Wednesday, February 18, 2015

First Taste: China Chilcano

Photo credit: Greg Powers

By: Laurie Wallin
Capital Cooking Contributor

Jose Andres continues to push the food envelope and grow his empire with his latest concept, China Chilcano. Currently one of the hardest reservations to score in the city, China Chilcano showcases Peru’s vast culinary heritage, with its native Criollo having roots in every dish on the menu. In addition, Andres weaves Chinese Chifa and Japanese Nikkei cuisines into China Chilcano’s dishes as well, giving a diner the opportunity to sample several different cuisines in one trip. The extensive research Andres’ team embarked on before opening the restaurant really paid off; flavors blend beautifully and the extensive menu has something for everyone.

The restaurant is big and bright, centered by gorgeous red tones. A beautiful mural anchors the back wall, while the neon red lights lining the ceiling lead to a fun, exciting vibe, especially at night. During the day, the restaurant is full of wood tones and bright colors, full of wood tones which create warmth throughout the restaurant. Photo credit: Ken Wyner

There was no way I could pass up the chance to begin my meal with classic Peruvian drink – a Pisco Sour. China Chilcano’s, made with Macchu Pisco, lime, egg white, and Amargo Chuncho bitters has a nice balance of sweet and sour with perfect egg white foam on top. Photo credit: Greg Powers

I started my meal with the Chifles Chiferos con Salsa – fried plantain chips and lotus root chips with sweet potato-rocoto sauce. The plantains had a nice crunch – not too salty – and were slightly sweet. The sauce had a nice kick, and I noticed that the lotus chips were much more salty. Afterwards, I sampled the Ceviche Clásico La Mar, with fresh fish, leche de tigre, sweet potato, red onion, cancha and cilantro. The ceviche was nicely balanced with a citrus soup-like base and the sweetness of the sweet potato. I then tried the California Causagiri, China Chilcano’s version of a “California Roll,” this one made with potato causa, jumbo lump crab, tobiko, spicy mayo, cucumber, avocado, and huancaína sauce. This was one of my favorites of the evening – incredibly creative and visually stunning. Photo credit: Greg Powers

I sampled three Sui Mai (dumplings) – the Dorado (shrimp), Concha (scallop), and Pollo (chicken), all served with black vinegar-chicha de jora sauce. Without a doubt, my favorite was the shrimp – the quail egg on top elevates the dish; although the scallop was incredibly tender and came in a close second.

Without a doubt, my favorite dish of the evening was the Tam Tam noodles – hand-cut wheat noodles with spicy pork, peanut and aji panca. These were stick-to-your ribs good with a great kick but nicely balanced with the sweetness of the peanut. Next, I sampled the Aeropuerto, with fried rice, egg noodles, crisp sweet potato, 20 vegetables, soy sprout, and “airplanes.” The dish was very filling with a nice selection of seasonal vegetables. Photo credit: Greg PowersChina Chilcano on Urbanspoon

I’m not generally a huge desserts fan, but I would definitely order the Suspiro Limeña in a heartbeat; the iconic dessert of Peru, this dish was not only visually stunning, but delicious, with sweetened condensed milk custard topped with soft & crunchy meringue and passion fruit. The smooth milk custard nicely balanced the richness of the passion fruit, and the meringue added a nice crunch. Photo credit: Greg Powers

Great atmosphere, delicious drinks, and excellent food – China Chilcano’s discovered a winning combination. I look forward to returning to try more of the extensive menu!

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