Fusion eateries have had a lot of press over the last decade. Serving up fresh and innovative dishes from a mixture of cultural cuisines, they’re also a honey pot for the modern day celebrity. I headed down to Chino Latino on a storm ridden Wednesday evening to sample some pan-Asian offerings and to see if it could come close to its more famed counterparts.
The Venue and Atmosphere
Located on the first floor of the Park Plaza London Riverbank, the restaurant is typically becoming of a four star residence. It’s big, modern, sleek and has a whiff of vorsprung durch technik about it. It’s both minimalist and precise. There are however a few welcome elements of quirk to add to the Habitat sheen. Several mammoth Luxo lamps line the centre of the atrium (as if straight out of Pixar’s prop room) and there’s a lot of neon red going on. The sound of a soft, Bublé-esque croon wafts over from a dapper gent on a stage in the corner. I could spend a lot of time here.
Unfortunately at the time of writing, we are still in the dark of winter (with storm Doris battering the windows) and so the full extent of a river view could not really be had. On a light summer’s evening however, dining to a Thames vista and a backdrop of the Houses of Parliament would be quite something. My only slight gripe would probably be the clientele. With the majority of footfall from the hotel, a buzz of tourists, suited business folk and couples inhabit the tables which however interesting a social experiment this might make, does take from the atmosphere a little.
The Food and Drink
After ordering a Chilli and Ginger Caiprinha (£9) and a Kumquat Cobbler at £9.50 from an extensive cocktail list (the drinks menu definitely provides the more Latino side of things), we set about deciding on what to eat. The food menu is slightly daunting on first glimpse, however we were quickly ushered towards the Rengin Chino Tasting Menu at £49 per person. If budget allows, I would thoroughly recommend choosing this approach. It offers up a broad range of dishes, eliminates the tedium of actually picking something and makes everything that little bit more fun! Indeed, when opting for this, it’s as if you’re also inadvertently purchasing tickets to your own small and intimate personal show…
As the curtain rises, the waitress initiates the pomp and ceremony by pouring hot water onto two small, disc shaped tablets in the middle of the table which instantly and magically expand into two hand towels. I love a bit of restaurant sorcery (or anything involving dry ice) but I’d never seen this one before. We began with the Amarillo Maki Roll, Seabass Tiradito and Wagyu Beef Taquitos. In true taster fashion, each dish is brought out separately and in quick succession leaving you little time to muse on each one before the next arrives. My favourite of the first few; the beef taquitos. These were essentially mini tacos shaped like ice cream cones, packed with flavour and came as a nice Mexican-influenced addition to the predominantly South East Asian dishes. Then followed a selection of small dishes in the form of Calamari, Chilean Sea Bass and Crayfish Gyoza and Prawn Tempura. Again, all dishes were very much on point however it wasn’t till the main courses appeared that Chino Latino really came into its own.
We began with Chilean Sea Bass, something I’m always slightly hesitant about ordering due intellectual snobbery more than anything else - Chilean Sea Bass, aka the Patagonian Toothfish was famously renamed in the seventies to make it more appealing to an American market with deeper pockets; a fact I like to shamelessly flaunt at dinner parties (or in restaurant reviews evidently) without little actual knowledge of its tasting merit. Well, I quickly discovered that it is in fact delicious in both texture and flavour and the accompanying marinated miso sauce was lovely and tangy. The pièce de résistance however was the Sirloin Steak on Hot Rocks. Having swatted away the request of medium rare, our attentive waitress informed us that the steak needed to be ordered blue and that the hot rocks would bring it to the desired level. On arrival, and in another piece of pan-Asian theatre, lashings of soy sauce are then poured over the dish to create a sizzling fizz and the ensuing cloud of steam turns all the heads of those at the surrounding tables. Such bravado however certainly pays dividend as the seared meat is tender, juicy and beautifully cooked. For the encore, a technicolour circus of fruits, ice creams, sorbets and yoghurts appear on a large sharing board. This Instagram-worthy platter of delights is a perfect end to one of the best culinary shows I’ve seen in a while.
From the moment the hostess meets you at the entrance, to the time the bill arrives, it’s a well choreographed performance of precision, and far more than just an act. The most notable point (and if I’m being honest, surprising one) was just how excellent the food was. It may be slightly out of the way and it may not have a parking bay for the paparazzi but this place deserves any praise it gets. The food alone I’d say, is worth braving a storm for.