BEST NEW RESTAURANT - 2001
Sometimes it's hard to remember what we like most about Chino Latino. Is it the way it gives the Lake Wobegon (go, be gone!) chino-clad neighbors fits? It's too much, they complain. Too loud. Too crowded. Too intimidating. And we thought we had better jerk chicken when we were in Jamaica...dear, don't you remember that lovely housemaid? Yeah, the pissing-off-the-insecure-neighbor factor, that's probably what we like most. There hasn't been a restaurant opening in memory that has provoked such citywide anxiety: Who do they think they are? Who do they think we are? Chino Latino didn't just open with a splash, it opened with a tidal wave, and the repercussions are still being felt. (There are rumors that the shocking flexibility Chino was granted regarding city parking restrictions may soon result in some Uptown bistros being allowed to serve--gasp!--port after dinner.) Another instance of that tidal wave? Note that Chino somehow got a City Pages best-of prize in 2000 for best late-night dining, even though it had been open only a few weeks. So while you're scandalizing the neighbors by flaunting how cool and confident you are (cool and confident enough to accept a plastic monkey in your drink), order the roast duck. That roast duck is really good: A mahogany-red glossy skin that smells like anise and tastes as rich as duck should. Wrap the meat in little puffs of rice bun and devour it, perfect fuel for demanding more plastic monkeys. Plastic monkeys! In the drinks! Look, you woebetide fuddies, sometimes people like to wear impractical shoes, hide monkeys in the pockets of strangers, and have loud fun. Get over it.