February 27th, 2013 Comments Off on Chicha

The menu at Chicha is a sort of crash course in Peruvian cuisine, a greatest hits album offering an easy introduction to ceviche, tiradito, causa, and anticuchos, with a taco selection thrown in for good measure.

Now, as far as I can tell, tacos don’t actually figure in the Peruvian repertoire. Moreover, the hard shells used at Chicha are a north-of-the-border invention. In a cynical mood, I might suggest that the tacos are blatant trend-mongering, or an appeal to Peruvian cuisine beginners (I count myself among them) looking for something recognizable on the menu. But even if that’s true, I don’t really think it matters. Peruvian food, with its seemingly divergent colonial Spanish, African, and Japanese influences, proves that authenticity is not a static concept. Also, the tacos at Chicha — especially the crispy fish with crisp slaw and mango — are pretty darn good.

Most everything else was, too. For a raw bite we skipped the ceviche and instead tried the sashimi-like tiradito of scallops in a classic lime marinade (“leche de tigre”), garnished with cilantro, a drop of potent sauce of aji rocoto, and a single chewy kernel of choclo, which is like hominy. We loved the anticucho (grilled skewers) of beef heart, unexpectedly tender and juicy, though I could have passed on the sweet potato topped rounds topped with quail eggs, which had too much mush for me. Grilled corn on the cob — categorized under “salads”, haha, that’s a good one — had sweet, plump kernels, and a hefty dusting of chili powder, queso fresco, and chili butter.

The winner, though, the thing you must order, were the chicharrones, slider-sized floury rolls filled with crispy pork, red onion, and a round of sweet potato. They should sell these through a take-out window or out of a truck somewhere. Somewhere like my street.

A braised half chicken was comforting but underwhelming after the bolder, fresher small plates. It was served with something called tacu tacu, or fritters of beans and rice, here given a light coating of batter that stirred up the memory of something I couldn’t name at first. What could it be? Oh yes, I have it: A corn dog.

It’s a dark space, with bamboo poles lining the walls and ceiling and tufted black leather seats. The music is loud, and the crowd is lively. We sat at the counter, in front of the cooks in their black Chicha t-shirts, a well-organized, calm army. The service was friendly and knowledgeable enough, though the food came out way too quickly; there wasn’t much room at the counter, and we were constantly rearranging and consolidating to accommodate the onslaught.

They’ve opened another outpost, just across the street, a more bar-like, no-reservations situation serving the snackier items from Chicha’s menu. It’s called The Roger Room. Something to do with pirates. This might actually be the way to go: A few pan con chicharrones, some skewers, and a Pisco sour? Sounds perfect to me.

Chicha 26 Peel St., Central +852 2561 3336 Lunch and dinner, Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday; Plan on spending around HK$500 per person.

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