After a quick closure to shuffle chefs and perfect a new menu, Chino is open once again, now serving Asian classics with a California twist.
As previously reported, chef Ron Pei recently joined the team (Sara Deseran and Joe Hargrave of Tacolicious) as partner and executive chef to add some critically needed upgrades to the restaurant. "Technically it's always done well, as in fiscally well, but the food's just been OK. We didn't set out to be just OK," Hargrave said of the pre-reboot Chino.
The new menu reflects Pei's experiences working in his parents' dumpling house, combined with his time cooking in the Bay Area and use of fresh produce and herbs to update traditional dishes. The structure of the menu is divided into snacks, first bites, dough (which is dumplings and noodles) and larger plates. Items like the mysterious "night market-style fried chicken yum-yum snack" appear alongside updated classics like xiaolongbao with bacon and spare ribs with a General Tso's glaze. Across the board, diners can expect more of Pei's elevated takes on classics, like a mu shu-style braised lamb shoulder with crunchy plum salad, and black bean clams with bacon jalapeño broth and warm scallion pancakes
The bar program has also been updated by bar manager and newly-made partner Danny Louie with an intriguing "edible cocktail," which is a monthly-changing "sophisticated" jello shot, plus slushy boba cocktails and tweaked classics like a margarita with fennel and basil.
Hargrave tells us the first few days of the reboot have been a bit rocky, but in the right direction.
"It's a challenging situation because the restaurant itself is a year old, but we completely hired a new staff and it's 100 percent brand new products" he said. "I can see the bones that it's gonna be a good thing, but it's gonna take a week a two to work out kinks."
He's already pleased, though, with the decision to call Pei's dad out of retirement to make his famous fish and leek dumplings, which Hargrave said were "like eating air."
If you've tried the new menu, posted first on Tablehopper, let us know what you think in the comments.