If Contra is the sophisticated fine wine connoisseur, then Pino, with a flair for funky natural wine, is their free-spirited younger sibling. Embodying the character of natural wine, their eclecticism and spontaneity lead the restaurant to become “whatever anyone wants it to be”, as co-founder Andrew Hong describes it.
Positioning themselves as a cafe-bistro-bar hybrid nestled on the thriving Ciranjang street, the Pino customer could be anyone between the early bird dropping by at 7 AM for a quick coffee and croissant post-morning run to the foodies weighing tapas and natural wine pairings at dinner backdropped by a live DJ set.
Despite their tendency to expand on every idea, Pino’s operations pull together at a core to “make wine more approachable for everyone”, a mission inspired by Andrew’s visits to natural wine bars in Paris. Also dubbed cave à mangers, there, bottles of reds, whites, and rosé are coupled with small plates beneath a casual ambience charming enough for Andrew to open his own interpretation in Jakarta.
Don’t know where to begin? Pino’s wine menu opens with a glossary armouring patrons with enough jargon to equip them as novice sommeliers. Andrew highlights the “wild card” nature of natural wine due to the absence of any additives. But it’s precisely this unpredictability that gives way to its allure; with Contra’s award-winning sommelier Wicien Widjaja (co-founder and wine director) lending her curatorial expertise, a vinous exploration through bottles of natural, biodynamic and skin contact wine, with deep selections from reds, sparkling to rosé, is made fun for everyone.
In this spirit of exploration, Pino’s food, while anchored in tapas, finds a diversified palate. Picture savouring a characteristically Spanish Seafood Paella after amusing the appetite with Grilled Short Ribs Char Siu. Other dishes are also reimagined through other cuisines, such as their Classic Lobster Roll accompanied by gochujang mayo sauce. Whether it’s one of the amuse-bouche, the grilled lineup, or the good-to-share mains, it’s fusion in every sense of the word.
After a visit, it’s clear that Pino centralises its identity around natural wine, from their interior mirroring the quirky labels of the bottles on display (pink velvet sofas, bursts of bright candy red, and playful pop art amidst the restaurant’s wooden furnishings and dominant earth tones) to their carefree quality that encapsulates an ‘anything goes’ attitude.
But that’s not to say that Pino heads in an unclear direction. In hindsight, there’s something sincere to be appreciated about a pleasant surprise within the unpredictable. Just like the bold “Découvrez Les Saveurs” imprinted on the white-tiled walls of Pino’s open kitchen, be it for the wine, the tapas or the atmosphere, one is encouraged to simply “discover the flavours”.