New Restaurant Alert: Tamara Chavez to Open Canchita Peruvian Cuisine on May 15
While the proposition to savour Peruvian cuisine in Singapore is not new, it was often limited to a selection, and the odd pop-ups featuring more progressive interpretations. That is why Canchita Peruvian Cuisine, which is set to open on May 15 at Dempsey Hill, will be a welcome new addition to the scene in more ways than one.
“We are planning a menu that customers will want to return for and want their friends and family to try,” Canchita’s chef-owner Tamara Chávez López tells Tatler Dining in a recent interview. The Mexican-born chef was previously head chef at fine-dining outfit Ola Cocina Del Mar and Tono Cevicheria. She had also trained in Peru under chef Rafael Osterling (whose restaurant Rafael in Lima placed at No. 19 on the Latin America 50 Best Restaurants 2019 list).
Canchita’s menu needs to be accessible and offer a variety of options, she stressed. In fact, the range can be divided into five categories; “we have tapas or small bites that can also be served quickly and that customers who visit in the late afternoon can enjoy with their beer—such as canchita, which is corn from Peru”, and the inspiration for the restaurant’s name.
“Tono’s menu was more focused on ceviche and the flavour of the tiger’s milk,” López noted before affirming how Canchita is a Peruvian restaurant with a wider range of options for different times of the day. “And I think it’s important to maintain the traditional flavours … we want to have beautiful plates but with tradition,” she upholds.
She goes on to confirm that the restaurant will also have a selection of grilled items—from beef, chicken and fish skewers to grilled octopus (paired in this case with kalamata olive mayo) that she knows from experience works very well. And then there’s the cold section that star the ceviche and tiradito; the tuna tiradito, for example, is prepared with slice tuna marinated in a house recipe for tiger's milk, topped with Peruvian dried corn and chalaquita.
Another option that Tamara is confident will go down well with the local crowd is the selection of rice dishes that use three varieties of rice from Peru. “We have a dish called chaufa, which is like the Peruvian version of Cantonese fried rice, because there is large population of Chinese living in Peru.” Other popular rice dishes include a seafood rice dish with parmesan cheese that the local Italians contributed.
In fact, given the concept’s comprehensive attention to the flavours and textures that diners tend to crave, it's no surprise that there is a section specialising in all things “crispy”—a fry-station that serves jalea, that quintessential Peruvian mount of battered and deep-fried seafood that you can have with chicharrónes (fried nuggets of pork belly and rind). To boot, there’s also the well-loved yukitas, crispy tapioca croquettes served with aji amarillo sauce, to look forward to.
The main courses star a variety of seafood and meats—the latter includes the traditional Peruvian stir-fry, lomo saltado, as well as a couple of dishes featuring duck. She does however want to highlight the importance of being able to opt for “the Canchita experience”. “We understand that people will sometimes want to spend a bit more to enjoy unique dishes—prepared with top quality produce—that are not found on the menu,” she explains. This is a five-course set menu that is inclusive of a dessert.
It seems no desire or fancy is left unattended—there are in addition set menus catered to the whims of vegetarians or those looking for healthier alternatives, as well as the picky palates of young children in tow. “Parents often ask their children and not their spouse where they would like to eat, yet there are not many restaurants that cater to kids,” she muses, which is why she feels it’s important to design a fittingly attractive menu. She adds, “In the future, when it is safe enough, we want to have activities on Saturdays and Sundays for kids to enjoy the culture Latin America.”
There is no doubt much to love about Peruvian cuisine, beyond the fact that the dishes are healthful and packed with superfoods, López tells, noting as well the culinary influences from four countries—Africa, China, Italy and Japan—that help consumers understand the food better.
The idea is to be able to provide something for everyone, regardless of when they come to dine. But that’s not to say there’s isn’t a strong reason to pair the meal with some serious cocktails, should dad or mum feel then urge. In fact, the cocktail programme will be designed by progressive cocktail outfit, Junior The Pocket Bar. The wine list is equally accommodating with options from around Latin America as well as familiar Old World winemaking regions.