Kennedy Town is on a roll at the moment, opening cool new restaurant after cool new restaurant. The latest of these is CHINO, a funky modern Mexican restaurant with an Asian twist that’s still in soft opening but is already creating a real buzz.
CHINO, with its laid back vibe, bold black and white mural and funky tunes is brought to us by Chef Erik Idos, former executive chef at Nobu Hong Kong. Erik is Filipino but grew up in LA. Merging this with his solid experience preparing Japanese cuisine, Erik has created an eclectic yet delicious mix of flavours that really get the taste buds going.
Whilst we decided what to order, we started with some tortilla chips with guacamole and salsa fresca. The chip to dip ratio was a little off balance, meaning we were left with a number of chips to crunch sans dip, but the fact that they were clearly homemade and still warm made up for this. I would have liked to have tasted a little more jalapeño in the salsa, but it was nonetheless still delicious and as fresh as its name suggests.
So that we could taste a fair few dishes, we ordered a half portion of the grilled sweet corn. This simple yet tasty dish seems to be appearing on menus all over the place these days (Street Meat, Mrs. Pound) but CHINO’s has to be the best of the lot. The corn was nicely grilled and amazingly juicy, smothered in lip-tingling chipotle kewpie mayo and generously sprinkled with cotija cheese.
The market fish ceviche differed to other ceviches around town in that it was marinated not only in lime juice, but also in yuzu, giving it an unusual yet definitely welcome flavour. Topped with crunchy cashews, there were also interesting textures going on. My only scruple is that the portion size didn’t quite match its $168 price tag.
We had heard great things about the crispy fish tacos and can now wholeheartedly concur that these are pretty fantastic. The lightly battered fish was perfectly flaky and contrasted nicely against the crunch of the cabbage and the soft, warm corn tortilla, all brought together by that same incredible chipotle kewpie that we loved on the corn.
The ‘al pastor’ tacos, with marinated pork, pineapple and tomatillo, were also tasty, but not nearly as good as the fish.
If I had to pick a favourite, it would have to be the chicken and egg tostada. When these arrived, we scanned the room to see if there was anyone who could show us how to eat these; we were advised that the best method was the “bite and suck,” which I must say is an effective way of not getting runny egg yolk and delicious spicy tinga sauce all over your white top (tucking in your napkin also helps).
Although obviously the main focus of the Nozaki beef dish should be the Nozaki beef itself, and of course I did enjoy these slivers of A5-grade Wagyu beef, I was even more impressed by the mixed mushrooms beneath it. That’s not to say that the beef wasn’t good, but those mushrooms were exceptional.
We paired this with a bowl of fried rice with crispy garlic, topped with lots of coriander. This was a very simple dish that might not have been quite worth $108 for its portion size, but nonetheless a satisfying dish that complemented the beef nicely.
The only dessert option when we visited was a Thai tea tres leches cake. Texture-wise, this was spot on – it was lovely and moist, without being soggy – yet we found the tea flavour a little overpowering, and thought it slightly defeated the purpose of a torta tres leches, which should always be sweet, light and comforting.
At the time we visited, CHINO still didn’t have its liquor licence, so we were able to bring our own wine. Nevertheless, the bill still amounted to $1285 for two, without service charge – although we did order quite a ridiculous amount of food! Service was outstanding – the staff knew what they were talking about and were more than ready to give recommendations to indecisive diners. All in all, I think CHINO is one of my new favourite places to eat and I’m already looking forward to my next visit. It’s Mexican food eaten with chopsticks – what is there not to love?!
1B-1C New Praya
Tel: +852 2606 0588