Casa Chow, the colourful up-tempo sibling of Sasso Italiano, is introducing chifa cuisine to Brisbane at South City Square
Ever heard of chifa? If not, don’t worry. Pretty soon it’ll be the cuisine on everyone’s lips. Next week, the hip hospitality gurus behind Woolloongabba trattoria Sasso Italiano will cut the ribbon on Casa Chow – a neon-lit eatery specialising in Chinese-Peruvian (better known as chifa) cuisine. With kaleidoscopic interiors, a scintillating menu of Chinese-accented Latin fare, a dance beat-propelled atmosphere and enough pisco to fill the Brisbane River, Casa Chow is, undoubtedly, a vibe. It opens to the public on Wednesday July 27, but we’re here to give you a preview look inside. Check it out!
Chifa cuisine isn’t your run-of-the-mill fusion fad. It’s the result of generations of culinary cross-pollination – an intermingling of tastes and techniques that traces its origins back to the first wave of Chinese migration to Peru in the mid-19th century. The cuisine formed gradually, as immigrants working on Peru’s railroads, coastal sugar plantations and in mines mingled East Asian ingredients (think ginger, scallions and soy sauce) with Peruvian produce. By the early 1900s, restaurants serving this hybrid cuisine started proliferating across Lima and Peru at large, eventually becoming a ubiquitous fixture of the country’s dining scene. Aside from the odd dish at some local Latin-inspired eateries (think MAO Latin Dining’s prawn-stuffed wantons and food truck Rojo y Blanco’s lomo saltado), chifa cuisine is still a relatively unknown quantity in Brisbane, which is something that Jared Thibault and Vincent Lombino of surging hospitality group FnB Collective (Sasso Italiano) are looking to change with their new concept, Casa Chow. The idea for Casa Chow has been in the works ever since the group signed on to open a string of food and drink concepts at Woollongabba precinct South City Square, though, to hear them tell it, the inspirational seeds that are now germinating were planted long before. Chifa has long been a cherished food for Jared, as his partner (Peruvian-born chef Fiorella Aguila, who sadly recently passed) ensured the cuisine was a staple in their home kitchen. For Vince, chifa has been on his radar for years, stretching back to his time as part-owner of Chispa, a Miami restaurant famed for doling out delicious food with Spanish, Cuban and South American influences. Seeing an opportunity to properly introduce Brisbane eaters to Chino Latino cuisine, Jared and Vince figured it was the logical next step in their multi-stage campaign to build South City Square’s hospitality offering.
As two gregarious and outgoing restaurateurs, Jared and Vince know the power of first impressions. With that in mind, Casa Chow has been designed to be memorable from the outset. The team has worked with Collectivus, People of Design and Unita to hone in on a visual personality that was vibrant, energetic, unforgettable and, most of all, fun – right down to the finer details like the custom plates and uniforms. Cuba was a major source of aesthetic inspiration at the outset, chiefly Havana’s alleyway bars and buzzing boltholes that seem perpetually alive with partygoers. An irreverent-yet-tasteful design approach hones in on a sense of charming imperfection, with distressed painted walls and vintage fixtures adding a lived-in feel to the semi-open 100-seater space. By day, eyes will likely be drawn to the tiled floors, opaque curtains, custom furnishings and the smooth curvature of the walls and interior portals, all of which create a sense of elegance. At night, the vibe shifts dramatically as the external neon signs and custom LED strip lights engage, bathing Casa Chow in luminous hues while music emanates from the elevated cubby-hole DJ booth. Casa Chow’s curved bar serves as the nexus which the venue operates around, with guests free to nab a seat on the alfresco patio, on a street-facing window stool, at a table in the thick of the action on the main floor, or a curtained booth nestled on the fringe. No matter where you sit, the party vibes are palpable.
At the end of the day, it’s chifa cuisine that Casa Chow hangs its hat on. Executive chef Gabriele Di Landri has tackled the task of curating an authentic and adventurous chifa offering with aplomb, drawing on Jared’s family recipes and dashes of influence from Chispa’s offering to create a share-style menu that flexibly oscillates between (and combines) Chinese and Peruvian flavours. If you’re eager to dive headfirst into a chifa feast, look to Casa Chow’s kingfish ceviche served on crispy wontons, anticuchos de corazon (Peruvian-style skewers) with aji panca molido, chicharron de pescado (crunchy fish fritter) bao buns with aji amarillo mayo, chaufa prawn and pork fried rice, lomo saltado (a beef-strip stir-fry served with chips and rice), and guava cheese cake with salt and lime. Drinks wise, Jared and bar manager Shawn Brown (ex-Kazba) have curated a beverage program boasting Cuban foundations. A quick flip through the drinks list (or even a cursory glance at the back bar) will show off Casa Chow’s razor-sharp focus on rum and pisco. A cocktail list includes six classics and ten signatures that incorporate Asian fruits like mangosteen and rambutan. Highlight sips include the plum pisco negroni, the Casa Scorpion Bowl (a pisco and white-rum based cocktail for two served in a ceramic bowl) and the Chino Latino (made using Diplomatico Planas rum, Chinola, mangosteen, fresh lime, yuzu soda, pineapple leaf and skeleton leaf). Five kinds of pisco sour (made with pisco infused with the likes of pineapple skins, passionfruit and pink peppercorn) are also available, with Casa Chow’s pisco selection featuring notable labels such as Barsol, De Carral, Cuatro G’s and La Diablada. The team has worked with Chilean-born sommelier Dennis Roman to source some South American wines from small producers, while Aether Brewing has once again collaborated with the team on a house beer – a chicha-inspired rice lager made using Peruvian purple corn. Andrew Lewis, music director for QT Hotels, has created a playlist filled with up-tempo Latin influences, with a roster of Latin DJs expected to up the BPM on Friday and Saturday nights.
Casa Chow will officially open to the public on Wednesday July 27. Head to the Stumble Guide for booking info, menu details and opening hours.
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