China Chilcano (Washington D.C.) – I’ve had Peruvian food. I’ve had Chinese food. And I’ve had Japanese food. But all of it together? I was intrigued.
China Chilcano is a José Andrés restaurant that has a unique take on Peruvian food by celebrating its multi-cultural cuisines. South America is unique in that it’s had different ethnic groups migrate to different countries throughout the continent. I have a friend that’s from Argentina but is of Korean descent! The restaurant combines traditional Peruvian dishes, Nikkei (Japanese-Peruvian cuisine), and Chifa (Chinese-Peruvian cuisine) together for a really fun and interesting menu. Just like the explosion of flavors in your mouth, the restaurant has an explosion of art and decor too!
That Thursday night that I landed in D.C., we had reservations to China Chilcano – and it was still pretty busy. After you absorb the unique and eclectic decor, you get to munch on seasoned, fried corn while deciding what to get from the menu – and you’ll want a lot of things.
Since I was eating with family – we ordered a bunch of things to try them all together. There is an option to do the tasting menu but this allowed us to order what we want with various dietary restrictions and preferences. We first ordered a few items for appetizers.
First up was the Ceviche Nikkei (Nikkei/Japanese – Peruvian), which had big eye tuna, soy-cured egg yolk, ponzu, puffed quinoa, avocado, jicama, red onion, and furikake. I was not able to eat this dish (which sucks because I love ceviche!) but everyone said it was very fresh and flavorful.
Next up was the Dancing Yucca (Chifa/Chinese-Peruvian), which were yucca fries with ají amarillo mayo, kabayaki sauce, and bonito flakes. I’ve really enjoyed yucca fries when I’ve had them and this sounded similar to Papa a la huancaína, so I thought we would try this out. It was at this moment that I knew for sure that I do not like bonito flakes. I don’t like the weird smokey taste – we all thought we were eating pork for a second (it’s fish). It’s kinda cool how the flakes move so they “dance” but I basically picked it off if I tried to eat this. Not for me personally, but if you like smokey flavors – this is your dish!
We ordered pot stickers and dumplings – because there were non-pork options! I always want to go eat dumplings, but it’s hard when pretty much every Chinese restaurant is pork heavy or else it’s a really sad vegetable dumpling. This is the Jiaozi de la Chacra (Chifa/Chinese-Peruvian), which were cilantro dumpling, seasonal vegetables, and ají rocoto. These were really good! I know it kinda sounds like the sad vegetable dumpling, but these have a lot of flavor and the sauces really added to it!
The Pegao Norteño (Chifa/Chine-Peruvian) were almost too pretty to eat! I’m really glad I did eat them though because these lamb pot stickers with aderezo norteño, crispy cumin lace, and gold flakes were delicious! The crunch makes it really interesting with the hearty lamb. I could’ve finished both the pot stickers and dumplings by myself tbh.
I chose the Lomo Saltado (Criollo/Peruvian)(Chifa/Chinese-Peruvian) because it’s a traditional Peruvian dish (maybe even its signature) but this was a new spin on it. Lomo Saltado is beef filet with tomato, soy sauce, ají amarillo peppers, shoestring potato, and onions. I really liked the re-imagining of the dish with the shoestring potatoes! This may not have been as “exciting” as the other dishes in terms of the fusion of flavors, but it was made REALLY well. If you’re gonna do a classic dish justice, you have to be able to execute it well.
On the bottom left is the Ají de Gallina (Criollo/Peruvian), which the menu describes as Peru’s most precious dish. It’s Ají amarillo chicken stew, fresh cheese, pecan, and rice. Keep in mind that I was in D.C. in the middle of December and while it wasn’t as cold as it could be – it was still pretty chilly. This stew was the perfect way to get warm on a cold evening. It was fantastic comfort food.
And then on the right is the Aeropuerto (Chifa/Chinese-Peruvian). It’s fried rice, egg noodle, crisp sweet potato, seasonal vegetables, and soy bean sprouts. We also added chicken because we could lol. My cousin really liked this dish before so he really wanted to order it – and it was a good decision!
And finally, the Tallarín Zhen Fe (Chifa/Chinese Peruvian). We didn’t get dessert because look at much stuff we ate! This is Hong Kong-style rice flour noodles with cilantro, tomato stew, black garlic, egg, and Chinese five spice. Loved the tomato stew with the noodles! I was starting to get full when my cousin ordered ONE more dish at the end –
Sudado de Pescado Nikkei (Nikkei/Japanese-Peruvian). The menu describes it as the coast of Peru’s most iconic fish soup. It’s slow-poached hamachi collar with tomato, potato, bok choy, wood ear mushroom, spring onion, and cilantro. I tried a few bites of this because I was so stuffed from everything above, but this was also delicious and perfect for snowy weather. The hamachi was so nice and soft!
I would come again to China Chilcano in a heartbeat. Everything was so delicious and there’s so much more I want to try on the menu!