Chinese-Peruvian fusion cuisine is now represented in Montreal, with new restaurant Chifa open on de Bleury, under a skilled chef.
It’s headed up by chef Marcel Larrea, who cut his teeth at former Village restaurant Mezcla — with co-owner David Dumay, they’ve set up a modern space just south of Rene-Levesque. They’re joined by David Schmidt (see also: bars Pelicano and Pamplemousse), as the restaurant’s designer and creative director.
This isn’t Larrea’s first foray into the world of Peruvian fusion — along with Dumay and Schmidt, he’s known for Tiradito, right next door, which specializes in Nikkei cuisine, a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisines.
Like Nikkei, Chinese-Peruvian fusion has its own name, and it’s also the name of the restaurant: Chifa. It stems from arroz chaufa, a Peruvian-Chinese fried rice dish which borrows its name from the Cantonese word for fried rice.
While Nikkei is more of a merger of Japanese and Peruvian ingredients and techniques, Larrea notes that Chifa is a little different.
“Chifa is Cantonese Chinese food with Peruvian ingredients,” he says.
Larrea adds that interpretations of Chifa cuisine can vary, and what he’s serving is inspired by memories of his childhood, where arroz chaufa and other dishes were a birthday tradition.
Grill- and wok-based dishes make up a big part of the menu — skewers with duck, chicken skin, and veal tongue are on the menu, with brightly-flavoured daré sauce.
Then there’s perhaps the best-known Chifa dish, lomo saltado — a stir-fry of sorts. Here it’s done with filet mignon, onion, cilantro, and a demi-glace.
Dishes like wonton soup and ceviche also figure on the menu, with some twists — the wonton soup base incorporates more Peruvian spices, while the ceviche goes in the other direction, featuring Chinese five-spice in its marinade.
Much of the menu is shareable smaller plates, with one exception — the “taquitos”. Far from the deep-fried Mexican snacks that the name might imply, these are a house take on Peking duck crepes, with the duck barbecued in house — it’s a dish for at least two people.
Chifa holds a bar license (meaning no under-18s are allowed), and fittingly, has quite a solid bar program. Cocktails, created by bartender Alex King, go right into the fusion approach with options like the Hunan Special, with pisco, “leche de Hunan” (a rice-based drink loosely similar to Mexican-style horchata), and matcha.
With high ceilings and a long, slightly-narrow space, the restaurant feels sharp and modern, without trying to be trendy — booths cut out of warm-coloured wood line one side, and a long bar lined with stools sits opposite; a velvety red pattern on the barstools and booths hints at classical North American-Chinese restaurant decor in a restrained, definitely not over-the-top way.
STATUS — Chifa is open at 1080 de Bleury, Tuesday to Saturday from 5:30 to 11 p.m.