Tuesday, June 14, 2011


This past week I had the opportunity to go to Chifa, one of Jose Garces' many restaurants. This particular restaurant focuses on a unique blend of Peruvian and Cantonese cuisines that can be found in Peru. It has been open for a while now and I have been there once before shortly after it opened. I can't say that I remember much about the first time I was there as it was at least a year ago but what I do remember was the atmosphere which was somewhat Asian inspired with a distinct Latin American feel. The second time I went, the decor was the same as when I went before and I was equally as impressed with it this time as I was the first time.

The service was friendly and helpful. Since the food is served tapas style, many small plates coming to the table guests have the opportunity to try a few bites of many different things. Our server helped us navigate the menu. She was able to tell us that we should get two of one dish so it would be easier to share with five people. She also helped us to figure out the ceviche part of the menu and she made suggestions for us too.

Before our meal even started they brought out the bread basket. At most restaurants this is a disappointing hard roll and a pat of butter but at Chifa it is a warm cheesy pastry-like roll which is served with guava butter. The guava butter was definitely the most delicious thing I had all night. I couldn't get enough of it. If they sold it in stores I would totally buy it.
Then came the meal. At Chifa they serve the food as it comes, so whenever it's ready they bring it out to your table. The first thing we ordered was the Peruvian ceviche. This was my first experience with ceviche so I wasn't sure what to expect. This particular ceviche (Chifa offers three different ceviches which come with a different seafood in them each night) had leche de tigre, sweet potato, mote, rocoto aioli, and pickled onion. All in all it was definitely an interesting dish and I really enjoyed the fish that was in it that night but I'm not sure if I was sold on the ceviche as a whole. The idea of a ceviche is that it is seafood "cooked" by some sort of acid so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that the food tasted pretty acidic. One person I was with really liked it but the rest of us tried it and then moved on to the other dishes. So here I don't really have much judgment because I'm not sure how it was supposed to taste so I don't want to be harsh and I don't want people to be afraid to try it but I can definitely say, if you haven't had ceviche before, approach with caution.

The next dish we got was a spring roll that had smoked shrimp and peanut hoisin sauce. They were good but the smoke taste was a bit overwhelming for me. We all liked the dish though and I would say this one was worth ordering again. Next we got crab empanadas. These, we all really liked. The outside pastry shell of the empanada was flaky and not too thick while the inside crab meat was delicate and tasty. I would definitely suggest this dish especially if you like crab because this thing was literally full of it.

We also ordered spicy Cantonese eggplant which I thought was a really nice dish. The eggplant was cooked just the way I like it, not too mushy but not too firm, it still had a bit of a bite to it. The sauce it came in was just spicy enough to have a little zing but not be overwhelming. At the same time we got this dish we also got the BBQ ribs. They were fall-off-the-bone tender and had a sweet and savory glaze on them. We all agreed that these were delicious. We probably could have done with another order of them though as there were five of us and the plate came with only three ribs. They were easy to share because the meat came off the bone easily but we all wanted more so I would definitely suggest two orders of this if you have five or more people.

We also ordered Lomo Saltado which was braised beef and stir fried veggies and potatoes over white rice. The beef was good but there wasn't much of it and I was expecting to have slices of steak on it but it was actually more like shredded beef. I also didn't really think the potatoes were necessary since it already had starch from the rice, it was also a little heavy on the salt but we were overall pretty happy with this dish.

Then we had red curry which came with rice, crab meat, and tofu. This dish I was actually a little disappointed in I found it to be a little too salty and kind of soupy with very little crab meat and tofu (all I ended up getting was rice and curry broth). This dish was good but not great and I don't think I would order it again if I were to go back.

One dish that stood out was the lobster bowl. Mainly it stood out because we couldn't figure out how it fit in with the rest of the menu. It was noodles with lobster in a cream sauce with peas and bacon. Don't get me wrong, it was really tasty and it was more filling than the other dishes because it was more hearty, but I didn't really see how it was Peruvian or Cantonese it tasted more like pasta carbonara that many Italian restaurants serve. Maybe this is a typical Peruvian dish but I certainly don't know.

Overall the meal was pretty good but none of us came away from it particularly excited. The meal as a whole was a little too salty for my taste (good thing they kept refilling our water glasses) and some of the flavors were a bit one dimensional to me (the ceviche and the spring roll). There were some stand outs too though, such as the empanadas and the BBQ ribs so I would say Chifa is a good, solid restaurant which is worth giving a try. The atmosphere, service, and food make it a great place to go for a night out.

707 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia PA 19106

1 comment:

  1. i definitely echo your sentiments about the saltiness of the food there. but the dish you must have (if you go back) are the pork belly buns. granted, i have a pork belly addiction, but they are SO good here. you won't regret it! :)



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