It’s not often that you know exactly what you should eat in a restaurant before you’ve set foot inside the place. But on a recent visit to Peel Street’s Peruvian resto Chicha, I had a checklist of must-tries before I’d so much as stepped over the threshold, thanks to a whole gang of people who had already visited, fallen in love and were adamant I had to sample all the highlights. One friend even declared herself jealous that I’d get to try the food for the first time ever… I was intrigued and sincerely hoped the evening would live up to the hype.
Bringing Peruvian cuisine to Hong Kong, Chicha’s concept is relatively straightforward. Order a whole bunch of small plates to share and sample, or a Big Share if you know exactly what you want. The ambience is cosy and communal, with large tables for big groups in the back room, smaller 4-person seating in the main room and a bar area downstairs. Couples tend to sit up at the Ceviche bar in the main restaurant, which puts the food right at the heart of the experience by giving you a bird’s-eye view of the kitchen. I also found this to be an ideal opportunity to spot extra dishes to add to your order!
Being there for the full experience, (and bearing in mind my monumental checklist!), we opted for the sharing option, and while we were waiting for the food to arrive, kicked off with a couple of very moreish Pisco Sours – an egg-white, Pisco (a Peruvian spirit, similar in flavour to tequila,) and lemon cocktail.
First up was the Corvina Ceviche, which is Sea Bass, marinated in Leche de Tigre – or all the ceviche juices. This was a light and tangy dish, the perfect starter, and we more or less inhaled the dish in seconds flat.
Next came the Hot Ceviche Scallops, served with a lick-your-plate-clean butter, soy, lime and spring onion sauce. I am still thinking about this dish daily. It’s that good, and I’m not ashamed to say that my husband and I had a little argument as to who got to finish the last one (I won).
The Corazon Anticuchos skewers weren’t to my taste, as I couldn’t quite get past the fact that I was eating beef heart (I know, what a wuss,) but the aptly-named Oh My Cod skewers – miso-marinated and served with an aioli dressing I could have eaten straight up with a spoon – were once again to die for.
The pork Pan Con Chicharron was like the burger of your most gluttonous fantasies, all crispy fat, onions and gloopy sauce, and so it’s probably just as well that these are served in miniature portions.
I’d been looking forward to the Taco Peru all night long, and there had been some hot debate as to which variety to select from the choice of pork, chicken, fish or squid. Having sneakily sampled the fish tacos across the road at The Roger Room (a cocktail bar with some seriously good bar snacks brought over direct from Chicha’s kitchen), I was keen for a re-run and wasn’t disappointed. The perfect marriage of crispy taco shell and delicately-flavoured fish, all topped off with crunchy coleslaw and tangy mango salsa… I defy anyone to stop at just one.
Finally, we were on the home straight, but as my sugar cravings know no bounds, I was unable to select just one dessert and so we ended up sharing a sample plate of sweets. The Picarones are a scrummy sweet potato donut that comes with orange syrup, and is definitely one to share or pair with coffee, unless you have an uber-sweet tooth. The beautifully-named Suspiro De Limena (‘The Lady from Lima Sighs’), is a melt-in the mouth caramel mousse topped with meringue, and probably the lightest dessert option on the menu. The Bananarama grilled plantain and Dulche de Leche ice cream was a little oily for my taste, although my husband declared it delicious, but best dessert of the evening went to the Canutos Crocantes, a kind of custard-stuffed sugar donut served with coconut ice cream. If you like churros, this takes it to the next level. Save space if you can.
With dishes ranging from $40 – $385, you can pretty much spend as much or as little as you want on dinner. If you were dining as a group of 4, the Inca Trail set menu costs $525 per person and allows for ample tasting options. The meal was to an excellent standard and the service was efficient and friendly, with plenty of explanation of less familiar menu items and some truly great recommendations. Nearly every dish we tried was better than the last, and it’s not often that you can say that about a meal in Hong Kong, especially one that doesn’t break the bank. I think it’s testament to the quality of the food that the restaurant was packed out when we visited, making booking essential.
Chicha has definitely won its place as one of my all-time favourite Hong Kong restaurants … I definitely see what all the fuss is about, and will be badgering all my friends to try it out as soon as they can. Mainly because I might get to go with them…