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Thursday 12 July 2012

Chicha, Hong Kong: The Peruvians are Coming...

I learnt lots of useful things at primary school: how to read, how to do long division, how to spell necessary and successful and that the Incas used to eat guinea pigs. I was recently reminded of this fact when I was told about a new Peruvian restaurant that had opened in Hong Kong. After a little geek Googling I can confirm that my primary school teachers were correct and that it wasn't just the Incas that gobbled their pets,  guinea pig is still widely eaten in Peru, in fact, it's estimated that 65 million are consumed by Peruvians every year...

On this basis, I wasn't entirely sure that Peruvian cuisine was for me. Nevertheless I bravely decided to stop being so judgmental and give it a go - I've eaten chicken's feet why not a little fluffy rodent too... As it turns out, all my worrying was in vain. Chicha, the brand new Peruvian restaurant in Hong Kong has decided not to go the whole (guinea) hog; I can happily confirm that the menu is entirely guinea pig free.

Having been open for just over a month, I've heard nothing but rave reviews about Chicha (which is pretty unusual for a new restaurant in this city). Last week, at the end of a sunny long weekend, I decided to go and try it out for myself.

Perched on Peel Street (on the Noho side), Chicha has staked claim over the site that was formerly Chez Patrick.  Out with the French and in with the Peruvians; gone are the starched white table cloths and opulent decor and in their place, chunky pale wood furniture, black leather, chesterfield-esque seating and a huge stainless steel open kitchen.

After trudging around Soho in the sweltering evening heat looking for somewhere to serve us a pre-dinner cocktail, we decided to just cut out the middle-bar and head straight to the restaurant. Arriving half an hour before our booking, we were greeted by the owner, Viv Romito, who apologised for our table not being ready and swept us through the packed restaurant to our very own private bar area. Within moments the barman was shaking up some pretty impressive cocktails. I plumped for the Girl from Lima which came served in an Aji salt dusted glass and included avocado - quirky and very refreshing. A couple of Pisco-based cocktails later, we were ushered to our table in a prime spot right opposite the blur of action in the kitchen.

Draining the dregs of our cocktails, we perused the menu which comes complete with an idiot's guide to Peruvian cuisine providing descriptions of all exotic ingredients we'd never heard of like choclo (jumbo corn kernels) and huacatay (Peruvian black mint). Perhaps sensing that he was dealing with people who'd expected guinea pig, Viv headed over to our table and asked whether we'd like him to pick a selection of his favourite dishes to try. Never one to turn down the expert's advice, we happily agreed.

Chicha's menu features lots of small dishes and a few larger dishes, all designed to be shared tapas-style between a group. Our feast began with seabass ceviche - fresh and fragrant with a nice little kick. The leche de tigre marinade that the dish is served in is not only incredibly delicious but is reputedly the very best hangover cure as well as an aphrodisiac...

Next up, a trio of Causas - little golf ball-sized mashed potato dumplings topped with tuna, squid and crab and garnished with an array of creamy sauces, avocado and quails eggs. I would never have chosen these from the menu but we were advised that this traditional Peruvian dish was an absolute must-try and that advice was spot on. Another triumph.

Plate scraped clean, we were brought a selection of anticuchos, little skewers traditionally served as street food. These were so tasty that they were wolfed before I even got a chance to take a photograph... The black cod skewer in particular was incredible.

Hot on the anticuchos heels, a couple of Chicarrones arrived - miniature buns stuffed with chunks of juicy, meltingly soft pork perfectly accompanied by lashings of tangy spicy sauce, red onions and sweet potato. I could happily exist on a diet of solely Chicharrones for the rest of my life.

Beginning to feel the need to undo the top buttons of our jeans, when two tacos arrived, we reluctantly decided that we'd have to cancel the last dish that the kitchen had lined-up for us (but I guess it's always best to leave a good restaurant with a reason to return....). Despite the fact that we were rapidly approaching bursting point, the tacos were the perfect end to our epicurean overindulgence.  Crispy, light taco shells crammed full of succulent meat and fish, crunchy vegetables and spicy, citrussy salsas. Lip-smackingly good! 

Tummies contentedly full, we ordered a last glass of wine which we drank while chatting to Viv about the restaurant. Born out of a desire to bring authentic Peruvian cuisine to a corner of the world yet to discover it, owner Viv, came up with the concept of Chicha. On a quest to ensure that everything from the Aji to the Pisco was perfect, Viv headed off with executive chef, Michael van Warmelo, on a three week whistle-stop tour of New York, LA and Peru dining on endless tacos and ceviche served up by an array of chefs ranging from street shacks in Lima to A-List hangouts in LA. The proof of such fastidious attention to detail is definitely in the tasting.

Having had a little bit of a rest, we suddenly found our second wind and decided that we could just about squeeze in a teeny, tiny last dish and thank goodness we did... We opted for the Suspiro de Limena which translates literally as the sigh from a woman from Lima and consists of a decadent layer of manjar blanco (the Peruvian name for dulche de leche) topped with a creamy meringue and sprinkled with cinnamon. One hundred percent wicked but fiendishly good. I would definitely return on the basis of this incredible dessert alone.

Our overall verdict was that Chicha is even better than the hype. Wonderful food, killer cocktails and a buzzy yet laidback atmosphere coupled with faultless service makes this one of my favourite meals of the year so far. 

For a Peruvian pig-out (without the guinea pig) we can't recommend Chicha highly enough. 

G/F, 26 Peel Street, 
Hong Kong
+852 2561 3336


  1. For 3 bad mice I think you guys a pretty cool. So well written and true to Chicha. Fantastic review.

    1. So glad that you enjoyed it! Thanks so much for commenting we love hearing what you guys think of the blog x The Mice

  2. Just one comment; As Peruvian, I can tell you we don't eat tacos there unless you go to a Mexican Restaurant...They did bring a chef from Peru as well

  3. Agree with Lucho. The tacos (although very tasty) have to go.

    1. Thanks Pedroso (and Lucho) interesting to hear! They are ridiculously tasty though...

  4. I'd like to add to the contentious Tacos discussion. The tacos served at Chicha are filled with chicharrones and aji cremas and not with your usual mexican fillings. So there you have it, a "mezcla" or mixing of different world cuisines which is, in my opinion, the success story of peruvian food. Tacos are very popular at the moment in Peru (so my peruvian friends tell me) and I think Chicha have nailed this too. The essence of culture is that is never stationary and constantly changing, this is true for languages as much as it is for food of course. Take dim sum for instance, they haven't always been around in China and yet they have now become one the most "eaten" chinese foods around the world.


  5. Nice post !, I am curious, do they serve chicha?, chicha is a local drink in Peru, is based on corn, with mixture of pineapple, apples ...and is so refreshing and healthy.
    We call "chicha morada",

    Mr. and Mrs. Chicha, any plan to open a branch in Taiwan?......please we need some peruvian restaurant asap !!


    1. Hi Giancarlo,

      Thanks so much for your comment! I can't remember whether they served Chica but I'm heading there for dinner on Thursday so I'll check and let you know. I'll also put in a good word for a Taiwan branch!

      x Natalie

  6. Excellent review. Just one thing: The dish is called Chicharrones. I am glad you liked them.
    On the other hand, guinea pig is tasty :P (as far as I remember my chilhood days hehe). Just too few meat.
    Definitely heading to Chicha next time I am in Hong Kong


    1. Thanks David - apologies for the typo! Still not convinced about the Guinea Pig though...!

  7. Hello, I am from Peru, grown up in Lima n.n but I live in Hong Kong, I have been to this restaurant with a Peruvian friend that came to visit me, and a Hong Kong friedn too. The food in this restaurant is ok, but is not really what Peruvian food really is >.< my friend and I were quite disappointed .... we ordered Ceviche, Causa rellena and Anticuchos, none of these 3 dishes had peruvian flavors, really sorry to say this, but is the truth :( hopefully in the future it will be better C: I look forward to try this restaurant soon again.