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  • Writer's pictureNina Dudko

Restaurant Round-Up: China Chilcano

What happens when two weirdos attempt to make dinner plans? We have an amazing time enjoying some amazing food, obviously. What did you think I’d say? Well it all started out a few weeks ago where I reached out to my lovely friend Mercedes, who is just a big a weirdo goofball as I am. We felt long overdue for a catch up dinner, so we initially made plans to go to Rasika over in Penn Quarter. Mercedes and I wanted Indian food and I have yet to go there.

Wednesday worked for both our busy schedules and we decided to meet at 5 in front of the restaurant. However, as I was leaving work it dawned on me “I didn’t check to see if they’re open for dinner at 5:00…” since those fancier restaurants close before their dinner service. Guess what—Rasika opens for dinner at 5:30. That put a little blip in our plans, but we’re both flexible. After playing phone tag in trying to meet up downtown, we finally found each other. But, where to eat? With a quick whip of my phone and google maps, I hunted for places in the area (that were open). But then I looked up and saw China Chilcano across the street so we decided to go there instead of wasting more time searching and further activating my food indecision.

China Chilcano is a fusion restaurant combining Latin and Asian flavors. Still semi-early for the dinner rush, the host guided us to a lovely table by the window. I can’t name the art style of the restaurant but it was a colorful backsplash of realism with Latin influence. This could be totally wrong and I’m just an ignorant buffoon, you tell me.

The week we visited this José Andres restaurant, there was a special menu highlight the wines of Peru and to celebrate we ordered a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah blend from the Ica valley—a bold red with a hint of pepper and a powerful blackberry undertone.

Mercedes and I opted to order two appetizers and share an entrée. Turns out neither of us were super hungry. Mercedes ordered the Char Sui pork buns, which I had the luxury of tasting. Fluffy and pretty meaty, these buns exploded with a tender meat embraced by sweet hoisin sauce.

When picking my appetizer, I shouted in glee when I saw these three words on the menu: Xiao Long Bao. Now here’s the thing about me: I am OBSESSED with Xiao Long Bao. They’re these Chinese dumplings but there is soup inside the dumpling—they’re incredible, innovative, and insanely delicious. I first tried them in New Jersey and I crave them 24/7. Be on the lookout for a blog post in the near future on where to find them in the DMV (coming soon to a screen near you). Once I saw these on the menu, I had to try them—research, right? So these six dumplings cost $12—spendier than other places where you can find them.

Xiao Long Bao sometimes comes with a pork filling or a mixture of pork and crab. I’m usually not a fan of the crab filled ones since they tend to be overly pungent and fishy tasting, yet these were mild in their filling flavors. I didn’t detect any crab, though there apparently was crab in the filling. These dumplings didn’t have much soup in them either—just a very meaty filling wrapped in delicate dough. I still ate them all because I enjoyed them.

For the entrée, we shared the Seco de Cordero, lamb shoulder served with canario beans. The portion itself was on the smaller side, but perfect for sharing. Braised to perfection, the lamb fell apart as we picked it with our forks. The beans were interesting, though. Slightly coarse yet mushy simultaneously, a very peculiar texture while eating. The dish fared on the sweeter side thanks to the sauce but with mellow notes of cilantro.

I enjoyed my dinner experience at China Chilcano. Located on 7th Street NW, the restaurant is in the heart of DC, close to a plethora of metro stations. The only gripe I had with China Chilcano is the price. It is a bit on the more expensive side with appetizers ranging from $10 to $15 dollars and entrees ranging from $17 to $25. It’s weird that the higher-end restaurants charge more for smaller portions. No matter, this Latin-Asian fusion hotspot certainly hit the spot!

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