As the business of Bitching and brunching in Washington goes, you know you’ve hit it big when you find yourself doing a José Andrés restaurant crawl with the culinary legend himself. Not that we need to remind you, but José is the owner and chef extraordinaire behind numerous restaurants inWashington, including: Jaleo, Zaytinya, minibar, Oyamel, America Eats Tavern, China Chilcano, the Pepe food truck, and a fast-casual concept that inspires you to eat your veggies, Beefsteak. If that sounded like an extensive resume, he also runs restaurants across the country in Las Vegas, Miami, Beverly Hills, and Puerto Rico.
Let it be said: I am a big fan. So, I apologize if this review is a bit gushy.
The D.C. Bitches were extended a gracious invitation to join him over a late-afternoon brunch at China Chilcano. This was actually our second destination after wine and small plates at Jaleo. Between fork-fed bites from Chef José (yes, that really happened) of his delicious and diverse fare, we learned that he has translated his culinary prowess into advocacy and charitable work through organizations like DC Central Kitchen. Read the full interview with the man himself here.
During what is now affectionately known as our “José Andrés Day” meal, we sampled an impressive amount of the China Chilcano menu, which features traditional Peruvian cuisine that highlights the culture’s Chinese influences. After sipping on the signature (and delightfully potent) Pisco sours, we let the chef do the ordering. Which essentially meant we sampled the entire menu.
First up, was a variety of dumplings, pot stickers, and siu mai, stuffed with succulent combinations of lamb, chicken, scallops and pork. These were all a hit and were repeatedly dipped in the savory with a touch-of-sweet dipping sauces. We loved the Dorado Siu Mai, which was a shrimp, pork, and jicama dumpling topped with a quail egg and flakes of gold. This was one of the most unique and exceptional dishes we’d sampled to date. And this was just the beginning.
We also sampled the Pegao Norteño, a lamb pot sticker with aderozo norteño, cumin, crispy lace (fried in a special fashion and made yellow by yellow Jalapeño.
We also had the HaKao, the steamed glass dumplings with shrimp, pork and soy sauce. These traditional dumplings were the lightest we’ve experienced. Incredibly well done.
Next came several sashimi dishes, including a beautiful live scallop on a half-shell, served with Kumquat leche de tigre, masago pearls, and Tobiko
One of Cori Sue’s favorite dishes was the Nobu, Usuzukuri, or the Flounder ceviche, served with watermelon radish, white soy ponzu, drops of sweet pepper, and Aji limo. This beautiful dish was sweet, fresh, and light—it was impeccably done.
We also enjoyed the beautiful fresh selection of sashimi, which was served in a beautiful marble bowl.
Also stunning was the Unagi, which was BBQ eel, Okinawa purple potato causa, wasabi, and hot mustard.
Continuing on our Asian-inspired portion of the meal, Chef Jose sent out a selection of China Chilcano’s unique varieties of sushi: an inventive twist on a California roll using potato, lump crab, cucumber, avocado and spicy mayo; a BBQ eel roll with purple potato, wasabi and hot mustard; and, finally, a spicy tuna iteration rolled with cucumber avocado, cilantro, aji lime pepper, and the secret ingredient, puffed quinoa.
Thinking we were close to done was a mistake. Before we could even clean our plates, the fried rice and noodle dishes arrived. We were intrigued by the unique and Bitch-first Hong-Kong style flour noodles served in a tomato stew topped with cilantro, black garlic, egg, and a welcome hit of Chinese five spice.
Chef Jose showed off his talent for making vegetarian dishes that are far from boring in an Arroz al Cubano dish, boasting white rice, fried plaintains fried eggs, cucumber, and fried potatoes. Yes, it may have had its fair share of fried elements, but we found that it made for very interesting textures.
The last, but certainly not least, of our savory dishes featured tender and savory short rib, rice, squash, bean puree, and cool cilantro. Although we were stuffed, we kept coming back for more.
We also ate several noodle and rice dishes, including the poor man’s noodle dish—that’s not the technical term—but it’s apparently a staple in the diets of lower income Chinese people, according to José. It was pretty good, too, but not as delicious or nutritious as the sashimis.
The closing act of the meal was one of the most unique desserts we’ve laid on our eyes on in a while, and had the taste to match, too. First up, the dessert was shaped as a snail. Adorable. It was a crispy fried spiral cookie atop chocolate cream, banana, and ice cream. A sweet finish to the most gluttonous meal every. Can we celebrate José Andrés Day ever year?
The Bitches Say: A. This downtown addition to Jose Andre’s D.C. empire specializes in inventive dishes that showed a welcome new-side of international culinary cuisine. The company was pretty good, too.
418 7th St. N.W.
China Chilcano serves brunch Saturdays and Sundays.