Friday, March 5, 2010

Crazy for Chifa

I don't know if it's all the horrible weather we've been getting lately but, I've been feeling pretty down these days, and this has translated into disappointments in food . So, I wasn't expecting much when I dined at Jose Garces' Peruvian-Asian spot Chifa. To my delight, my expectations were not just met but completely exceeded. This was one of the best meals I'd experienced in a long time in terms of taste, presentation and atmosphere.

Like Garces' other tapas eateries Tinto and Distrito, the interior of Chifa is modern, colorful, and suffused with dim lighting. My party and I were seated in a cozy booth cushioned with silk pillows and orange lighting, an appropriately exotic ambiance to complement the exotic cuisine we were about to enjoy. While waiting for our food to come out, we chowed down on the complimentary bread balls with spicy guava butter. With little hesitation, I would say the bread itself is worth a visit to Chifa. The bread was chewy, savory bursts of deliciousness. We ordered another serving before half our meal was done.

The main dishes themselves deserve just as much credit, as they were all flavorful, well-portioned and beautifully plated. The first dish, the crab empanadas, was served with a chile reduction. The empanadas were crispy on the outside and tender on in the inside, with a generous amount of jumbo lump crap - simply perfect.

Next up were the fried scallion pancaked with braised beef. Definitely yummy, but greasy, so the small portion was just enough. The Peruvian ceviche that our server recommended featured corvina fish, sweet and flavorful, and paired great with the side of corn nuts that came with it. The ceviche was a refreshing contrast to the other fried dishes and served to cleanse my palate for the next round of dishes.

The lobster noodle bowl embodied the fusion element of Chifa, with a combination of flat rice noodles, lobster, bacon and a rocoto (a chili pepper native to Peru) cream sauce. The dish was sort of like a spicy, creamy Chinese fettuccine and was one of my favorites of the night. The succulent chunks of lobster paired with the rich, red-peppery sauce and the smoky bacon made for a creative, flavorful mix of ingredients.

The star of the night though was the pork bao buns. The soft, airy buns stuffed with tender glazed pork belly were flavorful and perfectly balanced. The hoisin glaze was tangy, but not too sweet and doesn't overpower the dish, allowing the rich pork belly to shine - a  melt-in-your-mouth kind of deliciousness.

I really can't rave enough about my meal at Chifa, so I'll just let everyone go and experience the food for themselves. I promise you won't be disappointed; and if I can say that after trekking through the heavy snow and icy winds just to get there, then there's little doubt that you will love Chifa too.

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