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HCMC acquires a distinct Peruvian flavour

Update: December, 10/2017 - 09:00
Sit and drink: The bar and lounge area on the 2nd floor. VNS Photo The Nomad Quynh
Viet Nam News

HCM City’s reputation of having the most vibrant and diverse culinary scene in the country is further retrenched by La Chola de Lima – a restaurant that specialises in Peruvian food. Nomad Quynh tucks in with gusto.

Years and years of cultural blending between its indigenous population and immigrations from Europe, West Asia and Asia has lent fascinating flavours to Peruvian cuisine.

In HCM City, there have been several South American restaurants that served a few famous Peruvian dishes, but La Chola de Lima has stirred up things in a big way.

Located inside the famous food lane at 74 Hai Bà Trưng Street in downtown HCM City that is home to luminaries like The Refinery (French bistro), Au Parc (Mediterranean) and Propaganda (Vietnamese), La Chola de Lima was scheduled to open a long time ago. The construction of a nearby building delayed the opening until early this month.

The restaurant is quite spacious with two floors. There are sitting areas and a bar, and a big balcony on the second floor where you can organize private events. There is also a live DJ on the weekend who gives the place a really fun South American vibe.

The menu is straight-forward and easy to understand even for people not familiar with Peruvian cuisine. There are three main sections for food: Criollo – dishes with Spanish and West African influences made with Peruvian ingredients; Chifa – the culinary fusion brought in by the Chinese; and Nikkei, where Japanese cuisine meets indigenous culture.

For starters, we ordered the Ceviche – one of the most famous Peruvian dishes. It usually consists of bite-sized pieces of white fish or seafood, marinated raw in lime juice and chilli. Not in the mood for seafood, we went for a vegetarian version with palm heart, avocado and tomato. At VNĐ90,000, the portion was a bit small, but all the ingredients were fresh and blended very well to create a really good flavours.

Next, we tried a few different Anticuchos, which are basically skewers. You can choose between chicken, beef, prawn or squid. We got the chicken and beef, each portion comprising two skewers at VNĐ90,000. While the beef was decent, the chicken was amazing – very tender and flavourful. I will definitely order this one again.

Our next dishes were from the Chifa genre. The Lomo Saltado – Wok Beef (VNĐ175,000) is a Peruvian staple, made with sliced beef that is stir-fried with garlic, onion, cumin powder, etc, and served with fries and a bowl of rice on the side. The beef was very tender, and together with the vegetables it made the whole dish perfectly balanced.

Another Chifa dish we tried was the Wanton frito (VNĐ75,000), made with shrimp and pork. This is a good snack with a crispy crust and fresh tasty ingredients.

Small gathering: Palm heart, avocado and tomato ceviche. VNS Photo The Nomad Quynh
Lomo Saltado: Wok beef with vegetables, fries and rice on the side – a famous dish with Chinese influences. VNS Photo The Nomad Quynh

For me, no meal is complete without a dessert. I picked the Picarones with palm sugar orange syrup (VNĐ80,000).

Picarones are ring-shaped fritters with a pumpkin base, and La Chola de Lima’s take on this famous Peruvian dessert is mouth-watering delicious. Hot, crispy and not too sweet, nicely balanced with a bit of sourness from the orange, this has become one of my favourite desserts in town. Another certainty for the next time.

You cannot discuss Peruvian food and not mention Pisco, a type of brandy that is considered the South American nation’s national drink. I had Pisco Sour – a cocktail made with pisco, lime juice, egg white and sugar syrup (VNĐ150,000). It was quite light, refreshing and easy to drink. One for the ladies, for sure.

I can beef about prices being on the expensive side and portions being on the smaller side, but the La Chola de Lima is a welcome addition to the HCM City food scene. It is definitely worth a visit, and chances are you will become a fan of a few new dishes, if you aren’t yet familiar with Peruvian cuisine. If you are, you’ll welcome the chance to revisit it in the city. VNS

 

La Chola de Lima

Address: 74 Hai Bà Trưng Street, District 1, HCM City

Tel: 028 3823 8793

Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 5pm to midnight. Monday closed.

Comment: The first restaurant in HCM City to specialise in Peruvian food, which is a multicultural cuisine resulting from a confluence of indigenous culture with European, West African and Asian influences.

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