This little restaurant run by a family of mixed Portuguese and Chinese lineage serves up rustic Portugual-inspired home cooking. And while the tiny dining room is casual and cosy, Nino's real charm is the tables that spill out onto the sidewalk, taking over Ship Street's northern cul-de-sac.
Hong Kong's ongoing mild winter had just enough bite in the air to pique our appetite for a hearty helping of Nino's ox-tail stew ($158). It was aromatic with sweet spices, full of falling-off-the-bone meat, and a thick sauce best mopped up with the chewy house bread. More Macanese than Portuguese, it was nonetheless savoury, with familiar tastes that could have come out of any grandma's kitchen.
On the downside, and only a few months old, Nino's is still working out the kinks in its service: on one visit the numerous wait staff bustled inefficiently around the few tables, and we were completely unable to flag down anyone for a glass of water. Our prawns baked in white peppercorns ($286) arrived 15 minutes after we had finished all our other dishes – but all was forgiven when the lid was lifted off the pot, and we were engulfed in a heady fragrance of white pepper. The prawns were yielding to the bite, and had a great peppery kick.
However, other dishes lacked similar pizzazz, such as the sweet pepper salad ($72), which had a refrashing tart vinaigrette, but will need renaming because there was hardly a sliver of its namesake ingredient. Or take the baked duck rice ($110), which was overly dry, leaving the rice on top hard and inedible.
Still, once you get the attention of the charming owner-manager-sommelier and start chatting about his Portuguese wine collection, you'll be won over by his disarming hospitality – and be convinced that Nino's will, eventually, become the little restaurant that could.
|Venue name:||Nino's Cozinha|
G/F, 2-12 Moon Street, Wan Chai
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