Banzai!

Terre Thomas waves a wand around her Kingfield store, Fairy Godmother

The waitress, who was clad in all black, tiptoes behind me, tying a headband that’s adorned with Chinese characters around my forehead Karate Kid-style at Chino Latino in Uptown.

Wearing it makes me feel just a tad ridiculous but also sort of special (like it’s my birthday). I just ordered the “Chino Bomber,” otherwise known as a sake bomb.

Chino Latino is an ultra hip bar and restaurant that features a fusion of international cuisine, combining flavors of Mexico, Thailand, Jamaica, Polynesia and Korea.

The so-called “hot zone” as described on its website, www.chinolatino.com, attracts a mix of well-heeled young and old socialites with its posh booths, lava-like glow and fanciful dishes that you eat with your bare hands.

From desserts crowned with sparklers and plumes of dry ice to its mixed-up bathrooms (which door is which is a source of confusion to any newcomer), Chino Latino is a feast for all senses.

Its façade provides a glimpse into the unique, pseudo-glamorous setting, with a collage of vintage-style posters plastered across one wall, while glittering gold sequins frame adjacent picture windows.

Inside the split-level bar/restaurant that’s divided into vignettes, a dim dining room near the entrance has café tables and chairs, while the “satay room” or sushi bar features a cozy niche illuminated by rows of red votives.

The bar area or “hamster cage” as employees fondly call it, is across the way. On busy nights, wait staff pace back and forth down the narrow lane. “You feel like a hamster spinning its wheel,” as one staffer put it.

Throughout, orange backlit panels give patrons an instant tan while upbeat Latino music gets lost in the cacophony of conversation and clanking plates.

Taking the Chino Bomber challenge

Sizing me up, the waitress at Chino Latino in Uptown, who didn’t want to be named, informed me that the “Chino Bomber” isn’t a “sipping” cocktail. Maybe I would be better off with the “El Orgazmo” served in a carved-out pineapple.

Or, how about the “Mexican Three-Way?” a kind of margarita that’s garnished with plastic animal figurines posed suggestively, she said.

“It [Chino Bomber] probably tastes worse than keg beer. The fun of it is the appeal. Then again, I’m not a beer gal,” she confessed, while also giving me an out.

A “Chino Bomber” should be chugged and is usually ordered by a big group of people, not an individual (I’m dining with a party of two).

She presented the “Chino Bomber” with a sense of ceremony. A shot glass of sake sat atop two parallel chopsticks that rested delicately across the rim of a clear glass filled with honey-colored Japanese beer, striking a delicate balance.

As directed, my boyfriend Sean and I slapped the table vigorously. Within seconds, the rumblings caused the chopsticks to inch off the glass.

“Banzai!” was our battle cry – also used by ancient Japanese warriors headed into combat – as the warm sake cannon-balled into a pool of frosty pale ale (using the same physics of a liquid Viagra) that splashed all over the table.

I guzzled one-third of it and then paused, giggling at my ineptitude (I can never get through an entire shot in one try). My waitress/coach provided an extra push: “Slam that thing down like you’re back at the frat house!” she cried.

The “Chino Bomber” epitomizes the spirit of Chino Latino, said General Manager Michael Larson. Inspiration for the five-year staple came from a business trip to a remote restaurant in a fishing village on Lama Island, which is about 45 minutes from Bangkok, he remarked.

Waiting for their boat to return from Hong Kong, he and other Chino restaurateurs gobbled salty squid that they washed down with homemade sake bombs.

“Chino Latino is made up of lots of little moving parts. One part might be cute, but when you have the complete experience,” said Larson, “There are so many things that make it fun.”

Despite my waitress’ warning, I found the $10 “Chino Bomber” palatable, even tasty, even though I didn’t have time to focus on the beer amid all the action of the “Chino Bomber” challenge.

 

Anna Pratt can be reached at 436-4391 and apratt@mnpubs.com.