Monday, June 15, 2009


Chifa, the latest offering from Jose Garces in Restaurant 707's old space, is, in a word, amazing. It's the type of place, much like Amada but a lot more quirky, that you happily can come in for a snack and pisco sour or, just as happily, do what we did, and go all out.

It's hard to resist going all out here, since the menu all sounds fairly wonderful. The combination of Peruvian and Cantonese is less novel than you might think; there's a large Chinese population in Peru (with my thanks to my immigration attorney friend in L.A. knowledgeable on these matters).

I am also a fan of the decor. With dark wood paneling and blue overtones, one wall is occupied by large Ming-like vases stacked neatly in alcoves spaced over two stories. The style is embodied the restaurant -- combinations that are unusual but somehow work extraordinarily well, due in part to the surprise factor.

Take for example, the ceviche offerings. At our knowledgeable server's recommendation, we began with the Hiramasa, a white fish with ginger, charred pineapple, orange and a light mustard emulsion:
Another fun option was the Desayuno, an arepa with braised oxtail, egg, bacon and panca emulsion, although I thought a little less successful in its novelty, still a basic tasty treat thanks to the perfectly done oxtail:
Two of the slightly disappointing dishes included the salt baked shrimp (huge, but I've had better in Chinatown) and what I think are the pork belly buns (forgive this memory lapse for a meal consumed two months ago, I remember the meat being delicious but the "bun" part only so-so):

I preferred Chifa's take on Peruvian fare over Chinese fare and share others' sentiment that the its scallion pancake is not as wonderful as you'd hope.

Desserts were fun. Although the green tea cake and with honeydew gelee offering was oddly dense, I enjoyed the hazelnut mocha ganache and granita. This rice krispie treat, however, came gratis and was fun and aesthetically pleasing, much like the restaurant.

I recommend Chifa with the tiny caveat to lean toward the Peruvian and not Chinese dishes. Overall, Chifa fills a void of novel, interesting, filling food - and offers a cool and cohesive atmosphere that rivals any Stephen Starr restaurant.

Chifa is located at 707 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pa,


Karen Dodd said...

This is right down the street from the USAO. Haven't been there yet and curious enough about the Chinese/Peruvian fusion to check it out...your review was helpful and thorough. Now I know what to order. Chifa is also included on the half price Weds in Center City for the summer.

Kate said...

Thanks, Karen - I forgot about its proximity to the federal courthouse, good point. I'll definitely have to make it on a Wednesday now.