China Chilcano blends Peruvian cuisine with Chinese and Japanese influences

The aeropuerto dish at China Chilcano — Jose Andres’ just-opened Peruvian meets Chinese meets Japanese restaurant in Penn Quarter — is poised to become one of the newbie’s most popular offerings. Spanish for “airport,” the name of the traditional Peruvian dish has more interpretations than the final episode of “Serial.”

One staffer says the broad pile of fried rice, noodles and nearly 20 seasonal vegetables is so named because it’s wide enough to land a plane on. Another believes it’s because the dish has so many different things happening at once, much like an airport. And one says it’s because nearly any ingredient can land in it.

Etymology aside, the dish is a prime example of the hodgepodge of flavors happening at Andres’ latest small plates spot.

Though seemingly incongruous, the menu at China Chilcano is a celebration of Peru’s diverse culinary heritage, which is intertwined with Chinese and Japanese cuisines (known in Peru as Chifa and Nikkei, respectively) following an influx of immigrants in the late 19th century.

“There are so many different cultures within Peru’s culinary world,” says Ruben Garcia, the restaurant’s director of culinary creativity. “We’re celebrating the major ones within the country.”

That explains why dim sum appears on the menu alongside sushi and ceviche, and why the impressive collection of pisco (a grape brandy common throughout South America) is complemented by a strong sake showing. The cocktail program is overseen by Juan Coronado, the beverage director for all of Andres’ restaurants. Expect seasonal fruit-infused pisco cocktails and variations on pisco sours, the signature, frothy South American drink made with citrus, egg whites and bitters.

Not even the decor is safe from a jumble of cultural influences: Above a tatami table (floor-level seating arrangements popular in Japan) there are fluorescent lights in the patterns of the Nazca Lines (huge line drawings of unknown origin etched into a southern Peruvian desert).

The restaurant — which has been in the works since Jose Andres visited Peru for a culinary conference in September 2013 — maintains that despite the mishmash of influences, China Chilcano is above all else a Peruvian restaurant.

“We’re not a Chifa restaurant, and we’re not a Nikkei restaurant,” Garcia says. “We’re a Peruvian restaurant keeping a strong cultural tradition.”

China Chilcano, 418 Seventh St. NW; 202-783-0941,

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China Chilcano blends Peruvian cuisine with Chinese and Japanese influences
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