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Food, Inside Story

Chin Chin beats Asian Restaurants to win Tastiest Pork Dish at Chowzter Asia Awards 2015 in Singapore

Iconic Melbourne restaurant Chin Chin has won the award for Tastiest Pork Dish in Asia at the Chowzter Asia Awards 2015, beating a strong field of pork dishes from across Asia. The Caramelised sticky pork dish has been a sensation with diners at Chin Chin ever since it appeared on the menu when the restaurant opened. “Being nominated is an honour”, said Executive Chef Benjamin Cooper, “but to win is amazing. We’re chuffed!”

David Hagger from The World Loves Melbourne is the Chief Chowzter for Melbourne, one of 150 foodie “experts” across the world specialising in their cities’ cuisine. The World Loves Melbourne attended the awards and saw the win as a nod to Asian influences in Melbourne. “Chin Chin are known around the world and there was a great response from foodies across Asia to this win. It shows Aussies can serve Asian style food that matches it with anyone in Asia.”

Caramelised Sticky Pork has been on the menu as a signature dish since the restaurant opened in 2011 and has been a much lauded dish among diners.

Chowzter is based out of London and with its 150 foodie “experts” or Chief Chowzters in each city covers a social media reach of over a million. The website at celebrates fast feasts from all over the world. Chowzter also features destination (fine) dining restaurants on its website. The Awards were held at a glittering ceremony at the chic restaurant Wild Rocket in Singapore.

Chin Chin Restaurant, the masterstroke of Melbourne foodie icon Chris Lucas, has been packed every day since it opened in 2011 and focuses on South-East Asian cuisine with celebrity chef Benjamin Cooper as its executive chef.  Chin Chin is modelled on the hawker dining halls of Asia with a shared-eating concept and therefore have a walk-in only policy (except for one table of 10-12).  Chin Chin aims to serve customers the freshest ingredients and all sauces, pastes and relishes are made in-house.  They are open every day of the year except for Xmas day.

The wine list has an all-Australian focus and every quarter Chin Chin features a local winemaker.

Chin Chin, located in iconic dining precinct Flinders Lane, is a large casual chic restaurant in a warehouse like diner which is always busy, often with customers lining up outside the front door. Chin Chin is compelling for its Asian pop art with quirky cartoons and large art pieces. Designers Projects of the Imagination were involved in the fit out, including a bar lit under lampshades made from found objects (eg cylindrical liners of wool containers). Chin Chin brings a sense of fun and playfulness to dining with its Pan Asian mash ups and pop artwork.


Chin Chin features South-East Asian hawker cuisine "glammed" up. Signature dishes include Thai style crunchy prawns; Chilli salt chicken wings; Wok Fried Salt and Pepper Squid with Nuoc Cham and Vietnamese Mint; Chinoo salmon wrapped in banana leaf with coconut red curry lime and Thai basil; Beef Short Ribs; Dry red curry of soft shell crab, to name a few.  A "feed me" option gives you a selection of Chin Chin favourite dishes and is one of the best value dining experiences in Melbourne.

Chin Chin has twice featured in The Australian Hot 50 Restaurant Awards 2012, 2013. Chin Chin Cookbook has also won awards including Australia's "Most Innovative Cookbook" in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2014. It has now won Tastiest Pork Dish in Asia 2015 as voted by Chowzter.

The Caramelised sticky pork dish features rich and rewarding sweet sticky caramelised pork on the outside, and soft and juicy pork inside. The salad brings a sour dimension, a mix of Granny Smith apple strips, betel leaves, coriander and mint on a chilli vinegar dressing.  The genius of the salad is that it brings a tang and pleasing acidity that offsets the pork. Chin Chin does not dumb it down on heat, and this dish comes with rewarding spice and kick. The caramelised sticky pork dish is aesthetically pleasing with a plethora of colours and textures. The colour of the sweet caramelised pork is mouth watering. The aroma of the dish is compelling, including the aroma of Asian herbs. 

Said David Hagger from The World Loves Melbourne, “Many restaurants across Asia serve a soft pork belly dish, which is fine, but this caramelised sticky pork dish with "crispy on the outside" and "soft and juicy" (but not overly fatty) inside is irresistible. And it's the sweet sticky caramelised sauce that sets this dish apart, along with slow cooked pork that melts in the mouth, and the overall brilliant balance of the dish.”

The World Loves Melbourne gave a short speech at the Awards night on the winning dish and popularity of Chin Chin, and a short film was shown on Chin Chin.  The trophy was brought back to Melbourne and presented to Benjamin Cooper in The Lucas Group offices. The recipe for the Caramelised sticky pork appears in the Chin Chin cookbook.

Benjamin Cooper – Bio

In his early days, Benjamin Cooper was fortunate enough to work alongside and learn from both Neil Perry and Kylie Kwong in Australia, two of the country’s most renowned food icons. Following this, Cooper worked in the UK with fellow Aussie John Torode, Head Chef at Terrance Conran’s iconic Bluebird in Chelsea, furthering his trade and broadening his food horizons and understanding. From here, he graduated to Junior Sous Chef at John Torode’s Smith’s of Smithfield. For two years, Benjamin was the Junior Sous Chef to Executive Chef, Mark Edwards, at London’s famous Nobu. Throughout, he also worked at Nahm in The Halkin hotel; the first Michelin-starred Thai restaurant in Europe.

After moving back to Australia, Cooper was appointed Head Chef at Melbourne’s Ezard in 2003-06 before moving on to become Head Chef at Melbourne’s Longrain.

In 2011, Cooper became Head Chef of Chin Chin and has most recently been appointed to Group Executive Chef at The Lucas Group, who’s restaurants include Chin ChinBaby Café & Pizzeria and Kong BBQ.


Chris Lucas Bio


Establishments: Chin Chin / Baby / Gogo Bar

Chris Lucas is a restaurateur with an uncanny knack for not only predicting the changing trends in dining but for dictating them too. The skill, which he describes as more of an “instinct” has earned him more accolades than you’d care to read about, but to name a few: “Restaurant of the Year” (The Botanical in the Australian Good Food Guide 2003), “Top One Hundred World Food Experiences” (The Botanical again, in Savior magazine), “Best Restaurant in Australia” (Chin Chin, Kate Stevenson, 3AW) and “Hottest Restaurant in Australia” (Chin Chin in The Australian newspaper’s Top 50 Hottest Restaurants).

Despite the lofty heights his restaurants invariably seem to reach, Lucas is driven by a philosophy to bring high end food back down to ground level, where it can be enjoyed by more than the fine dining set for whom money, status and a Saturday night reservation is no object.

“My vision has always been that great food, service and ambience should not be available to an exclusive minority who can afford it.  It should be accessible to all in a fun environment that’s seeking to always innovate .”

In doing so, Lucas has pioneered a ‘No Reservations’ policy at his current flagship restaurant Chin Chin. This has resulted in a queue which is probably as well known as the restaurant itself and whose ranks, at various times, have included pop star Pink, Tour de France winner Cadel Evans, and many thousand lesser known, but just as eager punters. Why are they waiting? “Because we worked hard to create an experience people would put themselves out for,” Lucas said in the heady first few weeks of Chin Chin’s existence.

All of Chris Lucas’ restaurants, whether it’s the Italian fare at Baby, or the bursting Thai flavours at Chin Chin have one other attribute in common; they’ve become part of the fabric of their suburb and the city. This phenomenon was best summed up by luminary of the arts scene and Artistic Director of the Melbourne Theatre Company Brett Sheehy, who said: “The fact that Chin Chin has staked its claim to being part of Melbourne's landscape so profoundly, when restaurants seem to open and close in the blink of a tweet or blog post, is testimony to its quality, the richness of its personality and the breadth of experiences it offers.”

Chris Lucas considers Sheehy’s comments some of the most meaningful ever spoken about any of his endeavours, let alone his restaurants: “It means so much to me to hear that, because Brett does such fantastic work in the arts scene, and also because I passionately believe that restaurants have a broader responsibility beyond simply feeding people. I’m committed to contributing in any way I can to making Melbourne not only one of the greatest food cities in the world, but a great city full stop.”