Peruvian food is considered to be one of the world’s best cuisines. When I was 11 years old, I had the fortune of living in Lima for a year. Even though this was during The Fussy Days, I still adored Peruvian food and almost jumped for joy when I heard that Hong Kong was about to get its very own Peruvian restaurant.
Owned by Concept Creations, the group behind ever-popular Tapeo and Frites, Chicha has already created quite a following, and even though it’s technically still in the ‘soft-opening’ mode, it’s already booked up most nights.
The décor is sleek and casual, with red-panelled walls and dark leather benches, and the odd Peruvian touch dotted around, such as the Mochica-style ceramic statues that identify the men’s from the women’s toilets; you get the picture.
I started the evening with a Pisco Sour, despite the fact that it was Tuesday and no one else wanted to drink; ‘I’m doing it for my readers,’ I proclaimed. It was just as refreshing and delicious as I remember and I made a pact with myself to return on a weekend so that it wouldn’t be frowned upon if I had two…or three.
We shared a range of small dishes, beginning with the Ceviche de corvina: beautifully tender chunks of sea bass, marinated in spicy-sour leche de tigre, that simply melted in the mouth. The inclusions of choclo (Peruvian sweet corn) and red onions gave it an added welcome crunch.
The Tiradito de atun , a cross between sashimi and carpaccio, offered wonderfully tender, thin pieces of tuna, topped with crunchy cancha (toasted corn kernels). Also marinated in leche de tigre, with an added touch of aji panca, soy sauce and a dash of tamarind, this tiradito had a delicate kick, combined with an ever so slightly Asian twist.
The Solterito Salad was subtitled ‘The Classic’ and consisted of black beans, queso fresco (a type of white cheese), tomato, potato, black olives and aji limo (mild chilli). It was a wonderfully refreshing medley of flavours that completely encapsulated everything that is South American cuisine.
A trio of Causas came next: whipped potatoes topped with tuna, squid and crab. The tuna didn’t excite me too much, but I adored the delicious and comforting flavours of the squid and crab versions. The crema de aji amarillo brought back a flood of pleasant memories from my days in Peru.
Anticuchos, or skewers, are another typical Peruvian dish, often sold by street vendors. Chicha offers six varieties, of which we tried three: corazon, pollo and tomatoes. The beef heart, which is something I would usually never order, was surprisingly delicious. It had the texture of succulent, lean beef with a significant offal punch; I would certainly not say no to ordering it again. The tomatoes with crema de huacatay and queso fresco were simple yet lovely, bursting with juices at the slightest bite. The chicken, surprisingly, was the best of the three, topped with aji panca and roasted pinenut sauce.
Peruvian tacos cannot be compared to Mexican tacos, as to be begin with they are served in a hard taco shell, rather than a soft tortilla. This of course makes them difficult to share and rather messy to eat – probably not ideal first date food. Forget the pork and prawn options and order the chicken and the fish; the chicharron de pollo with aji panca and tomato salsa had beautiful flavours, with a delicate spicy kick; while the fish, bathed in a delicious mango salsa was absolutely divine, the sweetness of the mango perfectly balancing the saltiness of the chicharron de pescado.
We insisted on trying three out of the four desserts, despite the waitress warning us that this might be a little overindulgent. What is overindulgence when I have readers to please?! The Picarones, fried sweet potato donuts, were served in an orange spiced syrup that tasted just like Christmas. Granted they were a little heavy, but as sweet potato is a vegetable, surely that makes them healthy too… right?
The Suspiro de limeña looked small at first sight, but a few spoonfuls of this overly sweet dessert were more than enough. Smooth, buttery, rich caramel was topped with a creamy soft meringue and sprinkled with cinnamon: delicious, but it’s definitely a sharer.
The Encanelado, a typical Peruvian dessert and our favourite of the three, is in essence a cinnamon cake, topped with more cinnamon cake and sprinkled with cinnamon, finished with rich caramel, pisco syrup and strawberry compote. I adore cinnamon, so find it hard to fault this dessert; however it, too, is definitely best shared.
Service at Chicha is given with a smile. The Italian manager Piero Marongiu, Italian owner Viviano Romito and Australian chef Michael van Warmelo (unfortunately no actual Peruvians in the mix, although all have travelled to Peru) are pleasant and charming, making a point of personally speaking to their customers at every opportunity. We ordered more than enough food for the three of us and paid only $370 each. I’m already excited about my next trip to Chicha.
26 Peel Street
Tel: +852 2561 3336