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Category: Peruvian

Chicha, Dine Out 2020

Not only does Dine out Vancouver serve as a great, less expensive way to enjoy a meal out; it also functions as a fantastic platform to introduce or re-introduce you to a restaurant you thought you once knew. A new experience with new flavours and new menu items, showcasing how creative the culinary team can be. (And keeping in mind that the savings you receive from a discounted meal has to come from somewhere.)

Tonight, I was outright surprised and impressed by how much I enjoyed the $35 Dine Out menu, from modern Peruvian restaurant: “Chicha”. Where other restaurants are offering 3 courses, they have 4. And as others only give you a choice between 2-3 dishes, you get 2 out of 8 possible entrees; half of which are vegetarian friendly. And tonight I was able to try them all, so that I can now steer you in the right direction.

Located on West Broadway the restaurant is fairly easy to get to, with a paid parking lot and meter parking wherever you can find it. Their smaller space is warm and cozy, kept dim for ambience and that date night energy. The menu is easy to read with vegetable only dishes colour coded, and divided from all the meat and fish.

For the first course it is either soup or salad. I wouldn’t typically have the salad, but the “Quinoa Ensalada” is definitely the one to get. A memorable gathering of quinoa, red onion, mango, avocado, huacatay (Peruvian mint and lime vinaigrette), and a rocoto chili aoli. There was so much fresh fruit flavour in this that it kept you going back for scoop after scoop. The sauce was citrusy and sweet, and the texture a great toss up to chew through. It was deliciously done, and if I had flavours like this every day, not only would I be healthier for it, but happier as well.

By comparison the “Aji Amarillo Seafood Chowder” was good, it just wasn’t as good. Locally caught, fresh assorted seafood like wild shrimp and sockeye salmon; along side red nugget potato, corn, and a peruvian aji amarillo chili. It was a fish based cream chowder, that was salmon forward and tangy. All I was just missing from this was some crusty bread or chewy sourdough to dip into the soup.

For your second course you get to choose 2 out of the 8 available options, and thankfully you get two choices because it is all worth trying, and it is hard to choose just 2. Of the 8, 4 of which are gluten free, 2 vegetarian friendly, and 1 full on vegan.

The “Chalaco Ceviche” was a mix of Pacific Ling Cod, Wild Sockeye Salmon, Prawns, fresh oranges, green leche de tigre marinade, and crispy calamari. A fresh and punchy seafood salad, served chilled and full of lime flavour. Tasty enough, but not as filling as I had wanted from an entree.

The “Mariscos Fettuccini” is surprisingly my pick, I don’t normally think pasta when I look to Peruvian cuisine, but this one I would order again. Pan seared Pacific Ling Cod, prawns, wilted greens, and seared cherry tomatoes over buttery noodles. All evenly coated in a mesquite seafood corn sauce. Simple and delicious.

The “Verduras Causa” was like a beet humus, that you scooped up with crispy Rocoto Chili dusted yam chips. A whipped potato with lima bean puree, pickled beets, and Peruvian black mint. It was refreshing with a vegetable centric salad quality to it. Once again a great dish, but better as a starter. Although with your choice of any 2, you can get it as an appetizer.

But the one to not miss, and my favourite of the lot is their “Cauliflower”. So good that you won’t want to share. Maple and Rocoto Chili glazed cauliflower, yam puree, and salsa criolla. Each cauliflower florets was moist and sweet, a firm texture to contrast the yam purée (with its own sweetness). And for a nice change of taste, the side salad offers some appreciated tang and freshness.

The “Adobe” was another one I didn’t expect to like as much as I did. I don’t often gravitate towards a vegetable focused stew, but this is one I recommend for those that do. Braised smoked pancha chili eggplant, chickpea stew, crumbled feta, annatto oil, quinoa and honey bread crostini. Hearty, but not heavy, more like mild chilli. The rounds of firm chickpea was best eaten with the hard toast. I liked the hard crisp and the toast’s dried fruit, plus the sweetness it added to the stew.

“Papas Rellenas”, are like Shepard’s pie pockets. Deep fried crispy on the outside and stuffed with mashed potato, beef, onions, parsley, and black olives on the inside. Served with a side salad of greens and a rocoto chili aioli for sauce. This was a fun twist on a classic, and you get two of them. The Peruvian twist was the zesty aioli, but I wanted something more familiar in a meat gravy, instead.

The “Pollo Skewers” reminded me of souvlaki with its herbal seasoning, thorough grill, and its sour cream-like tang similar to tzaziki. You also got plenty of pickling from the bed of vegetables, not unlike the julienne strands or cucumber, carrot, and turnip that you can find in a traditional banh mi sandwiches. Chimmichurri chicken thighs, crumbled feta, lime cream, and crushed cancha corn. Bold and flavourful, with a lovely char on the meat. Great as is, but would better with some rice pilaf as a base.

The “Costillos de Cerdo” was a generous serving of ribs and potato salad, that flashed me back to summer. Aji panca chili and orange barbecue sauce glazed baby back ribs with a red nugget , green bean, and smoked bacon potato salad. The ribs were plenty saucy, having you licking your fingers clean once you easily rip meat from bone. It was the flavour I needed to breathe some punch into the salad. The potatoes were grainy, whereas the beans helped to offer some needed crunch. Overall, another one I would recommend.

For dessert you only get to to choose 1 out of the possible 3 options. Although if you can swing it, get the first two, as you will not regret it.

My favourite of the two would be the “Alfajores Peruvian Cookies”. Shortbread cookies made into a sandwich with a dulce leche filling. The shortbread crumbles in your mouth, filling it with the enjoyable sensation of powdered sugar. And the filling is the perfect amount of sweetness, a milky caramel that didn’t overshadow the butteriness of the cookies. So good that I wanted a box of them, to not share. The sauces and fruit on the side were great for presentation, but they did not add anything to the dish in terms of flavour, if only just lemon zest.

The “Picarones” were Peruvian donuts fried to order. Made with sweet potato and pumpkin, but it didn’t show. This was a cakey doughnut with the texture of a regular French crueler. Best with a heavy dip into the orange spiced honey and pisco raspberry sauce it sat atop of. Tart jam with the beads of the seeds to gum through, and a hint of cinnamon and sugar to end a bite on.

The last option was an assorted fresh fruit platter, but I feel that you can do that for yourself. Instead, I suggest ordering that which you can’t make at home.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
As a whole the menu did a real great job with the vegetables, I would come back and order all the vegetarian dishes, and not be mad. Each dish had its very own flavour profile, you never got too much of one, if you share between you and a friend. A great menu, and one worth visiting during this year’s Dine Out. Don’t deny your cravings.

CHICHA
136 E Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5T 1A1
(604) 620-3963
chicharestaurant.com

Ancora

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Coming out of her wedding, our birthday girl and host needed somewhere special to celebrate her birthday. Somewhere dressier to slowly ease herself back to reality, and what better one than the all white interior of Ancora, water front dining. Especially in stark comparison to us, which she had dress all in black for the occasion.

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The restaurant is set to the backdrop of still water and boats at dock in the harbour, with the Granville bridge framing the scene in the distance. From sun rise to sun set, a table by the a patio or one with a look out the window gave you a good view.

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We were given the private party room on the second floor. It came with a more aesthetic than functional “Romeo and Juliet balcony”. It and the all glass walls, gave us a perched view above the restaurant. Past the fishing nets strung with crystal and all the way down to the white and black tiled floor. The crystal was a cascade of spheres dancing in the light and a sleek black and white tiled floor was checkered in pattern.

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Our guest of honour made things easier for us and the restaurant. They supplied and we all ordered off a set menu. $59 got us a choice between appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Apparently there was another menu for $10 more, but it came with the addition of beef as an option. What we had was plenty to choose from.

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Our white table clothed meal began with a complementary tray of quinoa and focaccia bread with a spiced Peruvian chickpea hummus as a spread. It was thick with lots of herbs both in it and the bread. It weighed the fluffy slices of fresh bread down, in a delicious way.

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Below is a collection of all the dishes offered on the menu. I was able to photograph the plates of my neighbours. And there was enough of us to compare notes and consistency between servings.

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“Nikkei style quinoa salad” with edamame, pickled beets, kale, huacatay crema, nori tempura.

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I went with the “Squash and lobster bisque” topped with a black cod croquette and a chive creme fraiche. I could smell the lobster in the soup as soon as it was served. And the broth was just as strong and as fragrant, and as hot and as creamy as it looked. A pungent flavour that the chives complimented with their freshness. A great start to warm the stomach up with literally and figuratively. Plus a better dip for the bread above.

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The “Pacific lingcod” came with a side of their forbidden rice chorizo paella, with shrimp, Peruvian corn, baby squid, broccoli, and bell peppers; all in a pimenton emulsion. Those who tried it said the fish was light with the essence of tomato, but the squid was overpowering in its burnt state.

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I went with the more rich “Kurubata pork duo” of pork loin and pork belly. Prepared with potato fondant, trumpet mushroom purée, onion jam, and organic baby carrot; all in a red wine reduction. The pork loin was dry, and the outer crust was a little too salty for both cuts, a salt that was only furthered by the warm jus. Yet some how I still found that the loin tasted bland, with its single tone. The belly was at least texturally incredible. But by comparison, the Lima beans were starchy and hard, and the mushroom charred with a strong scorch on a wire grill. Overall I found that there was too much going on with the plate to appreciate it cohesively. And there were also inconsistencies between all the servings. One guest got her pork too raw. They took it back, only to bring it properly recooked. I would have expected such a prestigious restaurant to prepare a new plate from scratch or at least discount the error from her bill. They basically served her rare pork.

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The “Spiced picarones” were Spanish doughnuts made with roasted almonds and dulce de leche, with a spiced ice cream. I found it humorous that our server describe them as as Tim-bit sized.

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I wish I got the latter instead of the “Sorbet selection with fresh fruit”. When questioned, our server didn’t even know what the “selection” was, and didn’t seem like she was willing to ask anyone about it. She guessed guava and strawberry, and it had me wondering what about those with allergies. We later surmised it was pineapple, guava, and white peach. As is the case with many sorbets, I found them too tart for my liking, leaving me missing the cream I get from their tastier ice cream cousins.

It is always hard to judge a large party service. But they were beyond accommodating. We were given our space and allowed to take our time, and they even adjusted the lighting to our preference. All very important considering our birthday girl loves a good photo shoot and all components above were key. So you know the staff were patience as well. And when it came time to pay we each got our own individual bills, with the added on gratuity written in pen so that no one missed it and double tipped, a fact that was also brought up by our server as well.

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The washrooms were labelled with your choice between a mermaid or a pirate silhouette. I would classify myself as more of a pirate, but would not be well received behind that door with its urinals.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A great setting with a one of a kind backdrop, which would having me return for cocktails. Though the meal was only decent. Nothing struck me as worth coming back for, or having me wanting to try them any more. And a set menu or group dinning shouldn’t make a difference. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ANCORA
1600 Howe Street, Vancouver BC Canada V6Z 2L9
604-681-1164
ancoradining.com
Ancora Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chicha

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I am always intrigued by a new restaurant, especially one that I regularly pass by on my way home. And in this case the prospect of trying Peruvian cuisine for the first time and seeing the “top urbanspoon restaurant” sticker on their door, added to the intrigued and heightened my want to try.

The darkness of the space set the ambience and distracted from the smell of an old room, a very narrow old room. To my left, a row of tables backed by booths; on the right, a bar reaching back, as long as the restaurant. The tables were all double tops, tiled in teal and framed by varnished wood. On them sat tea lights flickering in mini metal buckets. The bar had two beers on tap, and a series of bottles on three tier shelves. Shelves painted in sky blue and spotlighted with tea lights in glass holders. Dinner features were highlighted on a chalkboard behind. Due to spacing limitations anyone passing through was forced to bump into chairs and jostle the bodies in them. I questioned how comfortable it would be for anyone of slightly larger girth. The decor included wall planters with greenery growing out at an angle, space enlarging mirrors, and sewn art work. The latter was the only piece that hinted at their Peruvian theme and inspirations. It was a series of scenes with alpacas, mountains, landscapes, and thatched huts.

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Starting dinner at 5pm meant we avoided the wait and had the attention of the sole server on tonight. This being our introduction to Peruvian cuisine, she took the time to thoroughly walk us through menu items. Not knowing what was good, and not knowing what a few of the listed ingredients even were, we relied heavily on her expertise. She explained that their Peruvian food was not the traditional sort. It was a modern fusion interpretation, that was heavily influenced by flavours found in African, Spanish, Chinese, and other Asian cuisines. Rich spices, soya sauce, and chilli peppers.

The menu was a large sheet, a listing of small plates and tapas shareables. And on the back, a preview of what their “Dine Out 2014” menu would look like at the end of the month. A look, but you can’t order policy was in place. We were hungry so took her suggestion of ordering four items to share between two girls.

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“Causa Atun”, whipped and chilled potato with cilantro, local albacore tuna marinated in a soy sesame sauce, wasabi cream, and passion fruit ponzu. Never had green potatoes before. By looks alone you expect this appetizer to be warm. Though as the “chilled” in its description promised, each bite was a cold mash of ingredients. A texture so soft that the tower of green potatoes collapsed with one prick of my fork. Simplified, this was a mashed potato salad with a Japanese twist. The flavour of the creamy ponzu came through, spicy and a hair too salty. I did not find the potatoes as they were enjoyable, I couldn’t get over its grainy texture; and they needed the extra zing from the tastier tuna chunks.

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Off the feature menu we ordered their “Special empanadas”. In house made pastry pockets stuffed with savoury filling. Mushroom, spinach, bacon, and cheese; served with a Peruvian sweety pepper jelly. You knew the empanadas were fresh, they came hot. Each was intense in cheesy flavour, without being too overwhelming. The jelly that came as its accompaniment, really made this dish memorable. It reminded me of sweet Thai chilli sauce. The savoury pastry with the sweet jelly was a great balance. My only critique was that each piece was browned differently.

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“Antichuchos pulpo y chorizo”. Peruvian grilled skewers in octopus and chorizo. Served with a Peruvian black olive aioli, basil, and an aji Amarillo mash. The octopus was chewy to the point it was difficult to eat. It didn’t help that the two pieces per skewer came too large to fit comfortable in the side of your mouth. And once you were able to break the octopus down, it’s texture only got more gritty. My guest felt that the cold aioli threw off the warmth and taste of the potatoes adjacent. The sauce, a little bitter and familiar, but nothing we could put our finger on. This was my least favourite dish.

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Another item off the feature menu,”Baked crab huancana macaroni”. Sweety peppers, pea shoots, and garlic bread crumbs. This was a good fail safe. A safe menu pick in case we didn’t like anything before and were still left hungry. Realistically this was nothing special. A cheesy Mac and cheese missing its promised crab. When the title mentions crab you expect to see crab meat and to taste it. Crab was not the star of this dish. And I wished for more bread crumbs, a thicker coating for more of a balanced chrunchy versus tender texture. The sweety peppers were an interesting addition. Each dot a pop of sweetness. And it along with the peas gave the otherwise bland plate some colour. Definitely not worth $16, as the most expensive dish of the night.

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Still feeling adventurous we added on one more dish to our line up. Another recommendation, “Papas rellenas (potato croquettes). Made with Pemberton meadows beef, olives, currants, salsa de criolla, and rocota chili mayo. Maybe we got full waiting for it, but we found it unappetizing, and no different than all the other tastes before it. Sad, as we had specifically asked for something different to try. The greens on the side gave things a much needed lighter and fresher taste; and helped to cut out some of the salt. The sauce was the same spicy mayo sauce reused, it gave things a delicate spiciness. Overall this was a heavy dish, indicative of its large plate description. But piping
hot inside, I had to blow and chew at the same time. With the potato and ground beef we found it closely resembled Shepard’s pie, but deep fried.

Our meal was cleverly staggered light and worked itself heavier. However the last dish was one two many. The portion size and flavours reminded us of a popular Japanese tapas. Especially with its common use of black and white sesame seeds and the familiar flavour of ponzu, soya sauce, and Japanese mayonnaise. The smaller tables and multiple plates made maneuvering dishware a necessity. A common occurrence and something I always found curious, the expectation is that guests order multiple dishes, yet the table tops do not accommodate such.

By 7pm our one server was juggling six tables full and three bodies at the bar. The only other employee working front of house was the bartender. He never engaged tables, but helped to bus dishes and take phone calls. When we asked to pay, we were left to read our way through the portable debit machine’s operations. Something that was not her fault. I recalled when we first sat down, the patience she showed in walking us through the menu. And the expertise she showcased when highlight the varying elements on each plate. She needed help assisting guests tonight.

Would I come back? – No. The food was good and all the dishes were unique to try for the first time. Though as we worked our way through the multiples we found the flavours repetitive and the elements recycled. Three out of five of our dishes featured the same whipped and mashed potato purée. We left feeling that nothing beat the initial first bite of our first dish.
Would I recommend it? – Yes. It is not often you come across a Peruvian restaurant in Vancouver. Like its theme, a few of it’s ingredients are rare. You are bound to try something new and maybe find something you like. Don’t deny your cravings.

CHICHA
136 East Broadway, Vancouver BC, V5T 1W1
604-620-3963
Chicha on Urbanspoon

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