Many people know that, in the last half of the nineteenth century, Chinese workers came to the U.S. to help build our railroads. What I didn’t know until recently was that Chinese workers were hired in both North and South America. Those who came to Peru fused their cooking with native dishes to create a new type of cuisine. It is on that tradition that Chifa has built a wonderful Asian fusion menu. When my wife and I went to Chifa the first time, we didn’t know much about the dishes shown. We felt that a sample of different dishes was the safest way to go, so we ordered a tasting menu. That was the right move! Every dish that came out was unique and tasty. We have continued that tradition every time we have gone there.
Last night, we started with a Peruvian ceviche, with kampachi (a fish much like tuna), leche de tigre, sweet potato mote, rocoto (Peruvian chili pepper) aioli and pickled onions. Delightful! The next ceviche was made with tuna, garlic, lemongrass, soy-yuzo (which one website defined as “bonito, citrus, and mirin rice wine”) and sesame. Again, a combination of flavors different from what I had known, but it was a delight to the tastebuds and to the eyes.
The chef combined dishes from other Latin and other Asian cultures into the menu as well. The duck taco had kimchi (from Korea) and radish combined with the duck confit and flour tortillas. There were interesting plays on expectations. It would be hard to imagine a Latin wonton, but the aji di galina wonton combined braised chicken, walnuts and purple olives in a way which surprised and delighted the senses. Rounding out the dinner was a braised beef short rib and taro puff, Chifa chicken, humita and (not for the faint of heart) spicy Chinese eggplant.
Chifa surprises and delights even in what might be seen as less important items. The bread is fresh-baked and comes with a choice of sauces. The sangria was not just a wine with whatever was left over of the fruit salad. Our sangria contained many ingredients. Two stand out in my mind. One was the Peruvian purple corn. The other is the Peruvian brandy added to the sangria—Pisco Porto`n. It was so distinctive that I requested to see the bottle. Taking a sip, I was impressed—brandy usually doesn’t have a kick like that while being incredibly tasty. Dessert and coffee were tasty and the coffee was strong.
We have been there a half dozen times. We save it for special occasions because we always want the tasting menu—and we are both too old to eat that much food very often. Those disciplined enough to order items off of the menu won’t have that problem. We also enjoy the excellent service and the surprise and delight of discovering new dishes. We will be back again soon!
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