MANILA — Chino MNL may seem intimidating and mysterious to those just passing by that stretch of park at One Bonifacio High in the center of Bonifacio Global City. With just ‘Chino’ plastered onto the big glass windows, it doesn’t tell the prospective diner much.
An example to which it doesn’t scream that this restaurant with modern-industrial interiors is the second branch of a celebrated Hong Kong restaurant, nor does it tell the culinary pedigrees of its chef-owners.
Before putting up Chino HK in 2014, Erik Idos was opening restaurants for the Nobu group around the world, while Tracy Wei, who also worked in Nobu previously, was also executive pastry chef of a successful restaurant group in Hong Kong.
Unless one takes the time to stop and examine the menu one might not know that they serve Mexican cuisine with Japanese influences. Chino MNL simply serves delicious Mexican food with occasional Japanese/Asian ingredients.
Truth be told, when one looks at a Chino dish — whether a street taco or a burrito — it doesn’t look overly complicated, and one may wonder if the price points are warranted.
Besides the fact that the rent is higher in BGC plus the added price tag of the hip ambiance, the food thankfully also validates the premium prices, and compared to their neighbors, their prices are competitive.
Opening for lunch and introducing a brunch menu during Sunday may also help Chino MNL win new fans every day. Their substantial lunch plates are priced at P350 to P400, which would be just what you would pay for a bowl of good Japanese ramen in the area.
Idos cited during the first visit, “People are starting to realize that we’re here, and more and more people are coming.”
Eating in Chino MNL. Flavors were never overwhelming, nor were they muted or muddled. Most of the food was balanced, although some dishes like the Tiayuda needed a squeeze of lime to get there, and that was easy enough to accomplish.
Chino MNL bids up a unique take on Mexican food and drink that’s both familiar and new. And while Chino MNL may look mysterious and intimidating from the outside, once you’re inside and seated though, it simply becomes a haven for those who like to savor delicious food, with attentive staff at the ready when you need to give them your impulse-order of another taco or two.