27 Nov La Chinesca, Melbourne CBD
Situated in the basement of historic Harley House on the corner of Collins & Exhibition Streets, La Chinesca is a bar, eatery and art space. Though La Chinesca is a bar, co-owners Vincent Fantauzzo and Robert Hargraves also wanted a strong emphasis on food. Chef Daniel Salcedo has moved on from a Chinese and Mexican menu to a Peruvian one, inspired by recent trip to Peru for the Mistura food festival. Being a Peruvian native, Salcedo has been yearning to bring his native cuisine to Melbourne after previously working at Rockpool and also spending time at Piqueos, Melbourne’s first Peruvian restaurant. There are large booths, couches and stools to accommodate different preferences and the exposed brick walls are decorated with interesting artworks, giving the space a mood perfect for anything from lunch break meals to casual hangouts. Candles and low hanging lights also create an intimate feel. The menu is broken up into Rompebocas (bite-sized morsels), Peruchos Criollos (larger dishes), Los Antichucos (Peruvian charcoal grill), Extras (sides) and Azucar Y Dulces (Desserts).
The rockling ceviche was quite tangy, which may not be to everyone’s tastes, but I liked it and it was well balanced with the squid, which was only lightly floured.
Conveniently served in porcelain soup spoons, the glistening scallops were tender, with some creaminess, salitness and a little hit of chili making this my favourite of the dishes sampled.
The meat skewers were cooked nicely. I had my first taste of beef heart and it was surprisingly beefy. I suppose the heart is a muscle so I shouldn’t have been that surprised. The meat fibres were more dense than regular beef, but it was still tender and I actually quite enjoyed it. Those fluffy, crunchy chips were also most delectable with the mayo and ranchero sauce.
With some excitement we dug into the short rib, straight from the parrilla grill. The meat was so soft it cut through like butter and the seasoning and smokiness made this so moreish. The carapulcra may not look like much, but boy was it tasty. I’m not sure what spices were used, but it was reminiscent of mum’s five-spice pork stew. It was almost like comfort food for me, despite the fact that it’s the first time I’ve tried it.
Sandwiched between the pieces shortbread was fig jam and manjar blanco. It just melted on my tongue – I’ve never had such crumbly shortbread before. A few hours in and the place was buzzing, with live salsa band Del Barrio NYC Rhythms providing some tunes for people to enjoy the atmosphere or participate in some dancing – there’s also the possibility of La Chinesca hosting salsa classes in the future. The versatility of La Chinesca makes it a good destination for a great night out.
Disclaimer: I was invited to dine at La Chinesca as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.
Harley House Basement
Rear 71 Collins St, entrance via Strachan Lane
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
(03) 9663 8333