It sits in the loudly beating heart of Brisbane’s West End, just over the river from the CBD and arguably its most culturally diverse (and very cool) precinct. It is Chop Chop Chang’s and it is as cool, diverse and inclusive as its colourful ‘burb.Serving colourful and fragrant dishes typically sold at hawkers, markets and temple stalls across Asia, Chop Chop Chang’s is a contemporary Australian venue with the heart of a street food vendor.
Drawing influences particularly from Thailand and Vietnam, consultant chef Paul Blain has assembled the best of both cuisines while also sticking to the ‘buy local and in season’ mantra. And Blain knows a thing or two about these flavours, having spent years travelling around Asia as well as working with Thai-inspired legend and world renowned chef David Thompson.
He ventured north to Noosa, opening Chilli Jam Thai which became a multi-awarded icon then he ‘tree-changed’ to the hinterland settling in picturesque Maleny where he could build The Tamarind, a modern Thai restaurant, cooking school and boutique cabins that is today part of the Spicer’s Group of luxury hotels. Today, he consults on the menu and imparts his considerable knowledge to his talented team.
We arrive for lunch only days after the opening and the joint was jumping. Seated at a table by the window with views of the long lines of communal tables filled with chatty groups of hungry diners. There are condiments, chopsticks and dining paraphernalia already on the table as well as our menu, which neatly doubles as a placemat.
Prawn and corn cakes are a perfect opener – little pops of piping hot flavour especially when dredged through the accompanying pickled cucumbers. Next up – the hawker’s barbeque stall for some monster Mooloolaba prawns cooked in their shells with a sticky nahm jim coating. They’re spicy but you can still taste the ocean in the sweet flesh. The hawkers’ wok stall also offers prawns – these ones are tossed through rice noodles with garlic and lemongrass but we are particularly taken by the mussel omelette which arrives topped with sprouts and shallots with a bowl of Sriracha on the side. One bite confirms it’s about the tastiest thing on the planet – sweet, tangy from the ocean and spicy from the Sriracha.
From the ‘bowls’ section, roast pork is immersed in a very fragrant master stock, sliced over gai lan and egg noodles and there’s a vivid yellow curry of barramundi, again with the perfect balance of heat and sweet.
Chocolate and cardamom mousse is tempting but so is the coconut pannacotta with kaffir lime and nashi. And what about the black sticky rice with caramelised coconut and sesame seeds?
We choose the fortune cookies because the proceeds go to local charities that we can all vote for via the restaurant’s Facebook page. Mine says I should come again (okay it doesn’t but I will certainly be returning soon).
Chop Chop Chang’s
185 Boundary Street,
West End 4101, Brisbane
Tel: +61 7 3846 7746