Chifa Review: Do You Peru?

Chifa is Jose Garces’s fourth Latin-inspired tapas restaurant in Philadelphia, but he manages to stay innovative

Garces has set the bar for himself so high that it’s impossible for every dish to live up to the flavor nirvana we’ve come to expect. At Chifa, I ate my way through the entire traditional ceviche menu looking for one raw fish preparation that matched the spunk of the hamachi-and-habanero version served across town at Distrito. The fact that Chifa’s ceviches are served ice-cold on frosty glass plates didn’t help; these temperatures muted the creative flavor combinations and full expression of texture. The medai and hiramasa (Australian king fish) both tasted like the volume had been turned down; my palate never found the tart citrus that gives ceviche its characteristic zing. The chu-toro delivered none of the velvety mouthfeel I expected — a pretty big letdown at $5 a bite.
Considering the economic climate, value is a bigger issue than when Garces’s other restaurants opened. And there are a number of dishes at Chifa that, while delicious, are dramatically overpriced. A small bowl of doughy noodles in a chili-infused cream topped with a few small chunks of lobster meat costs $14. A side of wild mushrooms under puff pastry fills only half the tiny ramekin in which it’s served and costs $12. But there are good values as well — like the $22 half chicken with house-made hot sauce. Its moist meat and flavorful, crisp skin make it feel like a bargain. Careful, informed ordering makes all the difference.
For most diners, the sojourn to Peru will be worth the price. After all, it’s not just the lobster meat or wild mushrooms you’ll really be paying for, anyway. As at Garces’s other restaurants, a meal at Chifa is a night out, a form of entertainment, an infusion of world culture, a culinary education, something to brag about the following day. The chef has earned our admiration and our trust. Under his direction, we’ll happily taste things we’ve never heard of before and pay for the privilege. And as long as the food stays this good and the restaurant is this much fun, we’ll follow him to whatever corner of the world he goes next.           

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  • Carey

    While Chifa does use the name given to Chinese/Peruvian food served in the land of Macchu Picchu, Chifa is more fusion food, combining tastes from several S. American countries. Not to mention that Garces is Ecuadorian, not Peruvian and given the strained relationship between the two countries over the years (wars, territorial fights, etc… which has left many on both sides still bitter, just ask a Peruvian) it is interesting that this restaurant is being promoted as a true trip to Peru. Yes, it has Peruvian influences, but it is not 100% the real deal. It would be interesting to know if there are any actual Peruvians working in the kitchen. Peru's food is absolutely spectacular, a little known gem till recently, but, when restaurants like Chifa come out, and the public has the impression this is Peru, this is Peruvian food, well, it will take other restaurants from the star chefs who are Peruvian to crop up to give it a real run for the money. At the very least, Peruvian food is gett

  • Carla

    I ate at his restaurant and think his food IS DELICIOUS… inspired in the chifas, the ones we find in Lima square. But we have to remember that chefs always have to add their personal twist to any meal they make.

    A peruvian girl!!

  • Chuck

    For God’s sake, the restaurant is not about a Peruvian political statement or strained ties with Ecuador. For that matter, if the well-informed reader wanted to be more accurate they should have mentioned that Garces is actually American-born (raised in Chicago). It is his parents whom are Ecuadorian. The point is though; why the heck does it matter? Were Philadelphians complaining at Alma De Cuba that hes not Cuban, at El Vez & Distrito that hes not Mexican, Amada that hes not from Spain, or at Tinto that hes not from the Basque region???. If you want some fantastic food in a fantastic setting then go to Chifa and enjoy, if you need something more authentic, then by all means hop a plane to South America.

  • Luisa

    El Balconsito I and II, is good.Pollo a la Brasa (call before 11:30am to reserve you Pollo, because after 12:30pm is gone!!), cebiche ok also, jalea is good, parihuela it is one of its best. In my opinion, Chifa Restaurant is not authentic Peruvian food, I did when i Garces fusion is interesting but not enough to compare with Peruvian taste.
    Sol del Peru, forget about it, never recommend this Restaurant, sorry but not. I will try to go a new restaurant The Chicken House in newark, Delaware (Red Mill Shopping Center), my friends told me that its good and have a variety of peruvian dishes.