Whenever it’s raining, I always see rainbows as a sign of something good to come. Symbolic perhaps of a lesson learnt after a hardship or a silver lining in a cloud. Rainbow themed anything from cakes, biscuits and cupcakes adorn my blog and when I see a sign saying “Double Rainbows All the Way Across the Sky” beaming at me from a yellow neon sign as soon as we walk into Chi Chi Asian Kitchen, I see it as the reward at the end of a long drive.
I was with my usual partners in crime Mr NQN, Miss America and Queen Viv. The latter two are the friends that best like an adventure to a far flung suburb and on this torrentially rainy Sydney Saturday, Mr NQN and I bundled into the car avoiding fat drops of rain and picked up Miss America from Potts Point and Queen Viv from St Peters and went on our way to Canley Heights (on the way buying twelve blocks of butter but that’s nothing new). We were running a touch late and perhaps we were over optimistic with the travel time to Canley Heights. The rain doesn’t help traffic conditions and Chi Chi isn’t actually on Canley Vale road as the address says but we stumble upon it on Derby Street while trying to find a park in this busy little suburb.
Inside, it’s quite different from the large number of Vietnamese eateries that line Canley Vale road. There’s a large Manga style wall complete with a waving lucky panda alongside an exposed brick wall and pink metal cut outs of pandas in sunglasses partition off the marble bar from the main restaurant. They tell us that Chi Chi just means chic and the idea was to introduce a Melbourne sort of vibe to Canley Vale. One of the owners Les Huynh of Chi Chi also owns Blue Ginger in Balmain. Every table is taken this evening and I’m glad that they take bookings. Service is very friendly and they take time to explain things to us and give us recommendations.
Liquid Pavlova $18 (left) and Hello Chi Chi $8
It’s funny how one ingredient can evoke a whole dish. The passionfruit in this cocktail and fluffy top brought forth memories of pavlova immediately. My choice was the Hello Chi Chi which was a delicious mocktail tasting of sweet strawberry and lychee. The only complaint was that there was a lot of ice in both drinks and they were gone rather quickly within a few gulps.
Spanner crab, pomelo, caramelised coconut, galangal and peanuts on betel leaf $4.80 each
It’s a short wait for the entrees that arrive all at once. We start with the two betel leaf items which are always crowd pleasers. The spanner crab, pomelo, caramelised coconut, galangal and peanuts on the betel leaf are perfectly balanced, with just the right amount of sour pomelo and rich, sweet caramelised coconut never overpowering the crab.
Smoked trout, galangal, roasted chilli and fried shallots on betel leaf $3.90 each
We follow the crab with the smoked trout (on their recommendation) and it’s also good with the strong smoked trout flavour dominating but out of the two betel leaf toppings, the crab ones were just that touch more balanced.
Son-in-law eggs with house XO sauce $5.90
I originally found Chi Chi from Tina’s blog Bitemeshowme and I recall that she was smitten by these on her blog and I’m in total agreement. They’re simple enough, boiled eggs lightly dredged in cornflour and deep fried so that the outside gets a crispish coating. Inside the yolk is runny and golden and topped with house made XO sauce, that powerhouse spicy sauce flavoured with dried scallops and pork. “I could have eaten a dozen” Miss America says to eating lifting the last mouthful to his mouth.
Steamed dumplings of seafood and vegetables with ginger soya sauce (5) $11.90
On the drive here Miss America had made several requests for us to stop in Ashfield for dumplings. It was rainy weather after all and that means holing up with a plate of steaming dumplings. These were filled with seafood and vegetables with an egg pastry wrapper. Drizzled on top was a ginger soy sauce. They weren’t bad but they also weren’t very distinctive in flavour in terms of the seafood and I couldn’t tell what seafood it contained.
Crispy skin baby chicken with house satay sauce $20.90