Saturday, March 2, 2013

Restaurant Review: Chicha


Location: Peel Street, Central
Type of food: Peruvian
Rating: *** (3.5 out of 5)


The Latin fever in Hong Kong’s restaurant scene is showing no sign of abating. While tapas places are springing up like champiñóns, the trend has now spread to less familiar cuisines. Take Chicha for example. The city's first Peruvian restaurant moved into Chez Patrick’s old home on Peel Street last summer and it has been turning down paying customers ever since. The talk-of-the-town is so popular that even an Inca god would have to wait a month before getting a table.

Chicha in Central


Chicha only takes reservations by text messages. By a stroke of luck, I received an SMS on my iPhone this past weekend: “We have space for two tonight for a quick dinner from 9:15 until 10:30. Want it?” It was like winning the lottery, at least that’s the way they made me feel. After a couple of pre-dinner mojitos at a nearby bar, my guest and I showed up at the restaurant and were ushered to our seats facing the kitchen.

Chicha has good vibes. Latin music is on full blast and the crowd seems young and restless. The service is unintrusive and helpful. All the food is served – surprise, surprise – tapas style. That means they come in small packages and can add up to a hefty price. At around $800 per person, a meal there can break anyone's piggy bank. But judging from the restaurant’s mile-long wait list, it appears that there is no shortage of novelty seekers willing to drop four figures on a casual meal. 

A sampling of "anticuchos"


The food at Chicha is easy on the palate, though it is nowhere near the level of refinement one would get at a fine restaurant on the same budget. The best dishes are the glazed cod anticuchos (grilled skewers) and king fish tiradito (carpaccio). The suckling pig is generously portioned and complemented well by red onions and papas rellenas (fried potato balls). Avoid the hard shell tacos and picarones (fried dough), they are disappointing and will fill you up too quickly.

I read up on Peruvian food before going to Chicha. I learned that it is heavily influenced by Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Chinese cuisines. Combining local and immigrant traditions, Peruvian recipes take indigenous grains, potatoes and spices and turn them into unique, hearty treats. I looked around Chicha and felt that, despite Peruvian head chef Arturo Melendez's attempt to incorporate local ingredients into the menu, there is nothing particularly Peruvian about the place: not the food, not the décor and certainly not the staff. It is nonetheless a good weekend hangout, a trendsetter and a new kid on the block enjoying its 15 minutes of fame.

Seating at the bar

3 comments:

  1. Hello Jason,

    Chicha uses loads of indigenous grains, potatoes and spices. They are all listed on the menu, Aji Rocoto, Aji Amarillo, Aji Panca, Aji Limo, Yukon Peruvian potatoes, Choclo, Huacatay, Chicha Morada, Inca Cola just to name a few.
    The decor in Chicha represents Peru from their Cevicheria bamboo design to Chan Chan stone carved pillars out the front of the building. Arturo the Peruvian head chef in Chicha whom has been there from the beginning provides Peruvian classic and modern dishes.
    Chicha has been reviewed and rewarded by a number of high profile Peruvians and also won Best New Restaurant Hong Kong in Timeout Magazine.
    Therefore we would hope that you do some more research about Peruvian food before critiquing the cuisine again.

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  2. Thank you, Anonymous. From the tone of your comment, I take it that you are either with Chicha or Concept Creation. I appreciate your pointing out some of the facts I've missed, and to that end I have revised my last paragraph accordingly.

    As for your last point about Chicha's warm reception from Time Out magazine and "high profile Peruvians," I find it difficult to accept either as a reason for me -- or any other food critic for that matter -- to rate the restaurant more favorably. Imagine a movie director objecting to a lackluster review of his picture because Entertainment Weekly and "a number of high profile Americans" have given it their thumbs up. So much of restaurant review is subjective and one can't always please everyone.

    Finally, I was by no means critiquing Peruvian cuisine (I happen to really enjoy Latin American food); I was only critiquing your restaurant. I also don't intend to critique your restaurant "again." One review is quite enough.

    Cheers,

    Jason



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  3. I don't like the idea of Chicha taking over the place of Chez Patrick. Chez Patrick is one of my favourite restaurants in HK and I was furious when it was being evacuated. I love watching the cats strolling outside the window when I ate there before : >

    Christine

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