From Hong Kong to Manila, CHINO is changing the food game
There’s something special in the air the moment you walk in the recently-opened Manila branch of CHINO in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig.
There is a vibe to it, the kind that tells you it’s the perfect setting for both a casual Friday night reunion with the college barkada or a Sunday dinner with the family.
The interior design leans a little more to the minimalist side, but remains unique and fashionable.
To the left is a bar where a wide range of alcoholic options are on display, along with a beautiful mural that's both charming and rebellious. Pretty fitting, given that the restaurant prides itself in its fusion of Japanese and Mexican food – a mix you don't hear of everyday.
“It was the two things that I love the most,” said head chef and owner Erik Idos.
Erik grew up in Los Angeles, California, where he learned to admire Mexican culture and food before discovering the secrets of Japanese dishes as he worked his way up different Nobu restaurants for a decade.
“It’s all about family style, and sharing. Sharing is caring. I never wanted to have individual stuff for individual people. It’s a more fun atmosphere when a group of people can share food instead of one person having their own thing.”
That’s why it should come as no surprise that the middle of the restaurant is designed with a series of tables in close proximity to each other – the perfect setting for a large party who wants to converse the night away.
Slow and steady
After opening their first branch in Hong Kong 4 years ago, Erik and the CHINO group decided to avoid falling into the temptation of expanding too quickly. The head chef prides himself more in being a cook than a restaurateur, so he’s aware that the secret to maintaining a great crowd day in and day out is consistency.
As he says, if your food tastes even a little bit different from the previous week, people will notice. With a food market as tough as Hong Kong’s, they had to make sure that wouldn’t be the case.
After establishing an every day dynamic which he could leave on its own occasionally, Erik decided it was time to open a second branch. Shanghai and Singapore were options, but his Filipino roots and the country’s growing food culture called out to him.
“I’m Filipino, and I always wanted to open something in the Philippines,” he said, adding that he’s noticed an increase in young chefs coming out with unique concepts in the country.
Visitors can indulge in CHINO’s fresh and tasty dishes from 6PM-12MN on Tuesday-Sunday at the Ground Floor of ONE Bonifacio High.
Here are some must-orders at CHINO MNL:
The White Fish and Pickled Wasabi Tostada (P345)
A starter composed of talakitok, shisho lime, and pickled pineapple (P595)
The Chicken Tinga, Pickled Onions, and Avocado Taco (P195)
CHINO fancies itself in its collection of starters – which includes a bunch of chips and dips – tacos, tostadas, and other popular dishes like the Chorizo Fried Rice and Egg (P595) and Whole Fried Market Fish familia option (P2,000) that comes with salsas, beans, rice, and tortillas.
Their drinks are also must-orders, with options of sparkling, red, and white wines from Italy, Chile, Germany, Austria, Spain, France, and the USA. The highballs look tempting the moment you see them on the menu, and the cocktails give you options you won’t get anywhere else.
The one you have to order? It’s called the Jabbaranks (P450), which is a mixture of Reposado, grapefruit soda, Kaffir Lime Leaves, and Chile.
Like many restaurants, CHINO got its name from a memory that reminds its owners to stay true to his roots. It might feel like a long time ago, but Erik still thinks back to the early years of his career spent cooking in kitchens where he was the only Asian learning amongst Mexicans.
“Chino,” was what Mexicans called Asians, according to the now head chef of a thriving food business. “It just stuck,” he said. “It’s just something that I will never forget as my first job in the cooking industry.”
With the way things are going – and considering, especially, how good their food is, we'd bet local foodies won’t be forgetting about CHINO anytime soon. – Rappler.com