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Oct 7, 2003 09:00 PM

La Furia Chalaca -- more strangeness at good yet empty restaurants

  • n

La Furia Chalaca
Or, The Good Food And Strange Service At Empty Restaurants Continues

We had planned on going to dim sum prior to the matinee at Yoshi's. But while walking down Broadway on our way to Legendary Palace--running more like it, as we feared a long wait--we came upon La Furia Chalaca. Having recalled reading positive comments on the board about it, we decided to stop there instead.

Like Panchita's the night before, we were the only diners. And also like Panchita's, the service was odd. Actually, it was really inept; our waitress was clearly new and received no training. She tried several times during our meal to remove our water glasses, sometimes succeeding in escaping with some before we noticed and had to ask for them to be replaced. We split our dishes, one of which was a stew, yet she never brought us bowls so we could share. And overall the service was just plain slow. Nevertheless, like Panchitas (or maybe because of, as though our dinner the night before was a warm-up), we didn't care. It was a nice warm day in the East Bay, a gentle breeze wafted in from the open door, the food was good, and we had plenty of time before the show.

We started with one order of anticuchos: skewered beef hearts with a few slices of potatoes and a yellow aioli-like sauce made with mildly spicy chiles amarillos. The meat was flavorful and a little chewy. If I hadn't been told it was heart I would have thought it was flank steak, cooked medium well. The sauce was good, though I prefered to use it on the potatoes and eat the meat straight.

We shared the Jalea Especiales, which was smaller than I expected (it would have been a good sized entree for one). I'm not sure that I can remember everything that was on the plate, there were so many things, but here goes: fried white fish, green mussels, hominy-like corn kernels (both fresh and fried), pickled onions, grilled squid, grilled shrimp, onions, tomatoes, and more. The fish was on the rare side and delicious, the vinegar from the onions soaking into the thin breaded crust. The onions themselves were great--sweet but not too sweet, sour but not too sour, cold but not too cold--so great that I have been inspired to try pickling my own. Everything else was good with the exception of the squid, which was unpleasantly fishy.

We also shared the prawn chowder, or chupe de camarones (actually mispelled chupa on one menu, which made us laugh). The stew was a tasty, thick, yellow, shrimpy soup with a poached egg hiding in the center of the bowl. The only part of the dish I didn't like was the prawns themselves: tiny, somewhat tough shrimp.

We got two desserts. The Mazamorra Morada ("Bits of apple and pineapple in a pudding made from purple corn, sweetened with sweet potato flour and spiced with cinnamon and cloves - a Peruvian delicacy rarely
found in restaurants.") was a sort of purple Jello. It wasn't bad, good fruit and spice flavors, but it didn't taste as exciting as it sounded on the menu. Our bowl was the sole leftover from the night before, so maybe this dish would be better if eaten in the evening when it's fresh.

Far better was the arroz con leche, a freshly made, steaming hot bowl of sweet, spiced, creamy rice with raisins. My three dining companions consider themselves very discerning consumers of arroz con leche, and they agreed it was one of the best they had ever had.

We split a pitcher of sangria, made with slightly effervescent white wine. I also tried a Pilsner Callao, a beer from the restaurant owners' hometown, which was pleasant if unremarkable.

I didn't see the total bill as somebody else was treating, but the prices are available at the link below.

All in all, a nice meal.



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  1. m
    Melanie Wong

    I'm loving your reports, Nick, please keep 'em coming! What's next on your tour of Latin America? (I'll try to think of some more good but seemingly abandoned restaurants for you.)

    Looking back at the account of our chow lunch there and note that it took 2 hours...not possible most weekdays. I remember mentioning it to a friend who works nearby who told me that he had liked the place, but couldn't deal with the slow service.

    I also notice that the earlier report didn't mention that our server didn't speak any English and understood very little. She was very sweet and tried to be helpful, and glommed onto me in the group as the one who knew a few words of Spanish. Did you resort to speaking Spanish with your server?

    I'm glad you liked the food and appreciate hearing about some of the other dishes. I think the arroz con leche is calling me . . .


    10 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Speaking of Latin American, has anyone ever been to Nicaragua Restaurant at 3015 Mission? It's billed as the only Nicaraguan place in the Bay Area.

      1. re: Maya
        Melanie Wong

        Good question. There used to be a Nicaraguan restaurant in downtown San Mateo, but I don't know if it's still there.

        Latinos in Vallejo is more pan-Latin. The owner is from Nicaragua and she wants to add more dishes from her homeland.


        1. re: Maya

          Las Tinajas on Mission serves Nicaraguan food also.

          1. re: shocker
            Melanie Wong

            Any recommendations?

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              have not been.

              a Nicaraguan friend recommended it as her favorite Nicaraguan spot.

              i remember her mentioning a rice dish.

              could i be any more vague?

              1. re: shocker
                Melanie Wong

                Hehe...the post below mentions that it's only open for lunch. Rice dish, lunch, favorite . . . we're closing in on it.


                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  i got some answers tonite.

                  go for the pajo, like a meat, yuca and plantain napoleon. and the gallo pinto, a rice and bean dish.

          2. re: Maya

            It was good fifteen years ago, but I can't speak for it since then. I might not have been completely observant at the time, but I didn't remember seeing anything terribly different there than at the Salvadoran places around town. I got into the habit of going to El Trebol (also Nicaraguan) and Panchita's instead.

            1. re: heidipie

              Hey heidipie, what are your favorites at El Trebol?


          3. re: Melanie Wong

            I've got Destino and Limon on my list--probably the two most raved about Latin American places. I just haven't been in the mood to deal with the long waits I hear about, so the empty restaurants are kind of a blessing. I did try Fresca Fillmore a while back and really enjoyed it, though I hang my head in shame for not doing a write-up. :)

            It sounds like we might have had the same server--though I really thought she must have been brand new given the amusing clearing the water glass thing. Very nice, her heart was in the right place, knew little English so we spoke to her in Spanish.

            In the middle of the room there were a couple of amps and microphones set up. They must have live music in the evenings, though I didn't see a schedule anywhere.

            By the way, here's a picture of Jalea Especiales from their website. It reminded me that there were fried plantains, yucca, and sweet potatoes on the plate too. All very, very good. This photos shows what looks like frozen vegetable medley to the right--thankfully ours came with just the hominy.




          4. Maybe leisurely service is a Peruvian thing. I had dinner at Inca Gardens in downtown San Jose recently, and while the waiter was well-trained and professional, he was the only waiter in the restaurant and the pace of dinner was glacial.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Ruth Lafler
              Melanie Wong

              Well, outside of the US and Asia, meals are much more leisurely in general. How was the food at Inca Gardens?


              1. re: Melanie Wong

                I thought the food at Inca Gardens was promising. Unfortunately, the other two-thirds of our party was late, and we had to make a curtain across the street, so we were somewhat limited in what we could order: the waiter told us that all the food was made to order and took a while, and told us if we wanted to make the curtain we could only order appetizers. We ordered a selection of appetizers, which were generally good, but even they came so slowly we had to rush through them. I got the impression that in addition to only having one person in the dining room they only had one person in the kitchen, which seemed odd for a Saturday night, considering the restaurant, although small, was full.

                I didn't like the anticuchos as much as La Furia Chalaca: they were thicker pieces and didn't have as much grilled-meat wonderfulness. The ceviche was pretty good. My sister had a salad with half an avocado that she devoured quite happily. We also had a Caeser salad that was of the non-anchovy variety but was still good. I liked the empanadas a lot -- I don't remember the filling but the crust I thought was excellent. I think we may have had something else that I'm blanking on. I ordered the chica morada, but apparently that's made to order to, because it never made it to the table.

                I would go back again, but I'd leave plenty of time. It's definitely not a place you can walk into an hour before curtain time and expect to have dinner. It is a very pretty restaurant -- the owner is also the proprietor of Machu Picchu Folk Art Gallery.

                Inca Gardens
                87 East San Fernando St.
                San Jose

            2. Amen! Nick, you are a Chowhound saint. Thanks for your excellent reports--and regular posts.

              You've given me incentive/reminder to go back to Panchita's #3 and get around to trying La Furia Chalaca.


              1. I've been walking past La Furia Chalaca on numerous occasions on my way to/from Jack London Sq from my office. Today, a colleague & I decided to pop in for lunch. I don't think much has changed since your visit > 3years ago - the food's still very good, and it's still strangely empty. But the service has improved - there's a lone waitress (she could even had been the same one who served you) but she's great.

                We ordered:
                - Tamales Peruanos (great, but still not as good as the ones you get off that stall in Old Oakland on Fridays);
                - Anticuchos (we enjoyed it, only found out afterwards they were beef "hearts", and not just plain beef!);
                - Arroz con Marisco (pretty average); and
                - Tallarin Saltado (a Peruvian-style pasta with soy-flavored beef - very addictive).

                I loved the slaw that came with the anticuchos - reminded me a bit of the stuff Bakesale Betty slapped onto her fried chicken in her sandwiches.

                The drinks - Chica Morada and Maracuya - were absolutely delicious. I'm going back there again tomorrow!

                5 Replies
                1. re: klyeoh

                  Many thanks for your eater's tour of Oakland! I've found the Chinese influence on Peruvian food fascinating.

                  La Furia Chalaca
                  310 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    My first experience with "Peruvian" food was actually at Nobu London in 1997, where Nobutaka Matsuhisa served beef anticuchos in a largely modern-Japanese restaurant.

                    So far, the only "bad" meal I've had in Oakland so far was at Caffe Verbena, 1111 Broadway. I just felt that their food was pre-cooked, and didn't have the freshness nor inventiveness which you get at B Restaurant or Levende East.

                  2. re: klyeoh

                    Thanks for the update and really nice report. If you eat there again I hope you'll update us on what you tried.

                    Tamales across Latin America seem to vary. The one Peruvian tamale I tried at different restaurant I didn't like as much as either Central American or Mexican tamales ... which is what I'm guessing you are comparing them to.

                    I like Guatamalan tamales the best because the are so moist. The Peruvian tamale I tried was moist but blander than Guatamalan tamales.

                    1. re: klyeoh

                      One of my favorites -- in addition to the anticuchos -- that lingers in my memory from the chowdown 4+ years ago is the the papa rellena, which I desribed as "a baseball-sized fritter of mashed potato stuffed with ground beef and fried ... another surprisingly flavorful dish, especially drizzled with the bright yellow lemon-onion sauce that accompanied it."

                      I'll be interested to hear about your second pass through the menu!

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        Well, this is La Furia Chalaca Round 2. Just had lunch there again today, and the food certainly did not disappoint.

                        We started off with Papa Rellena, a scrumptious potato fritter - crisp on the outside & soft & souffle-like inside - filled with minced beef & bits of hard-boiled egg. The crisp, vinegary salad was delightful, its tartness undercutting the richness of the creamy potato fritter & the robustness of the beef;

                        My entree was the Pescado Frito - very lightly breaded & sauteed fillets of white fish, served with more of their delightful slaw, fried plantain chips and a flavorsome mound of steamed, buttery rice (which tasted better than Straits Cafe's over-rated Hainan chicken rice).

                        The Mazamorrra Morada dessert was just okay - what a pity they ran out of Alfajores, described on the menu as a "traditional Peruvian cookie - Flaky
                        crust with caramel filling, dusted with powdered sugar."