Chino’s doesn’t label its multiethnic small plates “Asian tapas,” but if it had any interest in jumping on the current menu-concept bandwagon, it could. Its roster of salads, rolls, noodles, and skewers is a little Kuma Inn, a little Ruby Foo’s, and very Chow Bar, the West Village Pan-Asian place that happens to be its parent restaurant. Like Chow Bar, Chino’s feels like your friendly neighborhood pub given a liberal dose of Far Eastern exoticism on what was surely a shoestring budget, if the flimsy red banquettes are any indication. But minor discomfort is a small price to pay for Chino’s tasty food, friendly service, and absurdly low tabs (nothing costs more than $9). Chef Peter Klein whittles down some of Chow Bar’s greatest hits, shaving the price and the portion size (a good thing, since the tables are so small). Bypass ho-hum edamame for the green salad tangily dressed with citrus and soy, or lightly fried tofu skewers—crispy outside, soft within, and served with lively sesame-wasabi soy. Red-pepper-flecked coconut-curried udon noodles with moist chunks of chicken are pure comfort in a bowl, and much better than the house chow fun, which is done in by overpowering and superfluous truffle oil. It’s easy to imagine the roast-pork sandwich becoming a new addiction, with its sweet shards of mahogany barbecued meat garnished with cilantro and kimchi and tucked inside a dense grilled “bao” bun from Chinatown. It’s delicious to start with, but the accompanying creamy hot Chinese mustard makes it. Klein’s got a deft touch with all his sauces, in fact—the nearly greaseless chicken tonkatsu’s chili-lime dip; the red-chili-basil sauce coating calamari “noodles”; the pickled ginger ponzu that graces the tuna sashimi. It all adds up to a cheap, fun place for the neighborhood to congregate, over a nibble and a theme cocktail or a multicourse meal of lively, low-cost bites. Cash only.
173 Third Ave., nr. 16th St.; 212-598-1200