Review of China Chilcano
PHOTO: Nobu Usuzukuri at China Chilcano (c) Sery Kim
With 21 restaurants, as well as a highly documented bromance with the gloriously blunt Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef/restauranteur Jose Andres has imprinted the cultish food scene with singularity. Crowds, profits, cocktails, food, Andres' effortless ability to conjur up innventive culinary experiences leaves guests with the lingering question of "Why didn't I think of that?"
Into this bemusing befuddlement is China Chilcano, a Japanese/Chinese meets Peruvian cacophony of senses, recently opened by Jose Andres. Located in the ill-named Chinatown -- oddly barren of any real Chinese artifacts -- the Mayor of D.C. might as well rename this grid as "Andres-ville" since China Chilcano marks the fourth Andres' restaurant within a two block grid.
China Chilcano, unlike the more subtle nuisances of Oyamel, Jaleo and Zatinya (Andres other restaurants in Chinatown), leaves no tastebud untouched. If their dishes were a child's kaleidoscope, then China Chilcano's menu was a kaleidoscope on an Anthony Bourdain acid trip.
PHOTO: Pisco Sour and Cholotini at China Chilcano (c) Sery Kim
Truly, their dishes are an Americanized, super-sized version of Japanese/Chinese/Peruvian food, where every dish is heavily flavored and seasoned like a teenager trying on makeup for the first time. Hardly any dish was carefully crafted and seasoned, instead exhuberant and bold, almost too eager by half.
For instance the dim sum, especially the Dorado -- a golden egg, shrimp, pork, jicama, and peanut -- had too much pork thus overpowering the more interesting elements of this dim sum. A more judicious balance between meat and vegetables would have allowed the airy strength of this Chinese dish to shine. The more desirable dim sum dish was the Sanguche de Chancho Nipon which, despite having incorporated two fried elements of pork belly and lotus steam bun, felt very light.
PHOTO: Sanguche de Chancho Nipon at China Chilcano (c) Sery Kim
As far as the sushi was concerned, despite Andres being inspired in this section of the China Chilcano menu by Nobu-san (the flawless chef of the epoynomous restaurant NOBU), the China Chilcano sushi was too pungent and, again, in a recoccuring theme, too many flavors contrasted the rhythm of the food rather than allowing the subtle beauty of the sushi breathe.
Expect these powerful flavors even in the vegetable dishes such as Pulpo al Olive Rosita Yimura. The octopus zinged with a zestiness better suited for a pickle and could have used the joyous balance in the Nobu Usuzukuri, a ceviche of flounder inspired by Chef NOBU, one of the more well-balanced dishes at China Chilcano.
PHOTO: Pulpo al Olive Rosita Yimura at China Chilcano (c) Sery Kim
Perhaps Andres lack of confidence in the Asian side of the menu created a overpowering flavor correction, however, the Peruvian dishes were confident and sublime. Clearly his familiarity and experise was better displayed in these sections of the menu especially in the fun Yuquitas Rellenas, a sweetly unexpected yuca fritter in a dumpling-esque presentation. Deliciously delightful.
But the best dish of the night was the Aeropuerto. Fried rice was blended with 20 different vegetables in a dancing medley with egg noodles, crisp sweet potatoes and soy sprouts. This was phenomenally interesting to eat, with just the right blend of flavors.
PHOTO: Aeropuerto at China Chilcano (c) Sery Kim
Of course, don't forget to order a Pisco Sour to accompany the dishes. This flavorful cocktail arouses a unique blend of sweet-and-sour, and the fusion of these diametric elements will make anyone want to order multiple rounds.
PHOTO: Zhen Fe at China Chilcano (c) Sery Kim