Hello all. Welcome to another installation to Mastication Monologues. I was looking over my blog as of late, and I was seriously slacking the past couple of months in terms of keeping up with my culinary adventures around the world. Therefore, I am backtracking a bit, so bear with me. Today I would like to tell you about an interesting restaurant called Chino Latino located at 2916 Hennepin Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55408. It is located in a very nice part of the city, and there is ample street parking.
The decor is eclectic with different types of Latino and Asian artwork covering the walls of the entrance, i.e. papel picado from Dia de los Muertos and Thai shadow puppets . Some of the pictures were borderline creepy, but I was here for the food, so I was ready to get down to business. The interior of the actual dining room is two levels, but I did not care for the lighting. It was too dark which made reading the menu a bit of a chore. There’s a difference between mood lighting and trying to save on the electric bill. Either that or I’m getting too old as I approach my quarter-life crisis. Yet I digress once more, back to the food.
Even before I saw the menu, I knew that I was in for a treat as I saw that they had my favorite hot sauce on the table: Yucateco Habanero salsa verde (Warning: this sauce doesn’t mess around with people who think Pepper Jack cheese is spicy). Our waitress was very helpful in explaining to me some of the different menu items, and the overall concept of their establishment which aims to deliver street food from countries which the Equator runs through. As I looked over the different entrees, I was torn in many different directions by the different curries, satays, tacos, and noodles. However, I was won over by a seemingly simple, borderline appetizer, dinner: Habanero Hell Poppers.
One of the reasons why I chose this option from all of the others was the fact that there were three mini sticks of dynamite on the menu around the poppers. Now, normally I take these “heat measurements” with a grain of salt and a good-natured chuckle since they are geared towards people who are not used to eating really spicy food. However, since we were in an Equatorial restaurant I knew they’d be bringing the heat like their geographical location namesake, and I have a bit of a daredevil streak in me when it comes to food. So when I ordered them, the waitress looked at me like I was a madman. Always a good sign that you’re ordering a meal with some real cojones. They came out on a medium-sized platter with four large poppers, a slice of lime, and a strange cup filled with an orange substance. Upon closer inspection, there was a paper that came along with the food that in so many words states that if you complain about how spicy the poppers are, you’re going to be made fun of by the staff at Chino Latino and your friends. Challenge accepted!
I tucked into the poppers with gusto, and I finally found a spicy meal that lived up to all of the fanfare. First off, it was hot temperature-wise. The breading was light and airy and not greasy. The Habanero peppers on the inside were fresh, and the Habanero infused cream cheese was hotter than napalm. So, I would definitely let them cool off before you start wolfing them down. The first one really started with a bang of spice along with a slightly acrid taste that comes along naturally with the skin of the Habanero. By the time I finished the fourth and final popper, I definitely had the spicy food sweats; they’re not as scary as meat sweats but are definitely more painful. However, I then tried the orange substance in the small ceramic cup, and it turned out to be blood orange sorbet. It was like a plane dropping water on a moderate forest fire. The embers were still smoldering, but the blaze was extinguished. The actual sorbet was delicious with a light, even texture and a rich blood orange flavor.
So if you’re a fan of various types of Latino, Southeast, or Caribbean foods, check out Chino Latino in Minneapolis. However, if you’re looking for a memorable dinner, try the Habanero Hell Poppers because as Kurt Cobain said, “It’s better to burn out than fade away”.