When hype meets reality (which rarely if ever happens, hello government, looking at you) great eating is in the offing. And at Chimu Peruvian the hype only tells half the tale. While everyone in LA (besides The Monster) may be clamoring over Picca Peru, it is this unassuming order at the counter and eat at picnic table restaurant that should be garnering the kudos.
Situated besides the Grand Central Market on Hill Street downtown, this is an area of LA long bereft of a destination restaurant. And that the restaurant that should make one travel here doesn’t even have a roof and shares its pavilion with a confluence of startlingly aggressive pigeons, the homeless and food connoisseurs and cognoscenti is all the more remarkable.
A chalkboard lists the ever changing menu at Chimu. On this day there is a duck leg escabeche that is awfully tempting. Also an ocean trout with corn pudding, barley and English peas proves a possibility. But when talking Peruvian food, The Monster decides to start with what might be the national dish of the nation, pollo a la brasa. A half chicken grilled with a delicious garlicky skin and moist meat beneath. The Chimu version is served with papas fritas (fries), coleslaw and aji verde. Also ordered is a Chicha Morada, purple corn tea.
The tea has an incredibly refreshing yet hard to pinpoint taste. It is neither abundantly sweet nor totally tart and salty. Tamarind drinks come to mind when trying to relay Chicha Morada and its attributes.
Given the location, Chimu is only open from eleven to six which means lunch crush can be brutal. Weekends and off hours are a better bet to get food quickly and to be able to snag a seat. On this day The Monster shares the area with three people having conversations with themselves, two of which are sitting at the same table but unaware of each other. It’s a sad reminder of the realities of life in LA. There are quite a few Peruvian families milling about which is always a good sign. And there is even a person with a long lens camera snapping pictures of his food. A gentle reminder that everyone it seems writes about what they eat and where they go. The Monster considers introducing himself then remembers he is not a friendly person.
Being right beside Grand Central Market The Monster bemoans the fact that Los Angeles doesn’t have something like the Quincy Market in Boston or even the North Market in Columbus, Ohio? That’s right, Columbus, Ohio has a nicer food market than LA. And if anyone thinks The Farmer’s Market or Santa Monica Place are good stop reading and just give up.
When the food arrives The Monster may be heard audibly moaning. He may have scared a family with young kids forever as he begins an all out assault on his food. He may be seen licking his fingers with his eyes closed and a grin on his face.
The chicken is perfect. The dish is actually served with a second aji, a huancaina. A cheese spread usually used over potatoes, the combination with the chicken is just ridiculously fantastic. The cole slaw is tangy, not creamy which is perfect for The Monster. And the fries mixed in make this an ideal meal.
Given the chef has worked at both Mo-Chica and Lazy Ox (two Monster favorites), this nouveau look at Peruvian food and its pedigree perhaps should come as little shock. What will be shocking to many is that one of the best meals to be had in Los Angeles right now will be one you’ll eat with plastic silverware.
Why go? You look kindly on your time feeding the pigeons.
Monster rating: 4 ½/5 Monsters
324 South Hill Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013