Image: Shared plates.
Last Updated: July 2023
China Chilcano has big windows, brilliantly-colored décor, and a large dining room. The menu draws on the cuisine of Peru – both the traditional cuisine and especially the cuisine influenced by generations of immigrants from Asia. In some cases the Asian influenced dishes can be nearly indistinguishable from what you expect to get at a Chinese or Japanese place, such as Sui Mai dumplings, sushi, or flat noodles with pork sauce. Other dishes, like the iconic lomo saltado of beef and soy sauce, represent the mash-up of cuisines. The rice bowl dish donburi ji song is composed of stir-fry chicken, steamed rice, red onion, avocado, pickled nabo, and peanut that is undergirded with a Kung Pao sauce but is a far cry from Kung Pao chicken. Across the large menu, mostly built on shared plates, are also the classics of Peruvian cooking, the ceviche with large toasted corn kernels, sweet potato, and leche de tigre; Causa built on the mashed potatoes; and the stewed chicken in creamy green sauce of Ají de Gallina. Though you will have to go elsewhere for the classic rotisserie chicken (but keep an eye out for some other new interesting “chicken” options).
Like Oyamel, the José Andrés Mexican spot across the street, China Chilcano found a formula and stuck with it. The kitchen reliably delivers consistent versions from the largely stable menu. Post-covid, the menu appears to be simplified a bit (though that may have started pre-2020 and we missed it), losing some of its edginess. The uni dish Tom describes in his 2015 review is not evident. Neither are the mini-skewers. Nor the “slow-poached red snapper in a clear parchment bubble, tied up with ribbon” from the 2017 Washingtonian write-up. Though “the fabulous homage to Peruvian chef Javier Wong in the form of plump, sweet shrimp glazed in an umami-rich sauce that includes fermented black beans, pisco, and rice vinegar,” that Ann Limpert called out in the initial review remains. So, it may not be the foodie draw it was, it still is a great spot for groups with a menu full of crowd-pleasers.
The drink menu does remain robust with piscos, shochu, macerados, Japanese whiskies, and much more to choose from. The wine list is Latin American in focus. It is not that deep, but it covers the bases.
For a moment there was a boomlet in Peruvian restaurants, and the flashiest was China Chilcano. Various factors led to closures at other places. China Chilcano held on, though it has been surpassed in the flashy category by a newer spot Causa/Bar Amazonia. This place still delivers, even if there may be a few glitches, like there are for many places currently, but you are not here for a quick meal. This is a place to order a bunch, have a couple rounds, and relax.
Other Guidance: Located at street level, small interior ramps to the bathroom and depending on where you are in the dining room. The variety of options means GF and vegetarians can do well. Even vegans might find a couple things to work with. The place is nice casual, with Mall-going tourists in cargo shorts alongside date-night couples.
Gift Cards – Good at José Andrés Group-managed restaurants.
Lori Gardner (Been There Eaten That): From 2015.
Michelin: Bib Gourmand. The price point is still pretty reasonable, but Michelin’s write up include more about the décor than the food.