Chino Hong Kong review date: February 7, 2015
Approx $500 per person with one drink
After previously never having reviewed any restaurants in Kennedy Town, I feel like I’ve almost been doing PR for the area recently – Sunday’s Grocery, Kinsale and now Chino. For years a restaurant deadzone, it’s now officially buzzing thanks to no longer being an epic pain in the arse to get to.
Buzzing also means busy which is why the six of us needed to rock up at opening time, six pm sharp, to get a table. That’s stupidly early, especially for a Saturday, but by the time we left 2 hours later the list of names was growing by the minute and local bars were loving the flood of patient aperitif-sippers awaiting the call. If there was a competition for the longest no-reservation restaurant wait times, then my money would currently be on one of La Vache, Yardbird, Tim Ho Wan or Ichiran. The point is, they’re all worth the wait. As, more or less, is Chino.
The easiest way to describe the look and feel of the small space is that it’s very now. Young, friendly staff, a de-rigeur hip hop soundtrack and a muted colour scheme a million miles from the garish, technicolor ‘Mexican’ restaurants that plague Hong Kong diners with shitty Margaritas, dusty sombreros and vastly marked-up, piss-poor food.
Chino however just seems to know the flavours that people want, the textural interplay, the occasional unexpected global ingredient, mostly Japanese. Wahaca in London has been doing it for a number of years, so it’s great to see it finally here in Hong Kong.
You really don’t need to see what chips and dips look like, but these were very good versions, notably the arbol (a type of chilli ) with pumpkin seeds and the fresca with lime and jalapeño.
We piled in to the scallop and uni tostadas, an umami assault that some managed to finish in two bites:
The crispy fish, chipotle kewpie and salsa fresca was maybe more familiar, but still darn good eating:
Non-carnivores are also well looked-after, not least with a cracking little mushroom, mizuna and burnt jalapeño salad:
While who doesn’t love corn with Cotija cheese?
Back amongst the five meat-eaters the chicken and egg tostada was a beauty, if a total bastard to try and eat without looking like a 2 year old:
Less successful was spicy lobster on a sweet potato lattice (kaikage), but redemption came quickly in a bowl of clams with shallots and aji (my beloved Ecuadorean staple chilli mix):
But most of all – when is it not? – the pork:
This huge bad boy (HK$500) was served familia style with rice, beans and perfect yellow corn tortillas, a million miles from the crappy white discs you see elsewhere. It was cooked ‘cochinita pibil’, in other words slow-roasted following a Mayan recipe from the Yucatán, Mexico’s stunning eastern seaboard. The pork is marinated in bitter Seville orange juice to tenderize the meat alongside something called Annatto, a peppery seed. Red pickled onions cut through it (although a few more would have been welcome), but overall it was a belter of a dish, almost (but not quite) knocking Ho Lee Fook’s wagyu spare rib off its perch as the best shared meat dish in town.
Cocktails and tequilas were drunk, water flowed liberally and Chiclets were offered with the bill, where we left paying around $500 per head. That line is only getting to get longer – so get in now – and get in early.
Chino, 1B – 1C New Praya, Kennedy Town, Hong Kong +852 2606 0588. No reservations, http://www.chinohk.com/