Located on Capitol Hill, Chino’s is a refreshing spot that fits nicely in a very eccentric and diverse area of Seattle. Self advertised as an Urban Tiki House & Taiwanese Cantina, Chino’s serves both Taiwanese & Mexican comfort foods and offers a huge drink list specializing in Tiki drinks. One could easily miss this place due to the window signs being obscured by trees and the sign in front being small. The first thing I noticed was the large mural painted on the front wall – there is no mistaking the Mexican and “L.A.” influenced décor throughout. A decent sized bar with a few tables and stools are the second thing that greets you, followed by an open kitchen and open dining floor that fills the rest of the restaurant.
The tacos were tasty and the pork had good savory flavors of the seasonings and onions it was cooked in. The elements that really make these tacos are the fresh onions and cilantro. These two simple ingredients really brighten up each bite and add great contrast to the flavors of the meat.
If you haven’t tried the gua bao from Chino’s then you haven’t lived! The braised pork belly was full of rich savory flavors and the greens countered wonderfully with a bright pickled crunch. Cilantro always adds a nice element and dept of flavor and the sweet peanuts acted like the cherry atop of beautiful sundae! Cherry initially mistook the peanuts for brown sugar because of how fine they were ground! The bowl that held this sundae together was the bun – which also had a perfect balance of being able to hold all the ingredients together without losing integrity but soft enough to really help meld all the great flavors and textures together.
Growing up, I always had the spoiled privilege to have my Nai Nai’s (grandma’s) homemade zha jiang mein. Pretty much every week when I visited, as soon as I’d step in the house she’d have a huge plate for me fresh off the stove! Needless to say my Nai Nai’s zhai jiang mein was the best in the entire World! Having experienced the best, I can honestly say Chino’s did a might fine job with their version. The hot bean paste and sweet bean sauce combine nicely to provide a very rich, savory and almost smoky flavor that left me wanting another bowl. The pork had good flavor and the julienned cucumbers added a nice visual touch to the bowl and provided a subtle crunch of freshness. One also major plus here is their use of fresh noodles – unlike dried/boxed noodles, fresh noodles are wonderful in soaking up the flavors of the sauce.
Cherry opted for the rice bowl and she initially asked for chicken, but our server (who happened to also be the owner) suggested the special of the day – pork spare ribs. The plate had a generous serving of ribs over a bed of rice and also a nice side of pickled cauliflower, cucumber and jalapenos. One thing I especially enjoyed with this dish was the addition of a halved lu dan (roasted egg.) Lu dan is a common food in Chinese culture typically served as an appetizer with roasted beef shank and pig ears. The pork had a nice smokey flavor and was falling of the bone tender. I have never had pickled cauliflower, but after trying it here, I can say I enjoyed it very much. The pickled veggies were excellent in adding a bright note to the overall dish and lu dan served here also had deep flavors of soy sauce and spices.
viking fog cutter: cruzan light rum, voyager gin, hennessy, orgeat, orange, lemon, sound spirits aquavit float $11
I decided to partake in one of their specialty Tiki drinks and asked the owner if there was one that he liked over the rest. He suggested the Viking Fog Cutter which he stated was a lighter drink with citrus accents and fairly strong. Sounded like something down my alley so I ordered it. He was very meticulous in preparing the drink – carefully measuring each ingredient and making sure everything was perfect. The verdict… everything was exactly that! The drink had nice bright flavors with a subtle hint of sours that I enjoyed. It was deceptively strong – not a overpowering flavor of the alcohol but after one drink, I was definitely feeling good.
To me, Chino’s has a winning recipe: clean, delicious comfort foods influenced by Taiwanese & Mexican cultures, strong drinks, very friendly staff and reasonable prices. If it weren’t for the brightly painted sandwich board sign out front, one could easily walk past this urban oasis that is, Chino’s.