All About CHINO Manila, BGC's Friendly Fusion Restaurant
CHINO Manila has, without a doubt, been a dream come true for executive chef and restauranteur, Erik Idos. Having spent some of his most formative years as a chef at Nobu 57, Erik has managed to fashion a taste that reflects all the spaces from his life story. He'd grown up along the colourful streets of the West Coast — in LA, where a vibrant gastronomy of Mexican cuisines had melded together. It was a fascination to the budding epicure, who took the Hispanic flair from the City of Angels all the way to the Big Apple, where he had found a place at the kitchen of culinary legend, Nobu Matsuhisa.
As a mentee to the man himself, Erik nurtured his talents to faculties of Japanese cooking techniques. Through his ten years spent at the Nobu group — three at New York, three at San Diego, and four at Hong Kong — Chef Erik had become one to watch out for. In 2014, Erik left his post as Executive Chef at Nobu Intercontinental Hong Kong to open the first branch of CHINO. Located at scenic banks of Kennedy Town, CHINO Hong Kong was a qualified success. The next step? Bringing his triumph to where the Idos family first found home — Manila.
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CHINO Manila has been in operations for 2.5 years now. Located at 3rd Avenue in Taguig, CHINO has brought the Mexican flair to the heart of the Philippine capital.
The name itself is a nod to Erik's stint as a line cook at Nobu 57 New York. "Chino was my nickname in the kitchen back in New York. All the Salvadorian chefs inside the kitchen would always call me Chino," he says. Tracy Wei, his partner in work and love is also the Operations Manager for both CHINO branches; she clarifies that the word comes from the Spanish colloquialism that refers to a person of Asian descent.
The restaurant, which carries its story from halfway across the globe, creates a fusional dynamic between Mexican flavours, Japanese techniques, and Filipino ingredients. "It was always my dream to open my own restaurant. I wanted to open a neighbourhood type restaurant where my friends can come to eat and drink at," Chef Erik says. "[We utilise] Japanese cooking techniques and [source] ingredients [from the Philippines, Japan, and Mexico] to bring the distinct flavours of each culture together."
Patrons in Manila have been enjoying the diverse flavours that CHINO is so famous for - even during lockdown. Their constantly evolving menu means that there's something new every so often. But of course, during this time of pandemic, Erik and Tracy have pivoted the restaurant's offerings to cater to new lifestyles. "At the beginning of the pandemic, we were only allowed to do takeaway. A lot of people were under lockdown with their families, so we added Family Sets that are good to share between three to four people and you make your own tacos. The sets come with rice, salsas and tortillas," Chef Erik says.
The brand offers delicious family sets of grilled pork BBQ ribs, wagyu flank steak, roasted salmon, and achiote whole roasted chicken. Single orders of tacos, burritos, rice plates, quesadillas have also been incorporated into their new menu.
Tracy adds that as of the past few months, CHINO has been avoiding food wastage, creating smaller menus, all while doing their best to keep their staff during these challenging times. "We knew that we wanted to stay open so that our team could have some sort of stable income, that was really the priority for us" she shares.
But now that dine-in has been making a slow but steady resurrection, both Erik and Tracy are optimistic. "When we first opened for dine-in, we were really slow. People were still hesitant to eat inside a restaurant. But in the past few weeks, our dine-in business has increased a lot," Tracy explains. "We follow all necessary protocols but not to the point where guests are constantly reminded that there is a virus around. Everyone who comes into the restaurant is having a good time and for the couple hours they spend at CHINO, they can forget what is happening outside."
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For more information, visit CHINO Manila's Instagram account.