Chinato is a new immersive cocktail bar helmed by Co-Owner and Bar Director Ray Zhou, located on the corner of Stanton and Ludlow Streets in New York City’s Lower East Side. It soft opened with a limited menu and hours on Wednesday, September 6; its grand opening and the bar’s full scope of offerings are available, Thursday, October 12.
The name Chinato was not named after the aromatized Italian wine, though it does make an appearance on the menu. Instead, it references Zhou’s beginnings growing up in the port city of Dalian in Northeastern China and his journey to New York City – hence the name “China-to…”. Since immigrating to the United States nearly two decades ago, Zhou has been behind the scenes in the cocktail industry. Most recently, Zhou led the R&D as Captain at Double Chicken Please, prior to that, he was the Beverage Director and Head Bartender at The Compass, a rooftop tiki bar in Flushing, Queens.
Chinato’s unconventional layout offers a new way for guests to experience a cocktail bar – it’s intimate, immersive, and interactive, centered around an island-style bar where there is no front or back. This fluidity allows guests at one of the island’s four seats a unique vantage point to the action. There is also a traditional bar area that seats five, and additional table seating for 20. The design, inspired by experimental cocktail bars in Europe and Asia, comes from Zhou himself, with the help of China-based agency Wild Rabbit. The 1,200 square foot space features dark-stained woods and stainless steel accents, with textured slate toned walls. The bar features black leather tufted bar stools and plush grey-green chairs, fishboned wood detailing in the ceiling, latté-colored velvet curtains, and a hanging circular light fixture that illuminates the central bar area. The exterior features dark tinted windows to further drive the mystery within Chinato.
While Zhou is the Head Bartender and Bar Director, he’s built an impressive team. Chinato’s entire front of house is comprised of professional bartenders, while Zhaojin Dai – a current sous chef of the two Michelin star Jungsik – consulted on, and developed, the food program.
The cocktails take a molecular-based approach with some components taking up to 10 hours to prepare in advance. “Disc 1” offerings take inspiration from music and feature unique presentations, textures, aromas, and flavor combinations. There’s the signature Chinato (a nod to Bleachers and Bruce Springsteen’s “Chinatown” with Cocchi Barolo Chinato, Ming River Baijiu, Woodford Reserve bourbon, bayberry, goji berry, and lychee black tea); the Gin & Juice (inspired by Snoop Dogg’s “Gin & Juice” with Nolet’s gin, Campari, earl gray, grapefruit, strawberry, rhubarb, clarified and carbonated yogurt); the Pancakes For Breakfast (with dry gin, Empirical Charlene McGee, Faretti Biscotti, Cocchi Barolo Chinato, blueberry, Cocchi di Torino, and tonka, that takes cues from Lizzy McAlpine’s song of the same name), and the Tequila (a zippy libation inspired by The Champs’ iconic “Tequila” features Cazadores tequila, tomato, yellow bell pepper, pineapple, habanero, corn, and lime), among others. Chinato’s food highlights include the Fluke with crispy seaweed, avocado, and orange; Fries with seaweed seasoning; Frog with water chestnut, cherry, Greek yogurt, and mint, and Scallop with Fava bean, pickled radish, and micro cilantro, plus others – while Black Rice Pudding with mango and coconut and Milk Ice Cream with beets, finger lime, and parmesan, offers something sweet to finish.
Chinato is located at 108 Stanton Street, on the corner of Ludlow Street, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It is open Wednesday through Monday from 5:00PM to 1:00AM and is closed on Tuesdays (kitchen hours are 6:00PM to 11:00PM).