Chi Chi, Canley Heights

2 January 2013
by Phuoc

Chi-chi

Oh how things are changing for the suburb of Canley. Originally populated with Vietnamese/Chinese restaurants, these days there are more “trendy” restaurants popping up, particularly in Canley Heights. One of these restaurants is Chi Chi, a hip Asian restaurant featuring a well-stocked bar. The menu draws inspiration from Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Malaysian and Laotian dishes.

Chi-chi_Interior

It’s so intense! What does it mean?!

The decor is really funky for Canley Heights. With double rainbow neon lights to welcome you into the restaurant, pink mesh panda panels to separate the bar from the main dining area and a cute mural filled with pandas spanning one entire wall of the restaurant, you’d be forgiven to think that you’re dining in another hipster restaurant in the inner west.

As mentioned, the restaurant is divided into 2 sections for you to enjoy the food; the bar and the main dining area which looks like it seats about 50+. Ladies, you’ll be pleased to know there are bag hooks provided at the bar so there is no need to worry about leaving your bag on the floor as you wine and dine. There is also another smaller dining section of the restaurant which seats about 10, it is here where you’ll get to see all the action from the kitchen.

As we were dining as a large group, it was recommended that we got the 8 course set menu for $38/person. However, there were items on the menu that we really wanted to try that wouldn’t be served in the set menu so we opt to order à la carte instead. In the end, it worked out to be roughly $40/person with 9 courses to share, a couple of beers, a cocktail, 3 desserts and several coffees. So I’m glad that I choose to steer away from the set menu.

Chi-chi_Smoked-trout-on-betal-leaf

To start we have the smoked trout on betel leaf ($3.90 each). These tiny morsels are to be eaten in one go; leaf and all. What you get in one mouthful is the taste of succulent pieces of trout, crispy fried shallots and a fiery hit from the roasted chilli but there was no signs of smokiness at all. A nice and refreshing way to start the meal.

Chi-chi_Son-in-law-eggs

I was pretty excited when I saw son-in-law eggs ($5.50) on the menu as not that many places serve them. The first time I had them was at Gingerboy in Melbourne, and they were served whole with gooey yolk innards. At Chi Chi, you get 2 eggs per serve, cooked and deep-fried to medium boiled and slightly crispy, cut in half and topped with house-made xo sauce. Another delightful dish to start our meal. I know it would be hard, considering the way it’s served, but if only the yolk was runnier…

Chi-chi_Soft-shell-crab

When we sat down at our table, the smell of deep-fried salt and pepper goodness filled the air. One of my sisters wanted soft shell crab so salt and pepper soft shell crab ($15.80) it was. This dish is also prepared with squid or tofu. Lightly battered and fried to a crisp yet containing the succulent sweet crab flesh, this dish was wonderful with just the right amount of S&P.

Chi-chi_School-prawns

There is no passing up crunchy school prawns ($12.60). It might seem weird to some people but trust me, you have to eat the prawn whole (including the head and tail – the head’s the best bit!). The shell is pretty thin so you shouldn’t notice it too much, and besides, all the flavouring and crispy batter is on the shell, if you peel it off, you lose all the flavour and texture.

With a squeeze of lemon over the prawns and a mix of the chilli mayo to evenly combine it; these school prawns are ready to be devoured. I could seriously polish off an entire bowl (or two) of these moreish school prawns if I could have my way. They are crispy without drying the prawn meat out. The perfect snack!

Chi-chi_Chicken-satay-skewers

Malay-style saté chicken skewers ($16 for 12 skewers) was the last dish to come out for our starters. Tender pieces of chicken served with house-made chunky-style satay sauce and big chunks of cucumber, you can’t go wrong with a simple dish like this.

Chi-chi_Clay-pot-rice

Les’ clay pot rice ($16.80) is piled with prawns, chicken, chinese sausage, lily buds and topped with a fried egg. The rice beneath soaks in all the delicious soy sauce. A part of me was wishing for a delicious golden crust of rice to be found on the bottom of the pot but alas, it wasn’t there. It could’ve been that we dug into the dish too soon and didn’t wait for it to form, though I’d be curious to know if would eventually form if we had waited.

Chi-chi_Massaman-curry

Possibly the less impressive dish that we had on the night. The Massaman curry ($19.80) was supposed to be mild-med in heat, I know I have a very high tolerance for spicy food, but I didn’t get the slightest tickle of heat from this curry at all. We all found it to be on the sweet side as well. I think the most enjoyable part of this dish was the beef, it was so tender, you could cut it with a spoon!

Chi-chi_Pork-belly-papaya-salad

Another favourite dish of mine was Chi Chi’s braised pork belly with green papaya salad ($18.20). Like a Laotian green papaya salad, but better! Crispy cubes of pork belly lay hidden underneath a mound of shredded green papaya, mint and fried shallots. There is a bit of tang from the fish sauce, heat and sweetness but everything was well-balanced. Not necessarily a bad thing but there was a larger ratio of pork belly to green papaya, and I secretly wanted more green papaya to go with the pork belly.

Chi-chi_Side-dishes-mushrooms-and-mixed-greens

There needed to be some vegetable dishes to balance everything out so wok-tossed greens (broccoli, snap peas & gai lan) ($8) and stir fried mixed mushrooms ($12.90) were ordered. The greens were cooked perfectly, with a bit of bite to them. Plump shiitake and wood ear mushrooms were hidden among a sea of slippery enoki mushrooms. I think the sauce for both dishes were quiet similar; laden with Chinese wine and garlic oil, and thickened.

Chi-chi_Pannacotta

Although our bellies were quite full, some of us felt the need to order some desserts. The dessert section is cheekily named “Happy-ending” and a handful (no pun intended) of Asian-inspired desserts are on offer.

I can’t resist pannacotta ($10.20). Even if the waitress couldn’t exactly tell me the flavour of it (“it’s custard…”), I still had to order it. Thankfully I did because it was luscious, creamy and speckled with vanilla bean seeds. Despite the slightest hint of burnt sugar, the honeycomb was a nice addition to the dish as well; you could tell that it’s freshly made as it breaks easily and almost melts when you eat it.

Chi-chi_Kaffir-lime-brulee

The kaffir lime brûlée ($10.90) sadly lacked the kaffir lime flavour that my sister was hoping for in this dish. But regardless of flavour, the texture of the crème brûlée was spot on silky smooth and toffee delectably shattering. The accompanying coconut sorbet was refreshing and smooth minus the little bits of desiccated coconut scattered throughout it.

Chi-chi_Fried-banana-roll

Upon presentation of the fried banana sesame roll ($9.20), it was not what I had imagined the dish to be. I thought it would be like the Vietnamese version, chuối chiên, where the banana is coated in batter but instead the banana is rolled in a thin sheet of pastry and fried until crispy and golden. Don’t get me wrong, swimming in a pool of house-made caramel sauce and served alongside a generous scoop of creamy salted nut ice cream, what’s not to dislike about it?

Coffees were also had with our desserts and I was pleased that there was no sight of bitterness to the coffee at all. I was even lucky to score a swan coffee-art in mine.

Considering they have only been open for about 5 weeks, they seem to be doing very well for themselves. We dined early on a Friday night but soon enough the place filled up by 8pm. I’ve never really been a fan of restaurants that don’t take bookings as I can become very impatient, especially with my family in tow. So I was quiet happy to find that Chi Chi take bookings. Overall, staff were generally very helpful and delightful. We all enjoyed our meal here, it’s a nice change to the regular scenes of Canley Heights. It’s still a little pricy for the area (normally you would get away with paying about $20/person) but the food is good and worth paying for. I’ll definitely return, especially for those school prawns and pork belly papaya salad!

Chi-chi_Outside

Chi Chi  on Urbanspoon

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26 Comments

  1. Richard Elliot

    Canley must be changing as in my one (or two?) visits out there I didn’t see any places like this. Looks great!

  2. john | heneedsfood

    I thought I was looking at a restaurant in Surry Hills for a moment there. I know what I’ll be ordering if I ever make it there. The pork belly! The massaman looks really good as well. Every massaman I’ve ever eaten has been on the sweet-side so I’m guessing the one you guys had was meant to be that way, although the level of sweetness can vary a lot from curry to curry. Yes please to the school prawns as well!

  3. Tina @ bitemeshowme

    I am super impressed that a place like this calls Canley Heights home. I’ve stolled passed it serveral times and have heard that it’s a place that feels like it should belong in Surry Hills. You got to try a whole bunch of things which all sound and look very good to be honest.

  4. billy @ a table for two

    When I heard Chi Chi, gay porn comes to me mind! LOL!! I think Massaman curry meant to be on sweet side usually, it does look god though. Next time I go to Canley Heights not to buy fish and fish tank anymore, def for food! :)

  5. Sara @bellyrumbles

    I actually don’t think I have ever been to Canley Heights. That fact is probably a very sad one. Chi Chi looks great, food and decor, would be worth the visit.

  6. Ramen Raff

    Oh man! The cubes of braised pork belly sounds unreal! Definitely checking it out soon.

  7. Anna

    YUMMO! Love this post! Chi Ch i is a welcome our area. Ppl are wanting more and this place looks like it delivers! Can’t wait to try it out! Hope the school prawns are as good as district dining’s ones!

    Def canley heights is fast becoming the dinner precinct!

  8. Nic@diningwithastud

    Such good value! And totes trendy ;)

  9. Jacq

    I had to lol at the waitress telling you that the pannacotta flavour was custard. At least the food tasted good!

  10. Tina@foodboozeshoes

    Ooh, it all looks so good, especially the starters. I always have reservations about restaurants that serve so many types of Asian cuisines though

  11. Phuoc

    Richard: Oh of course! As restaurants in Cabramatta close before dinner, Canley has been the dining hub for late night diners. So it’s pretty cool that “hip” places are also popping up in the area too.

    John: Yeah I’m beginning to think that’s the case with Massaman curry, it’s not my curry of choice as I prefer heat and spice with mine. Hit me up if you ever decide to come, I’ll join you!

    Tina: It’s always good to try a new place with the family because there’s so much of us, we get to try a lot of dishes (though we have to order 2 servings of each dish so everyone get a bit of everything) :) Get yourself there asap!

    Billy: LOL I shouldn’t ask… I haven’t had that many Massaman curries in my life but every time I do, the sweetness/spiciness varies. I just won’t order it anymore :p

    Sara: Yes! Sad indeed. We can rectify this :)

    Ramen Raff: Thinking about it again makes my mouth water. Hope you get to check it out soon!

    Anna: Yes, definitely pleased! All that’s missing now is a cafe that does good coffee, brunch and desserts! :P I didn’t get to try the school prawns at District Dining, but I think they are pretty awesome! Enjoy Chi Chi when you get the chance to check it out :)

    Nic: Guess it beats going into the city for similar food right?

    Jacq: Yeah I know.. I had to hold it inside!

    Tina: Yeah me too but they seem to do them all very well, so all good :)

  12. RagingCravings

    No way! I can’t believe they used the Double Rainbow dude’s video as the tag line for the restaurant! (LOVED that video on YouTube)

    The food at Chi Chi reminds me of Chin Chin in Melbourne. Chi Chi/Chin Chin – is this a coincidence?

  13. Phuoc

    Raving Cravings: Hehe yeah it’s a bit random hey? When I called up to make a reservation, I mentioned to whom I assumed was the boss that it reminds me of Chin Chin and she said that Chin Chin is one of her favourite restaurants. So maybe drawing inspiration perhaps?

  14. Ando @ The Lamstock

    Yum! I might give this place a go tomorrow but it looks very expensive for the area. The interior looks awesome!

  15. RagingCravings

    Ah that makes sense. I’ll hazard a guess that the next place will be called Ch Ch…

  16. Phuoc

    Ando: Cool! I hope you got around to trying it and enjoyed it. It does seem expensive for the area, but they use free-range meat etc. Just try to think of it as having some good food that you would can find in the city but out west (therefore, not needing to travel as far)..

    Raging Cravings: So my bad, I had accidentally left out a word in the last comment about Chin Chin/Chi Chi (which I now have corrected – left out “favourite”). Wow, what a difference one word can make to the meaning of a sentence. So yeah… It is a pure coincidence

  17. Sherrie @ Crystal Noir

    Shame there was no crust on the rice bowl… It’s the best and tastiest part! Those son-in-law eggs, S&P crab and prawns are luring me in for a visit. Who am I kidding, most things look fantastic! :D

  18. scraggot

    Bag hooks are such an easy thing to sort out – I don’t know why all restaurants and bars don’t have them.

    Son-in-law eggs look really interesting, I’ll definitely be on my way there – will need to get a crew together so I can try more.

    I really like the massaman curry at Let’s Eat Thai in Marrickville – its very aromatic, not sweet. I make mine with a lot of spices (bay leaf, cardamon, cloves, star anise), lime and tom yum for tang. I don’t like it sweet.

  19. Phuoc

    Sherrie: Hope you get to try it out soon :)

    Scraggot: That’s good to know, might need to check that place out one day. It’s weird that different places have varying degrees of sweetness of massaman curry, spiciness I can somewhat understand because spices can vary in heat depending on their freshness.

  20. Lisa

    SO excited to check this place out. The food looks great. Nice to have a funky local restaurant like this, it looks like it wouldn’t be out of place in Melbourne!

  21. Phuoc

    Lisa: Tell me about it! Bring on more I’d say :) Hope you like it when you get around to trying it out

  22. Anna @ The Littlest Anchovy

    OMG the salt and pep crab looks stunning. I love the double rainbow reference, I doubt I will ever grow tired of it! Gorgeous photos!

  23. MsBrulee (Kelly)

    I live in Cabramatta so there will be no trekking from this blogger, thanks for sharing this great find!

  24. milkteaxx

    this sounds like an awesome place, love the look of the neon lights and the satay sticks!

  25. Phillip Nom

    This place is more style than substance. I don’t mind paying a premium for a different experience and excellent food, but this is just a fancy fit out with a bar serving the same-same food you get down the road for half the price.

  26. Phuoc

    Anna: Thanks!

    MsBrulee: Not a problem, hope you enjoy it when and if you get to try this place out.

    Milkteaxx: It’s just what the western suburbs needed, an injection of a hip/funky joint to please the younger crowd :)

    Phillip Nom: Well of course you can (get cheaper food) down the road, I think the main difference with Chi Chi and the other restaurants (besides decor) is that they apparently use good quality produce and hence the mark up in price. It’s not like I’ll be dining here at every opportunity that I’m in Canley anyway.

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