This article originally appeared in the October 2015 Issue: Craving Comfort. Read it here!
Welcome to The Event, a new Foodie series telling you where to eat for certain occasions. We strive to offer honest, quality recommendations to make life a little easier and a lot more delicious.
The Event: First Date
What more important event can there be than a first date? Birthdays involve candles and comfort food, boys dinners are steaks and business lunches involve keeping your hands clean and your client impressed. But the first date – that’s a doozy. Do we want fun and casual? Upmarket and impressive? Hole in the wall? There are no rules. So let me give you some:
The first date should be fun and delicious and look like you’re not trying too hard. There should be atmosphere and a buzz. You should take your date out of his or her element and into yours. This is the first chapter for you two, and you’ll decide by the end of the night if you’re writing a blog post, a short story, or a never-ending novel. Let’s hope it’s the last.
So for the first date we’ve chosen Chino, the buzzy, oft-discussed-but-not-fully-seeped-into-the-foodie-scene restaurant. The food’s great. And it has the right amount of activity for you to people watch if you… you know… don’t like each other.
Chino is located inside a pair of pants. I’m kidding. Chino is located in Kennedy Town complete with a funky vibe I’d term “unpretentious bistro”. You can sit at the counter and mistakenly touch knees or at the table and mistakenly touch hands, just make sure you do some mistaken touching.
Untraditional Mexican, or “Mexican Twist” as I call it, conjuring images of an orphan declaring, “por favor, senor, more food”. Small plates. Yums. Our server guided us through the menu, suggesting a few starters, individual tacos (I know, who would be insane enough to split a taco), and an “others” if we were still hungry. Smelling the food I knew I would be.
Guacamole: you know how scrambled eggs are the easiest thing to cook but high-end chefs often test each other’s skills by cooking them? Oh, if not, yeah that’s what they do. Guacamole is the same. Make it wrong (or in HK, from a jar) and it sucks. Make it right and it’s creamy and refreshing. They make it right here.
The scallops were served with agua chille and pickled jicama, also known as a Mexican turnip. The fish was fresh and tasty and the peppers didn’t overpower the dish but added a nice warming sensation to the tongue.
Market fish ceviche
This was served with yuzu, lime and cashews, which I thought were genius. Often ceviches can be too citrusy but the crunch of the cashews gave a wonderful texture to each bite.
Despite eating tacos and fresh raw fish dishes, I would say that the mushroom salad was my favourite. We got a mountain of salad with hidden mushrooms throughout as well as burnt jalapenos and mizuna, a Japanese water-green that is (like most things Japanese) like a much better version of arugula. Each bite was refreshing and it complemented the other dishes well.
After that we got tacos but I’d like to pause to explain the drinks. We skipped the wine and beer and went straight to their cocktails. The La Vida Loca is essentially a smoky margarita that’s fun and playful enough to sample one another’s, which is an excellent first date move. And the Mezcal Old-Fashioned is a bright take on a classic cocktail that’s become – let’s face it – a bit boring. Make sure on your fist date you’re drinking them through the night. Skip the margarita – it’s fine but you’ll forget about it the moment after you’ve finished.
Chicken tinga tacos
Mmmmm. Chicken. I especially liked the pickled onions on the tacos and the tortillas, which were warm and not weird, which you should understand if you’ve eaten at other Mexican places in Hong Kong; “this tortilla tastes…weird”. The chicken was soft and melt-in-your-mouth good. But not as good as the...
Near and dear to my heart are fish tacos. We got a heaping plate of fish with a nice bit of chipotle kewpie and salsa fresca. This is the type of dish you don’t mess with – just cook it well, don’t overpower it with breadcrumbs, and you’re good to go. Let’s hope your date will be too.
Fun place, good atmosphere, good food, good conversation. It sets the scene right for you to show off your personality. This will not work if you don’t have one (a personality) but of course you do. Right?
Price per person: HK$500
A: 1B New Praya Kennedy Town
P: 2606 0588