With a name suggesting a cheap, dodgy, Mexican joint, Chino Latino is very far from that. It is instead, a stylish, modern, Pan-Asian cuisine restaurant with a Latin cocktail bar, with branches in Leeds, Nottingham, London and Cologne, Germany. Last week I visited the London branch, along with fellow food blogger friend Snigdha, from Snig’s Kitchen. It’s located within the Riverbank Park Plaza Hotel and there’s a nice little walk to it from Vauxhall tube station, where you can take in views of the Thames.
The hotel itself is pretty classy and the restaurant is on the ground floor to the right. The style oozes into the dimly lit dining area, which feels more like the VIP lounge of a bijous nightclub than restaurant, but I like, it’s not stuffy and the staff are welcoming and friendly. Most of the clientele seemed to be guests of the hotel – made up of business types and families.
Chino Latino’s menus draw upon the flavours of China, South East Asia and modern Japan. Their ethos is all about sharing, so the dishes are naturally designed to share. It was mine and Snighda’s first time there and we had the Tasting Menu, which is a great way to get a feel of a restaurant’s cuisine. We started the evening off with cocktails.
The Latino part of the interestingly titled restaurant is noted in their cocktails, as they have South American flavours running through them. In my case, Brazilian rum (Sagatiba Cachaça) in the Kiwi Loco, and in Snigdha’s, Havana Club Añejo Especial rum in her Chino Mojito. Didn’t taste Snighda’s, but the Kiwi Loco was lovely and refreshing and I liked the fresh bits of kiwi in it.
The Tasting Menu was a winning menu; all the dishes were amazingly good – except for one. The menu consisted of (in the order they came out): seared white tuna wrapped in asparagus; California roll with crispy soft shell crab; beetroot salad; grilled scallops with crushed wasabi peas; pork, crab and glass noodle samosas; sirloin steak on hot rocks; Black Cod with a side of Jasmine rice, ending with a dessert platter.
It’s nice to have a bit of theatre when eating out and you certainly get that with the steak on hot rocks. It’s delivered to the table gently sizzling, and then a sweet soy sauce is poured over it, creating a mini volcanic eruption. It’s served rare, but the great thing is you can cook it to your liking – just leave the meat on the rocks for longer if you want it well cooked. It’s a banging dish that certainly rocks. My second favourite was the Black Cod covered in a sweet miso paste – I could’ve eaten a lot more of that. Nobu are famed for theirs, I haven’t been yet, but I bet this one competes well against it.
The dish that didn’t stand up to the others was the samosas – very bland, no zing, and no detection of crab. Also, the dessert was excellent in parts but had too much fruit, some of which were tasteless, primarily because they were imported and/or not in season.
Our meal was washed down with a beautifully crisp Sancerre La Fuzelle, Adrien Marechal, 2009.
The tasting menu is £48 per person not including drinks. Dining at Chino Latino is not cheap, but then you are paying for quality food in an elegant setting. It’s also great for staying guests, and those with families, who have a relaxed high-end restaurant right on their doorstep, with no need to trek into the heart of the city centre.
They’ve recently launched a new kid’s menu, which is only available in the London branch at the moment. Dishes start from £4.50 which offers a child-friendly twist on the classic menu, including mains such as: lollipop chicken; candied pork ribs; crispy prawn floss with sweet chilli dip; and teriyaki salmon fish fingers. As an Easter treat kids get to eat free with a full paying adult from Good Friday 29th March ’13, to Tuesday 4th April ‘13. T & C’s apply.
Chino Latino is a fantastic dining experience and well worth checking out, whether staying at the hotel or not.
Food I Fancy dined as guests.
Park Plaza – Riverbank London
18 Albert Embankment
Tel: 020 7769 2525