some moisture, it wasn’t too bad and you can still taste the sweetness.

 


How can any meal not end with a dessert! We had Chocolate hazelnut with honeycomb ice-cream. Nothing bad to pick on, it was a reasonably good dessert to end the meal.

 

Opening Hours:
Mon-Thu,Sun: 12pm-3pm
Fri-Sat: 12pm-3pm, 6:30pm-11pm

Address: 33 Shoreham Road
Red Hill South VIC3937 

Ratings:
Food: 4.75/5
Ambience: 4.75/5
Value: 4.25/5
Service: 4.75/5