Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Veg Out: Chifa

Aji 'shrooms

Every morsel of Garcesian food that crossed my lips at Chifa can be traced back to a previous gustatory moment.

Chifa, for those that avoid 7th & Chestnut, is where Peruvian meets Cantonese, provided by the golden touch of chef/restaurateur Sir Jose Garces.

Those fried cheese rolls with the guava sang like Pillsbury honey butter biscuits from a can. A million times more grown-up, now with guava butter icing.

One tangerine ginger caipirinha rang not quite like the Brazilian refreshment it borrowed from, and everything like Baby Shower Punch. It was on the weak side, but also on the side of delicious and gingery. I happen to think highly of Baby Shower Punch.

Some of the items can be modified veg, like the desayuno from the bocatas category, or a few of the rice and noodle dishes. I chose to stick within vegetable boundaries and found justice and satisfaction.

A salad of white cabbage leaves was prime for sharing, roughage that made sense for more than one person. The sesame brittle and chile vinaigrette spoke from the thai salads of my day.

Over to the Chinese broccoli, representing the classic broccoli in garlic sauce that most of us know and love.

The aji mushrooms, once you cracked through the pastry blanket on top, was akin to a jacked-up cream of mushroom soup. Tofu and potato just shut up and let mushroom have its way. This is a rich and voluptuous addition to the vegetable section.

The yuca fries were the highlight for me, like the most sophisticated spicy cheese fries I've met. I mean no disrespect at all, only that "cheese fry" is the strongest description I can apply here.

Scallion pancakes were windless and bland in comparison to the other tastes, as if there was a call for balance. I found my final comforts in a green tea cake dessert, sandwiched layers of casual-cool melon and mascarpone. I thought of the green tea swiss rolls that I find in Chinatown bakeries. To my added delight, dinner was signed with complimentary rice cakes topped with edible paper dragons. Like a less-sweet take on a Rice Krispies treat, except that you can walk away with self-respect, and plenty of admiration for the kitchen.

Chifa, 707 Chestnut St.,

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