Since Chin Chin opened its doors in May 2011, it has fast become a late-night favourite of Melbourne’s dining scene. Taking its cue from the night Hawker-style street and food markets of Bangkok, this loud Flinders Lane eatery dishes up technicolour Pan-Asian share plates until the wee hours.
“It’s vibrant and fun and that’s what food should be,” says chef Benjamin Cooper. “That’s what food is in those Asian cultures: people dining together because they love each other. You don’t eat food with people you don’t want to be eating with; eating food is a moment in time to be celebrated.”
Clocking up kitchen time beside Neil Perry, Kylie Kwong and David Thompson in previous jobs, Cooper’s hunger has undeniably always been for “all things Asian”.
“I’ve been a Buddhist since I was 12 years old. Interestingly, my mother was a Catholic, but when it came time for me to do my Holy Communion, I didn’t like the teachings pushed on me and I told her so. She said that was fine, but I had to do my own research,” says Cooper.
A year later, the youngster decided it was Buddhism that resonated with him most.
“It’s hard in a Western world to follow a religion in your life and career. I think that’s why Buddhism works, because it’s not a religion of appearances – it’s a religion that teaches you to find the right path and peace.”
The Chin Chin team has recently released a cookbook featuring some of Cooper’s best-loved dishes, including Son-In-Law Eggs and Beef Pad Seuw, as well as comic-book style insights into the restaurant’s inner workings.
“The flavour of Thai food is supposed to be like a punch in the face. But don’t worry; we’ve included a range of dishes here with different levels of intensity. You can turn the volume up or down to your tastes.”
Chin Chin is set to open a Sydney restaurant in 2015, with venue TBC.
Chin Chin the book is available online at chinchinrestaurant.com.au. Chin Chin restaurant is at 125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne