Believe the hype: Chin Chin

Spanner crab and chicken salad. I would have photographed
the fab kingfish sashimi for you, but I ate it too quickly.
Is Melbourne under the influence of a new Thai fascination? We're all talking about the Mexican Wave, with the impossible-to-get-a-seat Mamasita, Newmarket hotel, Fonda, the Taco Truck and Senoritas (opening end Feb). Exclude My Mexican Cousin, which, confusingly, actually serves Creole food.

But after a few days' solid eating in the city, it was Thai that took the prize: there's Easy Tiger, and gorgeous little Middle Fish and Chin Chin, which, despite being open for some seven months or so (so old!), is still hip to the eyeballs.

I like to think it's their policy of treating us mean, to keep us keen. Like so many CBD restaurants, they have a 'walk-in' policy. Which means no bookings and plenty of incredulous looks when one wanders up at 7pm, table hunting. I understand the idea of seating equity, I just don't like it so much.

However, my stars were aligned when I headed over last Friday night at 6.15pm. Every seat was being warmed, but I slipped into a banquette seat within minutes, after we'd wrangled over a few minor details ("We have no high chairs." "She'll sit on my lap." "We have no room for your pram." "It folds into the size of a pocket handkerchief. See?")

"Thai food with attitude? Sounds like home," sniffed my Sydney mate, Paco. But once I got past the door witches and into the domain of the smiling, heavily tattooed waiting staff, we were home and hosed.

It is beautiful. The kingfish sashimi with its shredded lime leaves is just beautiful. Don't think boring potato-loaded massaman and cheap-ass green curries. It was vibrant, cute and saucy - perhaps a little too saucy, with my spanner crab and chicken salad sliding into the dressing by the end. Still, at the beginning, the salad was just perfect. And let's face it, with all those wannabe diners pressing their noses to the window, you won't be leaving food hanging around.

Chin Chin 125 Flinders La, Melbourne, (03) 8663 2000, chinchinrestaurant.com.au

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