“Kechillax brotha!!” says the man who needs no introduction around Sydney’s restaurant scene.
Trendsetter and stalwart of Malaysian cuisine, this restaurateur’s unique collection of Chinta Ria restaurants introduced roti with jazz and R & B to Melbournians in the mid 1980s. He then took Sydney by storm way back in 1998, launching the iconic Chinta Ria Temple of Love at Cockle Bay Wharf.
In 2o11, Chinta Ria … Mood for Love and Sassy’s Red began oozing sexy and seductive nuances into the food scene at Westfield Sydney. Since then, fine dining and large restaurants have stumbled and many fell by the wayside. The trend towards casual dining is inevitable as restaurants are scaling down in size. Tapas and shared plates are becoming the norm and dining out should not bust the wallet.
Kechil means ‘small’ in Bahasa and being quick to spot new trends and adapt, this restaurateur is banking on a small space to do big things in a suburb which has hitherto been culinarily challenged.
The dining scene in Double Bay needs excitement and Simon Goh (cover image above) has now opened his latest venture in Chinta Kechil.
A mere 16-seat restaurant, the decor resembles an old Malaysian kopitiam or coffee house.
“My restaurant is only two days old but looks like it’s a hundred years old” he laughs.
“Nothing appears new because I want a comfortable and nostalgic setting” he adds.
Unlike the giant buddha at the Temple of Love, Goh’s restaurant insignia takes on a smaller scale to accommodate the small and cozy space.
The menu is true to Chinta’s style – casual hawker food you will find in a Malaysian eating house.
Prices are very competitive – under $10 for finger food, noodles and rice dishes started from $13.80 and nothing on the menu goes beyond $15.80. In an affluent suburb like Double Bay, this kind of pricing strategy should ‘rattle the cage’ and shake up the sleepy dining scene.
The snap fried pastry on the curry puffs is light and fluffy and the vegetarian innards take on mild rather than full-on heat.
Spicy mee goreng is stir-fried with fishcake slices, prawns, chicken and fresh sprouts. Curry powder and spices add the familiar flavours from Malaysia.
The flavours of turmeric, lemongrass and ginger are quintessential in Malaysian style satays. Dipped into a rich, spicy peanut sauce, this kind of finger food is Malaysian style tapas dining at its best.
“We’ve finally changed our laksa recipe after many years” Goh tells us. “I prefer my laksa without too much coconut milk, so our laksa is lighter and more robust in flavour.”
Chinta Kechil’s seafood laksa comes with large prawn cutlets, chunky pieces of fish, squid, fish cakes and deep-fried tofu puffs. The piquant broth is gritty, spicy and punchy.
Just like Goh, this laksa is stylish with an attitude to match and we find ourselves slurping up the last spoonfuls.
For assam laksa lovers, the tamarind fish laksa is enticing in pink, red, yellow, green with its tangy and spicy fish broth.
Basil, lemongrass, Spanish onions, pineapple and cucumber are fresh and aromatic while the signature ingredient of fermented shrimp paste is gentle against the rich fish broth.
Chinta’s nyonya kuih is a special dessert not on its menu. Two logs of green pandan-flavoured crepe work like a treat with a coconut and gula melaka filling.
Sago delight is one of Chinta’s speciality for many years now. Soft little sago pearls in chilled coconut cream and gula melaka are refreshing after a spicy meal.
True to his passion for jazz, R & B and soul, Goh tells me about his exciting plan for a vintage jazz lounge at the adjoining property behind the restaurant.
“It’s in the planning stage but it should be happening in a few months time” he says.
We are dining at the bar counter on high stools with our backs against the hustle and bustle of New South Head road.
In front of us, we observe the chefs tossing noodles in the kitchen with their fiery woks.
What in the world does Kechillax mean you might ask?
Goh says his latest restaurant is a small space to chill and relax.
Chinta Kechil literally means ‘small love’ in Bahasa. But Goh’s plan for hot food and cool jazz in Double Bay is pretty big and passionate.
So dear readers, do you have a favourite casual restaurant in Sydney where you enjoy the food and ambience?
ChopinandMysaucepan is a personal friend of Simon Goh and dined courtesy of Chinta Kechil. Prices are for readers’ information. All views and opinions are our own.
342 New South Head road
Double Bay, New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9327 8888
Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday 11.30am – 9pm