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