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Feb 21, 2009 09:02 AM


We ate at Chifa for the first time last night. We ate early, but not long after we arrived the place was packed, especially the bar. The place has been completely (and expensively) redone since it was 707, and is very attractive. The back room has a very large community table in the center and booths on both sides

We had 2 ceviches to start -- Shima Aji and Eduadorian, which had shrimp and avocado. Both were excellent. These were followed by the category "Bocatas", from which we chose the Conchitas, scallops with parsnip parmesan cream and caviar. These were absolutely delicious. The next dish, under the category "Dim Sum", was BBQ ribs, which were excellent.

We chose a noodle dish, duck wonton in peking broth with sliced muscovy duck breast. This was a very rich but very salty broth with plump duck-filled wontons and several slices of duck breast. Very tasty but too salty for us (an older couple with blood pressure problems). This was followed by the Hot Pot of glazed cod with enoki mushrooms. Again, tasty but very, very salty. The next dish was Aji Gallina, guinea hen with purple potatoes and olives. The olives were not visible but certainly lent their salt to the dish. The guinea hen was very tender and I loved the mushrooms. The final dish was stir fry Chinese broccoli, and this was overpoweringly salty, although the broccoli was perfectly cooked.

My husband had the root beer float for dessert and I had just a pot of darjeeling tea, which was served with lemon.

Service was very attentive and professional but also very very fast.

While the food was very tasty and perfectly cooked, we will hesitate to return because of the overwhelming saltiness of most of the dishes.

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  1. thanks for reporting back! sounds great. i love salt, and i love everything jose garces has done thus far - i have a feeling i'm gonna love this place. :)

    1. I've been twice already - the first on opening night, and then again 5 nights later. Both nights I was with a group of four and we all ordered quite a bit in order to sample a little of everything. Both times I left so happy - he has another huge hit on his hands. Opening night felt like anything but...maybe one or two tiny hiccups (like running out of a dish) but overall, you would have never known it was the first night.
      I didn't find it overly salty but also had many different dishes then what you tried.

      Some of my stand out favorites was the Peruvian ceviche, Lobster noodles - honestly, I think I could eat them every night, Kobe ceviche, the "desayuno" and the lamb empanada.
      So far I've tried two of the four desserts (the flexible chocolate and the passion fruit dish) I will say neither of them was overwhelming in my mind, but I'd be quite as happy ordering another boneless spare rib or aji mushrooms instead!!

      2 Replies
      1. re: smackdown

        I was very dissapointed with Chifa. All the other Garces' restaurants are great. I went on the second night of operation and we shared about 8 dishes. One of them was the Lobster noodle dish which is described by others on the web as "ethereal". I thought it sucked ! It consisted of undercooked, overly thick, crude white noodles which had been tossed with some pancetta, peas, a few pieces of lobster and some cream. I don't know what is Peruvian Cantonese about it, and it was more disgusting than ethereal. The ceviches in Distrito and Tinto are excellent - the one I tried in Chifa was presented on a frozen ornate glass plate. The fish had not been marinated in citrus and was more like a bland sashimi. The roast chicken dish and the pork belly buns were OK ( not as good as Momofuku in NY ). I was dissapointed and am worried that Garces may have overextended himself. I will have to try this again to confirm my initial impressions.

        1. re: heineken joe

          Went the other night, mostly I had a positive experiance but one thing definately rings true in your review: one of the two ceviches I had (some kind of snapper I think) was really not ceviche at all and bland sashime would be a much better description. Have to disagree about the lobster noodles though, they were great, and the duck ceviche was a highlight of the night.

        1. re: Davecli

          where 707 used to be - right around 7th and chestnut.

        2. A few weeks ago, at the suggestion of someone who knows their stuff, a friend and I dropped in for an impromptu dinner at Chifa and both elected to do the tasting menu.

          Dinner started with some Oyster Mixtos, which was almost like an amuse bouche and some of those delicious manchego puffs (like gougères) served with guava butter.

          Next was Medai (Butterfish?), with green curry, chile, mustard oil and coriander. Interesting flavor combinations, but I am afraid it overpowered the fish.

          Then came a simple green salad with edamame, queso fresco and garlic dressing....nothing spectacular

          One of the stars of the night was the Pork Belly Buns - grilled pork belly, hoisin glaze, pickled dikon and carrot.

          Another favorite was the Spicy BBQ Rack of Lamb - well seasoned with a wonderful sauce and delicious ginger quinoa.

          The Braised Lamb Empanada did not move me as much as it did my dining partner.

          The salt baked shrimp with the scallion emulsion were good, but if you ignored the server's warning and took a big dab of the house sriracha, your tounge will be on fire.

          Another dish that shined was the Chaufa - stir fried rice, chorizo (cannot really taste it), mango and soy glazed scallops.

          Stir fried Chinese broccoli in spicy garlic sauce had a familiar flavor to the American Chinese version.

          Dessert was Flexible Chocolate - an extremely creamy milk chocolate custard, quinoa chicharrones, mango ice and milk chocolate ice cream. However the mango ice which seemed to be spiked with lime juice stole the show.

          We enjoyed these dishes with a 2006 Montinore Gewurztraminer, 2005 Lancatay Bonarda (me) and a 2007 Elsa Bianchi Malbec (dining partner).

          Service was very warm, friendly and informed. However, we found the progression of the courses sent out to be a bit odd as quite often more delicate tasting dishes would follow ones which were more boldly flavored.

          1. i've been turning this one over in my head a lot since going several weeks ago. you want to support a guy like garces who is doing interesting and risky things (as opposed to another casual osteria / bistro / new american type place). and obviously, his other restaurants are unqualified hits.

            that said, i was more than a little nervous with the whole fusion notion, and our visit confirmed that concern. there were some sort-of hits (the pork belly bun, the duck wonton noodle, the chaufa) and some sort-of misses (the lomo, the ceviches). the flavors were good, the technique impeccable (whoever prepared the duck in the wonton dish cooked it to the exact microsecond of perfection). at the end of the day, though, we had consumed some vaguely peruvian dishes and some vaguely chinese dishes, but nothing that really came together to form the ethereal fusion that the restaurant presumably desires.

            fundamentally, the thing i look for in either peruvian or chinese cooking (on their own) is a soulful, satisfying quality. it's hard to hit that note in an haute cuisine place like chifa.

            i'd return, but not in any hurry.

            2 Replies
            1. re: coookie

              We ate at Chifa last night.
              Liked it quite a bit. But at the standards Garces has set, it didn't quite make it.
              We really loved Amada. Distrito we like a lot, too, although not as much. Chifa would be a notch below Distrito. Some of the things were quite good and inventive; others, like the hot pot, were a bit off.

              1. re: Bob Loblaw

                I've been to Chifa twice. The first time, I did not have the best experience and the 2nd time, I was on an expense account and was able to try many of the dishes. Most of the dishes were tasty and I fully enjoyed myself.

                You need to take this place for what it is. A hipster restaurant that's fun for a chi-chi cocktail and some tapas dishes. i would save the serious eating for Amada or even Zahav.