Etymology aside, the dish is a prime example of the hodgepodge of flavors happening at Andres’ latest small plates spot.
Though seemingly incongruous, the menu at China Chilcano is a celebration of Peru’s diverse culinary heritage, which is intertwined with Chinese and Japanese cuisines (known in Peru as Chifa and Nikkei, respectively) following an influx of immigrants in the late 19th century.
“There are so many different cultures within Peru’s culinary world,” says Ruben Garcia, the restaurant’s director of culinary creativity. “We’re celebrating the major ones within the country.”
That explains why dim sum appears on the menu alongside sushi and ceviche, and why the impressive collection of pisco (a grape brandy common throughout South America) is complemented by a strong sake showing. The cocktail program is overseen by Juan Coronado, the beverage director for all of Andres’ restaurants. Expect seasonal fruit-infused pisco cocktails and variations on pisco sours, the signature, frothy South American drink made with citrus, egg whites and bitters.
Not even the decor is safe from a jumble of cultural influences: Above a tatami table (floor-level seating arrangements popular in Japan) there are fluorescent lights in the patterns of the Nazca Lines (huge line drawings of unknown origin etched into a southern Peruvian desert).
The restaurant — which has been in the works since Jose Andres visited Peru for a culinary conference in September 2013 — maintains that despite the mishmash of influences, China Chilcano is above all else a Peruvian restaurant.
“We’re not a Chifa restaurant, and we’re not a Nikkei restaurant,” Garcia says. “We’re a Peruvian restaurant keeping a strong cultural tradition.”