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Andrew Fenton

Chifa

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City Paper's Meal Ticket blog has a preview of a couple of dishes from Chifa, Jose Garces' Peruvian-Chinese joint, set to open early next year.

It definitely looks intriguing... I just wonder if they'll serve Inca Kola?

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found this is on streettalkin.com, looks pretty promising...

Chef Jose Garces introduces CHIFA early 2009

December 21, 2008

LATIN SUPERSTAR CHEF JOSE GARCES INTRODUCES CHIFA, A PERUVIAN-CANTONESE RESTAURANT

In early 2009, Latin superstar Chef Jose Garces will debut his new restaurant, Chifa (707 Chestnut Street, 215-925-5555), named after the unique hybrid of Peruvian and Cantonese cuisines found in Peru. With a brilliant color palette, the stunning restaurant will feature a center-stage ceviche bar that sits atop a Chinese apothecary cabinet, a 16-seat gold resin communal table, a welcoming lounge for late night dining and Chef Garces’ dazzling menu of signature small plates. Chef Garces will be the first restaurateur to elevate this cuisine from its humble roots to what is destined to become one of the country’s most sought-after reservations.

“I am constantly exploring Latin cuisines, and when I began researching chifas, I was fascinated by the combination of these two seemingly different food cultures. But their common grounds, such as fresh seafood, liberal seasonings and rice-based dishes, come together in a way that is at once new and comfortingly familiar,” says Chef Garces, who is Ecuadorian-American and has quickly become known for his popular restaurants Amada, Tinto and Distrito in Philadelphia, Mercat a la Planxa in Chicago.

When Chinese workers came to Peru in the late 19th century, they brought their cuisine with them. Over the years, they adapted their foods to work with Peruvian ingredients and incorporated native South American cooking techniques. Chifa is the phonetic pronunciation of the Chinese character that represents this shared cuisine and also came to refer to the restaurants that serve it.

Chef Garces’ tempting menu at Chifa will combine the flavors and ingredients of both Asian and Latin cuisines. A few dishes will be: Arroz Chaufa con Mariscos, a traditional Chifa-style fried rice with Chinese ham, egg and scallion, topped with soy- and ginger-glazed shellfish; Aji Gallina, a classic Peruvian dish of slow-poached chicken in a spicy sauce of aji amarillo, walnuts and queso fresco, served over confit purple potatoes and garnished with purple Peruvian olives; Lomo Saltado con Conchitas, beef tenderloin marinated in ginger and soy and stir-fried with peppers, tomatoes and bay scallops, then tossed with fried yellow mountain potatoes and cilantro; and Roast Duck Buns, steamed Chinese buns filled with crispy roast duck over foie gras mousse, garnished with plum sauce, pickled scallions and five-spice sea salt. Menu items will range in price from $10 to $28.

Chifa will also feature a Ceviche Bar with more than 10 kinds of fresh daily ceviche preparations. Chef Garces and his talented team will prepare each ceviche to order. Selections will include: Oyster, with leche de tigre, avocado, calamari and pisco, served as a shooter; Tuna with rocoto emulsion, soy, sweet potatoes, red onion and cilantro; and classic Ecuadorian Ceviche, a nod to Chef Garces’ family roots, with orange, fresh tomato and avocado. Ceviches will range in price from $14 to $24.

“Traveling to Peru with a few of the Chifa kitchen staff and experiencing this incredibly diverse cuisine first hand opened my eyes to a world of new possibilities,” says Chef Garces, who worked closely with Chef de Cuisine Chad Williams in creating and executing Chifa’s menu. “The vibrant markets, especially the fish markets and their incomparably fresh ceviches, were as gorgeous to look at as they were to eat. It was the most exciting culinary journey we’ve taken to date, and I can’t wait to share this style of food with my guests.”

The restaurant to showcase this intriguing food was designed by Jun Aizaki of Creme Design Collective, the creative force behind Garces’ three award winning Philadelphia restaurants. For Chifa, Aizaki drew from images of the chifas in Lima, Peru.

“When we first began studying chifas, we noticed that a lot of them relied heavily on exaggerated interpretations of Asian motifs,” says Aizaki, “so we incorporated a lot of Asian elements into a Latin theme, to capture the feeling of both cultures.”

Chifa boasts three dining rooms. The first is the main dining room and bar area, festooned with banquettes and earthy shades of terra cotta, ochre and brown leather with hand-crafted shutters. Large ceiling fans, custom-made blue and white tiles and floral fabric accents lend an airy feel. A second dining room, which features the ceviche bar, is painted vibrant red and accented throughout with wood screens carved in Chinese-inspired geometric patterns. The lower level has a sexy, clandestine feel inspired by an opium den with its own bar, lush fabrics, red and black laquered tables, hanging lanterns and plush purple couches and ottomans for lounging.

Like all Chef Garces’ restaurants, Chifa’s beverage program will further enhance guests’ transportive experience. A carefully crafted selection of wine and beer will be complemented by signature cocktails such as: Asian Five-Spice Rye Manhattan; Classic Pisco Sour; Mint and Lima Bean Gin Fizz, a sly nod to the capital of Peru; and Burnt Orange and Sesame Martini. A daily Fresh Tropical Fruit Pisco Sour Pitcher will be a natural cocktail choice for groups. Drinks will range in price from $8 to $12. Chifa will also offer an elaborate, artisan selection of Chinese teas, to incorporate that important aspect of Asian cuisine into guests’ meals.

Born in Chicago to Ecuadorian parents, Chef Jose Garces credits his family with inspiring and nurturing his interest in food from a young age. His first cookbook further promotes the Latin cuisines of Spain, Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean, entitled Latin Evolution (Lake Isle Press 2008). Recently, he appeared as a challenger on Food Network’s hit show Iron Chef America, where he defeated Iron Chef Bobby Flay.

Garces’ three Philadelphia restaurants form his eponymous Garces Restaurant Group. He is the owner and executive chef of all three, and each is counted among the city’s most acclaimed: Amada, an authentic Andalusian tapas bar; Tinto, a wine bar and restaurant inspired by the Basque region of Northern Spain and Southern France; and Distrito, a spirited celebration of the vibrant culture and cuisine of Mexico City. Chef Garces is also the executive chef at Chicago’s much-praised Catalan restaurant Mercat a la Planxa, where he worked in collaboration with Sage Restaurant Group.

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I went with my wife on a Thursday night and we were disappointed. It was busy but not packed with a hot-looking crowd. As I have found with all of Garces' restaurants, service was warm and attentive. My wife just went to Peru and could compare the food and Chifa's fell short in every case, both in authenticity and quality. Nothing except the bread was really addictive and I would not care to have anything I ate, again. On the plus side my pisco sour, Peru's national cocktail, which my wife said was very poor compared to those she had in Peru, did not give me any headache like alcohol often does.

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We dropped in recently ad I'm not sure disappointed is quite the right word, but I think we were hoping for more big wow! moments than we got.

I haven't been to Peru, and the Peruvian food I've had here hasn't been from the Chinese-influenced side of things (unless you count the Lomo Saltado) so I can't comment on the authenticity issue. I generally don't care too much about that anyway, I believe it's possible for creative chefs to improve on authenticity.

Much like brescd01 commented, we found the service to be friendly, informed and professional. The space itself is attractive, although it looked much nicer in the back half.

I'll agree that the bread is pretty great: airy little rolls spiked with Manchego.

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That's a Pisco Sour in the corner there, and while I wouldn't call it poor, as David's wife did, I like this drink more bracingly tart, with a bit more of an edge from bitters. This version will probably be a crowd-pleaser though, it was quaffable.

We started with the Hiramasa Ceviche, which was very good, but suffering from the micro portioning that seems to be the style in the Garces empire. Very good fish though.

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Then Anitcuchos

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Adobo Pork Belly, Cilantro Chicken and Ginger Shrimp. Very tasty, especially the pork belly, which was perfectly cooked, but again, the portions were pretty tiny. Those skewers are about 6 inches long. The Chimichurri sauce was delicious. The sweet chili sauce and peanut sauce - meh.

barbecue Ribs

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Smoky, tangy, sweet, sticky. Hard to go wrong there.

Scallion Pancakes

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Excellent: crispy, salty, a little gooey in the middle. But you guessed it: they're pretty small. You might need a few orders of these.

Chifa Chicken

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This was actually a good sized half of a chicken, and had flavorful, juicy meat beneath that lovely crispy skin. But it also had a kind of springy texture that I've encountered with meats that have been brined a bit too long. I don't know for sure that this one was brined, but it sure seemed like it. The hoisin and sriracha sauces that came with it are both made in house, and both are quite tasty, but yow! the sriracha has a kick! I'm in favor of that, but be careful... We were warned, but I generally don't believe it when people that tell me things are really spicy.

Anyway, all in all it was a good meal, but I was hoping for something a little more exciting. 4 small plates and one larger one, one Pisco Sour and one beer, came to $85.

I'm still wondering if this particular tweak to traditional food is a significant improvement over the original. I'm in favor of fusions, I like new interpretations of classics. But I'm not quite convinced that I prefer these versions to just getting Chinese food, or hauling up to the Northeast for some Peruvian food.

But maybe I will. There's more food there that looks interesting, and bears further investigation.


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Philadining, I wish you had taken us, what you got looks much nicer than what we got. But the chicken is illustrative: it is actually more Peruvian than Peruvian-Chinese and my wife had it in Peru, and it was (according to her) much more flavorful there. And even I could taste that the pisco sour was weak.

When I commented on "authenticity," I meant authentic chifa, which is a style of Chinese food that has evolved in Peru. But many of the dishes are clearly meant to be Peruvian. And I agree with you, authenticity is interesting but most important (to me) is taste, and I left the restaurant a little queasy and not at all ecstatic. Our bill was $64/person including tax and tip. I agree about the portion sizes, except that in and of itself it does not bother me, you just have to order a little differently.

Of course, now I want to make a special trip to that northeast Peruvian place for that chicken they never have enough of, I will have to plan a detour on my way back from Trenton.

By the way, my wife, who is from a dull Eastern European country with amongst the worst restaurants in the world, tells me that the food she had in Peru is amongst the best she has ever had in her life. She claimed that an unknown restaurant in the touristic city of Cuzco must be among one of the finest restaurants in the world. Now, I admit, that sounds like a stretch. Except my wife has never, ever, said this before.....

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Checked it out last night. The space was nice, a little more trendy looking then Garces' other places. We were seated right away and started with their "rum punch" cocktail. The offer this by the glass and by the pitcher, it was our mistake not to order by the glass to begin with, but we ordered the pitcher and were not pleased. The taste was not bad, but almost like it was missing something. It tasted flat and seemed like something sour would have helped it out. We ended up ordering wine instead and did not complain, just stated that we didnt like it. The server charged us only for 2 glasses instead of the whole pitcher.

The service was good, quick and efficent and pleasant.

The bread, as mentioned was great. Very chewy and hot when it arrived. We started with the Shellfish Ceviche which was good but it didn't really wow me. The addictive little corn nuts and fried lima beans that came with the ceviche were a hit though. Then came the Salt baked shrimp which was tasty but a bit too salty. I know - what should I have expected from the name, but it was almost too much and it turned me off. We also had the lamb empanadas and the Pork Belly buns. Neither were fantastic. I liked the empanadas more then my dining parnter, who took one bite and pushed the rest aside. The pork belly buns were better and the bun they were on was really tasty, light fluffy and nicely seasoned.

For the heavier plates we had the lobster noodles, which were a highlight. They noodles were really tasty and the creamy broth was almost like a lobster bisque. Large chunks of what appeared to be tail meat. I don't know how traditional this plate was though, it tasted like it could have appeared on any menu and would have fit.

The worst thing we ordered was the grilled octopus. I love the version at Amada and I was hoping for something similar. This was nicely grilled and tender, but the taste was not good. It tasted like it was not fresh and a bad aftertaste.

Finally, the beef tenderloin with stir-fried veggies and pototes was very good. Perfectly cooked and tasty.

Overall, I was dissapointed in the meal. I was hoping to be wowed like the first time I was at Amada and Tinto. Maybe I ordered the wrong stuff, the picture that philadining posted of the chicken looked awesome. I may give it another chance in a few months.

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We really wanted to try the pork belly buns, but they'd run out of something, maybe the buns themselves. Glad to hear that they're good.

And I was very curious about the beef tenderloin and potato dish. What were the potatoes like? Were they french-fry-like in any way? The traditional Peruvian dish Lomo Saltado is perversely seductive: strips of beef stir-fried with french fries and a soy-touched gravy. But I wasn't sure that was something that would maintain its appeal when made with better ingredients...

We probably should remember that it's early days, and even the best-planned places tend to make some tweaks as they get going for real.

(and BTW that dish with the skewers is spelled ANTICUCHOS, I realize it has a typo in my first post, and it's too late to edit it... )


Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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That's a Pisco Sour in the corner there, and while I wouldn't call it poor, as David's wife did, I like this drink more bracingly tart, with a bit more of an edge from bitters. This version will probably be a crowd-pleaser though, it was quaffable.

Agreed Phil.

Had a Pisco Sour there this weekend with Doc Sconzo.

I think we both agreed it was very watered down, not enough pisco or lime or sugar and way too much egg white. Serendipitously enough Doc and I agreed the best Pisco we ever tasted in north America was at the Peruvian pavillion at the Fancy food show in Javits last summer.

I think tropical drinks don't do so well in philly restaurants in general because restaurant groups start to quantify them to meet Bar cost percentages.

Cost efficient maximized drinks are very different from solid cocktails.

Same reason for those glycemic index havoc wreaking drinks at alma de cuba.

I am going to have to agree with Mrs Brescd, piscos were no bueno.

The food looks absolutely fabulous though, I am looking forward to dinner there later this week.

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I was in Philly over the weekend with my family for a celebratory event for the daughter of special friends. Other than an excellent group dinner Friday night at Yang Ming in Bryn Mawr, I didn't have a chance to eat out at all. I did meet up with Vadouvan after my dinner for a quick drink at Chifa, which clearly aims to be more of a Peruvian than Peruvian Chinese influenced restaurant. I didn't get a chance to try any of the food (I was too full anyway), but I did have a Pisco Sour. While I wouldn't call it terrible, it was severely lacking compared to others I've had in Peru,Chicago, N.Y. or Madrid. It needed some sourness. Actually, Vadouvan, I had a pisco sour at The Violet Hour in Chicago that was pretty damned good as well.

The place was nice looking. I would like to come back, but may prefer to try some of Garces other restaurants first.

BTW, did they have any "real" anticuchos made from beef heart?


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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At the suggestion of someone who knows their stuff, a friend and I dropped in for an impromptu dinner at Chifa and both elected to do the tasting menu.

Dinner started with some Oyster Mixtos, which was almost like an amuse bouche and some of those delicious manchego puffs (like gougères) served with guava butter.

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Next was Medai (Butterfish?), with green curry, chile, mustard oil and coriander.

Interesting flavor combinations, but I am afraid it overpowered the fish.

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Then came a simple green salad with edamame, queso fresco and garlic dressing....nothing spectacular

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One of the stars of the night was the Pork Belly Bun - grilled pork belly, hoisin glaze, pickled dikon and carrot.

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Another favorite was the Spicy BBQ Rack of Lamb - well seasoned with a wonderful sauce and delicious ginger quinoa.

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The Braised Lamb Empanada did not move me as much as it did my dining partner.

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The Salt Baked Shrimp with the scallion emulsion were good, but if you ignored the server's or Philadining's warning and took a big dab of the house sriracha, your tongue will be on fire.

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Another dish that shined was the Chaufa - stir fried rice, chorizo (cannot really taste it), mango and soy glazed scallops.

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Stir fried Chinese broccoli in spicy garlic sauce had a familar flavor to the American Chinese version.

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Dessert was Flexible Chocolate - an extremely creamy milk chocolate custard, quinoa chicharrones, mango ice and milk chocolate ice cream. However the mango ice which seemed to be spiked with lime juice stole the show.

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We enjoyed these dishes with a 2006 Montinore Gewurztraminer, 2005 Lancatay Bonarda (me) and a 2007 Elsa Bianchi Malbec (dining partner).

Service was very warm, friendly and informed. However, we found the progression of the courses sent out to be a bit odd as quite often more delicate tasting dishes would follow ones which were more boldly flavored.

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Sampled a few dishes last week and left pretty happy. The manchego rolls was guava butter were definitely out-of-this-world. The chaufa was also excellent, and the pork belly buns were very good (if not as mindblowing as the Momofuku Ssam Bar version, but really, what is?).

The duck wonton soup had incredible broth but I didn't care for the wonton itself. My dining companion is a huge fan of the Peruvian dish aji de gallina, and Chifa's version is a very loose interpretation thereof, so that was disappointing although there was really nothing wrong with the dish as it was presented.

Certainly not in the Tinto/Amada realm for us but a nice change of pace.


Cooking and writing and writing about cooking at the SIMMER blog

Pop culture commentary at Intrepid Media

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Anyone been here since the nice review LaBan gave it? I'm going next Tuesday I believe.


I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer...

Homer Simpson

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I had a very nice lunch there last week. The $18 lunch special is a great deal... if you can avoid ordering wine, or extra dishes. Which I can't, of course.

The crab empanada was a highlight, and the ceviches were good (I preferred the hiramasa to the shrimp), but the best dish was a spicy fish chowder whose name escapes me.

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Haven't been lately but I keep meaning to go on Wednesdays, when I hear they have $2 Hoegardens and half-price pork belly buns for Center City Sips.


Cooking and writing and writing about cooking at the SIMMER blog

Pop culture commentary at Intrepid Media

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I was there last week for Center City Sips. They have discounted pork belly buns and shrimp ceviche along with wines, beers and cocktails. Here's the catch--they only do Sips downstairs. When we got there at 5:30, the downstairs was packed and we had to sit at the bar ordering full-priced drinks until there was room downstairs. While it was definitely a mob scene, our waiter was nice, albeit a bit frazzled. We tried the pork belly buns and the ceviche. Ironically, I don't really eat pork or shrimp (was raised kosher, not practicing now.) I tried some of each and the seasoning on the pork belly was really, really good. Pork still doesn't do it for me, but judging by other reports it was a hit. The ceviche seemed to be more of a gazpacho with halved shrimp. It was decent but nothing to write home about.

The best deal in town are the drinks, once you get downstairs for the Sips. The food is good but pieces are bite-sized, so I'm sure the savings all that monumental.

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Dined there last night and did the top price (of three levels) tasting menu. Really really tasty, but not much food. And I was put off by the lack of serving spoons for a common platter... it was like eating off of someone else's plate. And the waiters didn't really describe what was put in front of us. Slapped it down and away they went.

I don't remember it being like this a few months ago.

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