One of my good friends from uni is half Peruvian, but prior to this week’s visit my only knowledge of their cultural exports were pisco sours and Paddington Bear, and I’m pretty sure that Paddington is more of a British invention anyway. I also know that they have very good seafood from the Pacific coast and strong cultural links with Japan with a smallish ethnic Japanese community living there. But that is the extent of my knowledge so far.
In Berlin I was surprised to learn that there are enough Peruvian restaurants for another blog to have written a post about eating Peruvian in Berlin. We chose the newest and closest of these options; Chicha on Friedelstrasse in Neukolln. Approximately three minutes walk from our front door. 🙂
‘Chicha’, according to Wikipedia mostly refers to a fermented corn drink, mainly from Peru but also from other parts of South America, which is often linked to ceremonial occasions and rituals. Urban dictionary agrees but also offers it as a Puerto Rican word for lady parts, an alternative name of Peruvian cumbia music or a the leftovers of a Venezualan spliff. I guess this newly opened Peruvian street food tapas bar was going for the first option although we didn’t see any versions of chica to drink so we cannot say for certain.*
The decor was pretty minimal and very in keeping with the cool street food vibe. It seemed to be deliberately sparse in order to let the food do the talking. The menus featured four sections; cevicheria, Andean specials, lava stone grilled meats and fried street food. They had some decent sounding cocktails and really well priced Ratsherrn craft beer at 3.50 a bottle. The South American import beer was a bit pricey so we opted for the craft beer. After consulting with the Australian waitress we chose four dishes priced at 7-9.50 euros each with two fish dishes and two meat. Later we also opted for a rice dish after it arrived at the next door table looking delicious.
The first dishes that came were mixed ceviche and marinated scallops. Both were beautifully presented and we couldn’t wait to taste them. We found them to be really delicious but also challenging and interesting as they were accented with new tastes and different flavours and textures and you really could see clear Japanese influences in these raw fish dishes. The scallops were marinated in a ponzu sauce which is from Japan and had orange shavings on top, they were beautifully fresh and a pleasure to eat. The ceviche had tuna, octopus, king prawns in a tiger milk sauce which is a lime fish sauce used tradtionally for ceviche, it also had plantain chips and corn adding an extra textural dimension. So far so good if at bit expensive at 9.50 a dish.
grilled pork neck
(Captain) beef heart
The meat and the rice followed and these for the most part felt like better value for money with bigger portions. Again they were really tasty especially the grilled pork neck which just melted in your mouth and had been perfectly barbecued. The beef heart was perhaps the one disappointing note, there was nothing wrong with it and it tasted hearty as it should but it was maybe a little chewy and didn’t wow us like the others. The rice was a welcome addition meaning we wouldn’t leave hungry and tasted like a really good version of the best Asian fried rice with a fried egg on top, and prawn & pork running through it. We really enjoyed our meal at Chicha and although it left a bit of a dent in our wallets it felt like good value for the quality of the cooking and ingredients. I now know more a bit more Peruvian food and exports and like what I know. I am looking forward to taking my friend here when he comes to visit and getting his opinion on the authenticity of this delicious street food.
Date of visit – 18 November 2015
*correction – apparently they do sell it but we were too distracted by the craft beer to notice.