You can readily say this about Makati: there seem to be new restaurants opening on every corner just about every single day of the week. And these aren’t fast-food franchises, mind you (though those are quite plentiful in this urban zone): we’re talking about restaurants where you can sit down, relax, and enjoy your meal without having to bolt through your food to make way for other patrons.
Some have a bad habit of disappearing in less than a fortnight – and, no: these aren’t even pop-ups – because patrons feel that there’s something wrong about the food, the service, the ambiance, or a dreadful combination of all three. Others, like the hidden-away jewel that is Japonica or the perennial favorite that is the New Bombay Canteen, have lasting appeal.
That said, I am not sure if this new Chinese noodle place near the corner of Valero and H.V. dela Costa streets in Makati’s Salcedo Village will have the formula for longevity in this most fickle of foodie-zones, but the food is simple and good.
Chinez, a whimsically-named dimsum and noodle joint, occupies the space previously known as a branch of the popular Ilonggo Grill fast-food franchise and, before that, a branch of the equally popular Binalot chain of eateries offering rice meals bundled in banana leaves and brown paper.
It’s funny, but Chinez is right next door to a laundromat, evoking a touch of New York’s Chinatown where noodle shops sit right next to old-school Oriental-style laundries. Even the interiors are a throw-back to middle-tier eateries in many Chinatowns both here in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world: wallpaper in neutral colors, warmish lighting, upholstered furniture paired with tables topped with hard plastic. On one shelf, there is a selection of wines and liquors – each bearing a tag showing the ownership of a frequent-visiting patron.
So, how does the food fare? Quite well, actually.
I had a hankering for old-school deep-fried radish cake, but it wasn’t available on the evening I had dinner at Chinez. This would have been a black mark against the restaurant, but the tau pe (bean curd skin; Jap.: yuba) rolls (P 88.00 for a three-piece serve) were available, so I ordered those.
Mercifully, I was not disappointed. These rolls were quite a bit chunkier than those I’ve had from other dimsum shops and Chinese restaurants. and were just lightly doused with sauce as opposed to swimming in a soy-sauce-and-cornstarch slurry common to many variations on the dish. These were nicely filled with a mixture of ground pork, mushrooms, shredded wombok (Chinese / Savoy cabbage), and finely chopped water chestnuts. The end-result is a savory bundle of harmoniously balanced flavors and textures: soft and chewy against crisp and crunchy, savory, salty, and a hint of sweetness. It is the perfect thing to whet your appetite for one of the very best bowls of soup-noodles in Makati.
Chinez’s special assortment bowl features five toppings over a bowl of deliciously eggy noodles:
- red-cooked pork (asado / char siu);
- beef braised in aniseed-infused soy sauce;
- pork and shrimp wontons;
- bok chok; and
- sliced fish cake.
The pork is sweet and tender, and so is the beef with its rich tang enhanced by the taste of anise and soy. The wontons are fairly large, well-stuffed with a properly seasoned forcemeat; however, the skins are a little on the thick side. The fish cake is passable and the bok choy fronds are crisp and taste quite fresh. The broth is good and chickeny, though it’s a tad much with regard to the sesame oil as the nuttiness sort of permeates the dish. All in all, it was a good, solid choice for supper on a rainy night.
I am not sure how long Chinez will be around, but – if the food stays consistently good – it just might be here for a while.
Chinez: Ground Floor – Liberty Plaza, 102 HV dela Costa St., Salcedo Village, Makati