We were discussing Vietnamese restaurants with our good friend Liz recently and she directed our attention to one that immediately got mine and V’s attention. Occupying a specially designed space created by award winning designer Matt Woods, the newly opened restaurant oozes style. It’s supremely trendy and chic, which is only fitting for a place called Chi Chi.
Serving a modern take on South East Asian cuisine by Les Huynh (of Blue Ginger in Balmain), V and I couldn’t wait to check this new place out… in Canley Vale.
Canley Vale?! I could expect an establishment like this in the inner city or close to it but Canley Vale is surprising. A stone’s throw away from Cabramatta, I (and I expect many others) know Canley Vale to be home to great pho and equally great traditional South East Asian cuisine; a place where Asian families go on Sundays. It’s not a place one immediately thinks of as trendy.
Chi Chi bucks this expectation and joins other new places aimed at the younger crowd that have opened along Canley Vale Road, places like Fat Panda or Holy Basil, albeit with greater style and fare.
V and I dropped in last week to check it out. We were inspecting the menu for dishes that were suitable to my new diet (aimed at lowering cholesterol and uric acid, among other things) when the friendly waitress, Somali (not sure about spelling) warmly told us about some of her favourite dishes there and invited us in. We were sold.
(Excuse the crappy iPhone photos – I hadn’t been in the habit of taking my DSLR with me of late, I’ve been distracted by my new toy.)
Regimented by diet, we had such a hard time deciding on the dishes too have, especially since we decided we could only have two mains and no entrees. Everything sounded good. (The two cocktails we had from their modern menu was definitely not part of the diet.)
We started with the Steamed Wild Barramundi Fillets with Chilli, Soy Bean, Ginger, Mushrooms & Lily Buds. The mushroom flavour was intense in this delicious hearty dish.
We also had the outstanding Fried Crisp Skin Salmon & Green Papaya Salad with Vietnemese Mints & Fried Garlic. Jebus, this dish was amazing. A single crunchy piece of salmon skin was served atop a generous bed of cubed salmon pieces and green papaya salad. The salmon cubes were perfectly cooked: crisp on the outside yet medium rare inside. I couldn’t get enough of this and its citrusy flavour.
I couldn’t resist trying at least one of their desserts and thankfully they had one reasonably small: tapioca shot with coconut custard. Dessert joy in compact size. Perfect for the diet.
The word? Amazing food (think Phamish but much better) in a very modern space. Service is outstanding too. You have to forget you’re in Canley Vale and forget what the going rate for food is here. Think Surry Hills in terms of food, decor and prices; but without the sh1t parking and pretense. Definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area. I can’t wait to come back.