In the US, Chinese cuisine is commonly associated with being cheap take-out food. But there’s a lot of creativity, quality ingredients, and effort to make great Chinese dishes that’s beyond the typical chow mein or fried rice. The new Peruvian-Chinese restaurant Chifa in Eagle Rock reinvents that old perception by sharing original family recipes.
I first learned about Chifa through Instagram when the restaurant first opened. The pictures of the restaurant immediately caught my attention. I also love Peruvian food, so seeing it combined with Chinese food motivated my boyfriend and I to make dinner reservations for a Saturday night.
Chifa is family owned and ran by brother Humberto Leon, mother Wendy Leon (aka “Popo”), sister Rica Leon, and brother-in-law John Liu. With Wendy, the mother being Chinese and their father being Peruvian, meals at home always featured food and influences from both cultures. The restaurant’s menu offers guests a selection of the family’s home cooked recipes from Peru, China, and Taiwan. Humberto and Rica were at the restaurant when we ate and they were super nice and were happy to take time to chat about Chifa!
The name Chifa is also part of the family’s Peruvian roots. All Chinese restaurants in Peru were called “chifas”, which came from the Cantonese word “chi fan” meaning to invite people together to eat. “Popo” Leon actually opened the family’s first restaurant in 1975 back in Lima, Peru. Chatting with Humberto, we learned that there is a big Chinese population in Peru, which has led to a lot of Chinese ingredients being adopted into Peruvian cooking. The Leons eventually immigrated to the US and settled in Highland Park, Los Angeles in 1977. Rica shared that they chose to open Chifa in nearby Eagle Rock because they wanted to celebrate their upbringing in the area (and because there’s so much more happening on the East side of LA).
For dinner, we ordered the Si Yao Chicken (half free range chicken poached in Wendy’s soy sauce and served with garlic rice), Char Siu (wood fired pork toro marinated in house made Chinese BBQ sauce), and Dan Dan Mian (noodles with spicy Szechuan sesame sauce). The Si Yao Chicken was the house specialty that was a dish Humberto and Rica enjoyed eating growing up. The meat was really tender and the accompanying sauce was delicious. It reminded me a bit of Chinese roast duck. The Char Siu was my favorite dish of the night! It was so good, with the meat having the perfect texture and a smoky taste from the wood fire. I’m still thinking about it right now as I write this blog! The Dan Dan Mian was solid, but it was a little salty for me. My boyfriend like it though, even if it was a little spicy for him.
The menu also featured revolving specials and collaborations. For dessert, we got the Lavender Jade Moon Cake, which was a collaboration with local LA jellycake maker Nunchi. There was even also a special bun collab with Ali Wong!
As I mentioned, I was first captivated by Chifa’s decor. Even though we couldn’t eat inside due to COVID-19 restrictions, the restaurant was set up like it was ready for diners. We were encouraged to check it out, which made me happy. Humberto is the co-founder of trendsetting fashion brand and store Opening Ceremony and the former Creative Director at Kenzo, so he brought his eye for design to Chifa. There’s a big heart shaped window at the very front and zebra print wallpaper decorate the inside walls. Green was the main color theme and was used in the custom built chairs and tables. I also loved the accents of gold that were used in the cutlery, giving Chifa a totally modern and innovative spin on a Chinese restaurant. “Popo” Leon even added her touch by selecting the flowers on each table.
Overall, we had a great time at Chifa and I definitely recommend checking it out. I love that it felt like an exciting new take on a Chinese restaurant, but still held true to traditional flavors. It’s not a fusion restaurant at all, trying to force different dishes together. It’s an authentic representation of what Chinese food was like in Peru. Beyond the food, the service was great and we appreciated that the actual owners took the time to chat with their guests. Chifa is one of the coolest new restaurant in LA! Hopefully, it makes people think differently about not only Chinese food, but Asian food in general.
Currently at the time of this blog, Chifa is only opened for dinner service from Friday to Sunday, from 4PM-8PM. When we visited, the restaurant was only in its second week of service, as it was only opened for takeout/delivery for several months.
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Address: 4374 Eagle Rock Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041
Hours of Operation: Fri-Sun, 4PM-8PM (hours will probably expand as COVID-19 restrictions lift)
Parking: Street parking
- Reservations are highly recommended. Outdoor seating is pretty limited, and when the beautiful dining room eventually opens, there’s going to be a lot of demand. You can make a reservation through their website.
- Street parking is not hard to find.
- Their restrooms are super cute with a heart shaped mirror!
- Great place for groups as the dishes are served family style. The more people, the more to try!