The artwork that adorns the walls of Chullschick is some of the best we’ve seen in Soho in recent months. It’s not just because it’s hilarious (one part features a llama sporting a wig and sunglasses), but because it literally illustrates chef-owner Abel Ortiz Alvarez’s love for his home country of Peru.
On the night we visit the restaurant, a small outfit on the upper stretch of Graham Street, the television is tuned into a travel doc featuring the rolling hills of the country. And then there’s the food, which includes some of the most popular dishes eaten in Peru. The main sell here is the pollo a la brasa, a style of rotisserie chicken that was created by a Swiss businessman in Lima in the 1950s and has since become so popular in Peru, it even has a day named after it.
The original recipe uses a saltwater marinade known as salamuera. At Chullschick, Alvera puts his own spin on the bird by bathing it for two days in a mix of dark beer, herbs and spices. The chicken is then cooked in a custom rotisserie until the skin crisps up and blackens in parts. The meat, meanwhile, remains luscious and tender and pulls clean off the bone in the manner that only really well-cooked meat can accomplish. It’s a shame then that the flavours from the beer-based marinade don’t penetrate deep enough into the flesh, although the disappointment is easily rectified with a smear of aji amarillo sauce.
The portion you order – quarter for $88, half for $138 or whole for $268 – dictates the number of sides you get to choose with your bird, whether it’s a simple green salad or a tangy, delicious coleslaw. The restaurant also offers other popular Peruvian dishes to pad out your meal. The ceviche ($78), for example, is fantastic – an invigorating interplay of salt and citrus starring cubes of seabass and choclo kernels. Also on the menu is salchipapa ($68), a street snack that’s Colombian by conception but extremely popular in Lima and other South American countries. A mess of chopped sausage and French fries drizzled in ketchup and truffle mayo (the latter is an Alvarez addition), it’s the sort of wonderfully lowbrow fare that works because it comforts instead of impresses.
In fact, that’s the general vibe at Chullschick. It’s fuss-free and low-key and has things that are still rough around the edges – the service, for example, is friendly but confused, with staff having to repeat our order several times before finally getting it right. Unlike some of the flashier and more polished Latin American restaurants in town, this one place is perfectly content with feeling like home.