Coinciding with its 15th anniversary and inspired by the travels of James Beard Award winner Tim McKee and Executive Chef Tyge Nelson, Chino Latino debuted an array of new dishes and drinks.
McKee and Nelson traveled to the Hot Zones, most recently Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, and Bangkok.
“This is the most significant menu evolution in Chino Latino’s history, and it’s driven by the incredible talent we have on board,” says Phil Roberts, the restaurant’s creator. “Ever since Tyge Nelson and Tim McKee joined Parasole, I wanted to turn them loose. So a few months back we sent them traveling—first to New York, then across Southeast Asia. The mission was simple mission: Get inspired. Get ideas. And then get busy.”
The first thing guests notice is Chino Latino’s newly designed menu, which still divides offerings between smaller and larger dishes for sharing, but also creates new categories for easier ordering: Sea, Raw, Animial, Noodles + Rice, Vegetables, Folded, and Tio Pepe’s Tacos.
Around 20 new dishes will debut on the new menu, with more expected to follow.
“Rather than introducing everything all at once, we’ll add dishes over the course of the year,” McKee says. “This enables us to execute well from the start.”
Many of the new dishes trace directly back to the chefs’ discoveries abroad, including: Thai Drunken Fish—whole red snapped fried crispy served atop a hot and sour broth with tamarind and fish sauce, along with green beans, shitake mushrooms, and tomatoes.
“This is the kind of dish you just attack, eventually just tearing the fish apart to get at every piece of meat. Our version comes straight from Bangkok’s Chinatown,” Nelson says.
Ma Po Tofu—silky tofu wok-tossed with eggplant, seasoned with Sichuan chili paste, peppercorns, mushrooms, and green onions, and served with jasmine rice. It’s available vegetarian or with ground pork.
“The name translates as ‘pockmarked grandma’s beancurd.’ The flavors were inspired by a number of dishes in Hong Kong, from hotpot to chili crab, Nelson explains. “Numbing, tingling, messy, delicious.”
Thit Kho Bo—thinly sliced beef short ribs marinated, grilled, and topped with a Thai basil/peanut sauce, carrot and daikon.
“Perfect with ice-cold beer, this is a fantastic summer dish,” Nelson says. “For extra authenticity, eat it next to the belching exhaust pipe of a scooter.”
Phoenix Claws—chicken feet, slow-cooked and fried crispy, served drenched in ginger soy and red chili.
Beer Hall-Style Duck Laab—Ground duck wok-tossed with liver, shallots, Thai chilies, herbs, and lemongrass, finished with bean sprouts, lime, and fish sauce. Served with lettuce leaves.
“We discovered this in a Bangkok beer hall. Both the heat and the richness are complemented by an icy Singha,” Tyge says.
McKee has big plans for the menu’s Raw section and, in collaboration with former Masu and Libertine colleague JJ Cachuela, has introduced his first three offerings: Albacore Crudo, featuring togarashi crusted tuna topped with jalapenos, cilantro, green onion, and sea salt; Peruvian Ceviche, with fresh snapper on top of a sweet potato and grilled corn relish, with a Cholula aioli; and Tuna Tataki, lightly seared ahi topped with fresh shiso cilantro and radish.
Among the other Asia-inspired dishes newly introduced at Chino Latino: Saigon-Style Roast Chicken and Cambodian-style Jungle Curry with fish, galangal, and chilies.
Not all of the new dishes hail from Asia. McKee and Nelson have also introduced Choripan, a grilled spicy Argentine sausage; Molcajete, a volcanic rock filled to the brim with grilled short ribs, chorizo, adobo chicken, pork loin, panela cheese, and taco accompaniments; Pollo Frito, marinated in a traditional Cuban recato, breaded, and fried crispy, served with yellow rice, fried banana and a passionfruit mojo; and Potato Sopes, made from potato and masa flour, filled with goat cheese, and either chorizo or black bean.
“We made upgrades and additions across the board to complement what’s coming out of the kitchen,” says Nelson of the drink selections. “We’ve also added some entirely new categories.”
Among them: Boba & Pearls—Bubble teas provided the inspiration for new drinks featuring fruity boba balls and tapioca pearls, and come in a plastic, sealed cup with an oversized straw.
Tikis—Juicy fresh and fruit forward with premium ingredients and intriguing flavor combinations. Try the Painkiller featuring Pusser’s British Navy rum, pineapple, orange, coconut, and grated nutmeg.
Even the most familiar offerings now include unexpected options.
“Mojito lovers should try the Dirty Mojito, made with Kraken Black Spiced Rum and house-made cane sugar syrup,” says bar manager Jorge Robertson. “If you like margaritas, look for The Plantation, made with Casamigos reposado tequila, Grand Marnier, and grilled pineapple with a mescal rinse and a smoked salt rim. New to our shooters is the Queen Anne’s Revenge, made with our house-infused rum.”