Jose Andres is taking over the would-have-been-Wagamama space in Penn Quarter

October 28, 2013

For three years, Wagamama teased Washington with the promise of opening a noodle house at 418 Seventh St. NW. Last October, the London-based chain opted out of the former Olsson’s Books location.


Architectural renderings depict the interior of the future China Chilcano. (Courtesy ThinkFoodGroup)

Now, there’s a serious taker for the space, this one local: Jose Andres says he and his team at ThinkFoodGroup (Jaleo, Minibar, Oyamel, Zaytinya, etc.) plan to introduce contemporary Chinese-Peruvian cooking to Penn Quarter sometime in spring 2014. The working title of the 140-seat, 7,000-square-foot restaurant is China Chilcano; the second half of the name refers to both a pisco cocktail and a fish soup popular in Peru.

Conveniently, the next addition to Andres’s empire is on the same block as siblings Jaleo and Oyamel. “I prefer to have a restaurant I know than one I can’t control” as a neighbor, says the Spanish chef. “I like to keep it in the family.”

The hybrid menu follows Andres’s acclaimed China Poblano at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, which blends Chinese and Mexican flavors and lets diners graze among both dim sum and tacos. To nail the Asian recipes at the restaurant, which opened three years ago, Andres enlisted a master noodle chef from Beijing as an adviser.

While the menu for China Chilcano is in development, the list will include a variety of ceviches, fried rice dishes, potato salads and dumplings. Mostly traditional Chifa (Chinese-Peruvian) dishes, says the chef, “but we’ll be pushing the envelope, too.”

A head chef for the future restaurant has yet to be appointed.

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.
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Margaret Ely | October 28, 2013