When I think of the Washington D.C. foodie scene, there are two things I know for sure:
- Washingtonians love to go brunching on the weekends; and
- Chef Jose Andres and his menagerie of restaurants are a hometown favorite.
As a foodie with dietary restrictions, I have even more reason to love Andres’ restaurants beyond their creative menus and consistently delicious food because they across the board know how to accommodate food allergies. With allergen menus, trained staff, and a working knowledge of the intricacies of accommodating allergies and restrictions.
Last weekend, I decided to check out Andres’ Peruvian fusion restaurant China Chilcano after hearing rave reviews from my coworkers. I decided to venture out for brunch on a summer Sunday morning, and couldn’t wait to see if the hype was truly to be believed.
As I was seated, I was impressed that the staff actually read the note in my Open Table reservation that informed them that I was gluten-free. The hostess gave me the allergen menu, which indicates not only gluten-free items, but indicates the presence of other options. To see the full allergen menu, click here to go to that post.
Even with an allergen menu, be sure to let the wait staff know your dietary restrictions and the severity of them so that they can best advise you about what to order. Note that the fryers in the restaurant are shared so items that are fried should not be considered celiac-safe.
As a looked over the menu, I ordered horchata, a nutmilk beverage made with almond milk, quinoa and cinnamon. The thick, creamy beverage was a perfect start to the meal and had a comforting, creamy texture and deliciously rich taste. Notes of vanilla and cinnamon dance throughout the nutty beverage, and I relished every sip of the drink.
I debated among several dishes on the menu but was advised to go for the Tallarin Zen Fe, a noodle dish because of it’s uniqueness. Made with hand-rolled rice noodles, the dish features cilantro, a tomato stew (with pulled chicken), black garlic, Chinese five spice, and I chose to add an optional fried egg. The dish was visually stunning, and that’s only start of the perfection.
The rice noodles are adorable and interestingly shaped, chewy and unlike rice noodles I’m familiar with in Thai food. The tomato stew is rich and robust in flavor, with succulent shredded chicken that is impossibly tender. The cilantro layer between the stew and noodles is bursting with fresh, clear flavor that is uncompromising and made me want to savor every bite. The fried egg was cooked to perfection- not too solid but not overly runny too. It gave the dish the “brunch” vibe I was looking for.
While the portioning seems small, I was filled by the high quality, densely flavored fare. It’s been a long time since I was as impressed as I was by China Chilcano, and when wrapping up my meal was already strategizing my next visit. Each Andres restaurant I visit ups the ante, but China Chilcano it’s safe to say is my favorite of his offerings yet.
For brunch in D.C., my meal was a treat without totally breaking the bank. I liked being able to people-watch along the busy 7th St restaurant corridor, and really enjoyed my experience from entering the restaurant to exiting.
Update 7/29/17: On a return visit to China Chilcano, I tried the arroz a la Cubana. The dish featured a fried egg, tomato, cucumbers, a red onion slaw, potatoes, and plantains all over jasmine rice. The dish is very comfort food-y, and I loved the blend of familiar flavors with less expected ones. The plantains were perfectly sweet and the onion slaw had a wonderful tangy flavor. The cucumber and tomato were fresh and the fried egg perfectly crispy with a soft inside. The jasmine rice- the only Asian influence on the dish- was fragrant and lovey, proving China Chilcano’s whole thesis that Peruvian and Asian flavors are magical when working together. This dish is available for both brunch and dinner/lunch.