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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

El Chalan

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Foggy Bottom

The Setup

With the typical two hour wait for Founding Farmers, Official Girlfriend of DCWD Texas and I took another couple friend out to Peruvian restaurant El Chalan down the street.

The Vibe

El Chalan sits in a quasi-basement in a converted townhouse; the upper level is a nail salon. Its decor reflects this inauspicious setting. The furnishings are spartan, simple white paint with some South American knickknacks here and there. All in all, though it still feels a little perfunctory, as if the restaurant was put together in a few hours a decade ago, and hasn't been redecorated since.

The tables are basically on top of each other, no matter the size, so there isn't much room for privacy.

The Food

To start, Texas and I split a basic ceviche (fish, shrimp, conch, squid). Unlike other ceviches, this wasn’t so much a mishmash of cubed seafood as much as it was almost like a ceviche sampler: a mussel here, a shrimp there, all on a bed of calamari, like some lemony fish salad. It was fine, and I’m sure authentic, but lacked anything to make it remarkable (Heat? Flavor contrast? Bueller?), other than its reliance on acid (I get it, you have to cook the fish, but maybe lay off the gas a little). The other confusing part was its sides: a chunk of sweet potato, some giant corn, a stray leaf of iceberg. Weird.

For our main course, I ordered the lomo saltado especial (stir-fried steak with fried potato, onion, and tomato, and served with rice). This was an improvement over the last dish, with a nice hint of soy sauce flavor and a strong decision by the kitchen to let the potato wedges soak in with the sauce. It was enjoyable to the extent that a person enjoys salt, meat, and potatoes.

That person not being Texas, she ordered the tilapia, served fried and topped with creamy shrimp sauce. For Texas, the dish was unmemorable, decently cooked but a little on the overboard side with the sauce. Nothing that we would have to come back for anyway.

The Verdict

Perfectly adequate South American food, but nothing crazy.

Food Rating: **
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 2 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Bar Rating:
Quiet Drinks
Calm to chatty
(out of 5) ($75-$100 for two)
: After some pisco sours, head down to GW's Lisner Auditorium: the Flamenco Festival is back in town.

El Chalan on Urbanspoon

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