Saturday, May 7, 2011

Chala

On the way to  La Noche, Liz, Jason, Sara, Jacho, and I stopped for dinner at Chala, a restaurant at the top of Barranco's Bajada de Baños, the picturesque walkway that descends from the plaza to the seashore, where decades ago there had been a beach club, and a boardwalk and gazebo out over the ocean.


Chala, named after a small fishing port about halfway between Lima and Arequipa, labels itself as a "Coastal fusion" restaurant.    It's chef, Israel Laura, seems to be one of the few in Lima exploring Ferrán Adria-style "molecular" cuisine, playing with the coast/ocean theme by incorporating foams into the repertoire.   However, he manages to do so without the foams and mousses becoming the main element of the dishes in which they appear.

For example he accompanies tequeños -won-ton crisps surrounding a meat and cheese filling- with an ocopa foam which takes a commonplace, very familiar Peruvian sauce, and transforms it into something unexpected through the simple application of air.

Another instance of the judicious use of foam is the Tungurahua.  It is one of a selection of "Molecular cocktails" on the drinks menu and is named after one of Ecuador's most active volcanoes.   It is presented with a layer of a pisco and strawberry foam sitting magmalike under a layer of clear soda.   The red foam "erupts" through the soda upon mixing.

Another nifty dish, and a tasty one too, is the Chita en su nube.  "Chita" is a type of fish of the Anisotremus genus, a type known in English as scrod - yeah, I know, go figure.   The word "nube" means cloud, thus the name of the dish translates as a "chita fish in its cloud".  The "cloud" referred to is a puff of oak smoke held over the plate by a plastic dome.   When the dome is lifted a the table, the smoke escapes dramatically, leaving behind a pleasant woodsmoke smell which infuses the fish and its accompanying vegetables and sauce.

video 

The menu is one the more inventive ones in Lima, and in emphasizing seafood, airiness, and by physically lightening up traditional dishes, offers a refreshing contrast to the Novo Andina fusions which often rely on thick Andean sauces.

Chala definitely merits a repeat visit.




Chala
Bajada de Baños 343
Barranco - Lima


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