Food News


Chifa to open

Chef/owner Jose Garces continues to build his restaurant empire with his newest property, Chifa, 707 Chestnut St. , scheduled to open early this year. Chifa will be Garces’ fifth restaurant, joining Amada, Tinto and Distrito in Philadelphia, and Mercat a la Planxa in Chicago.

The Chicago-born, Ecuadorian-American and Philadelphia-adopted culinary superstar said that Chifa is named after the unique hybrid of Peruvian and Cantonese cuisine found in Peru.

“I am constantly exploring Latin cuisines, and when I began researching Chifa’s, I was fascinated by the combination of these two seemingly different food cultures. But their common ground, such as fresh seafood, liberal seasonings and rice-based dishes, come together in a way that is at once new and comfortingly familiar,” Garces said.

Chifa’s menu will feature a center-stage ceviche bar that sits atop a Chinese apothecary cabinet, a 16-seat gold resin communal table and a lounge for late dining, offering a selection of Garces’ signature small plates.

Highlights of dishes at Chifa will include arroz chaufa con mariscos, a traditional Chifa-style fried rice with Chinese ham, egg and scallion, topped with soy- and ginger-glazed shellfish; aji gallina, a classic Peruvian dish of slow-poached chicken in a spicy sauce of aji amarillo, walnuts and queso fresco, served over confit purple potatoes and garnished with purple Peruvian olives; lomo saltado con conchitas, beef tenderloin marinated in ginger and soy and stir-fried with peppers, tomatoes and bay scallops, then tossed with fried yellow mountain potatoes and cilantro; and roast duck buns, steamed Chinese buns filled with crispy roast duck over foie-gras mousse, garnished with plum sauce, pickled scallions and five-spice sea salt.

Menu items will range in price from $10-$28. Ceviches, featuring 10 specialty items, will range from $14-$24.

Chifa will be open daily, serving dinner in the main dining room on the first floor, the ceviche bar in the second dining room and the lower level featuring a bar and lounge.

For information, call (215) 925-5555 or visit

El Camino Real opens in NoLibs

El Camino Real, 1040 N. Second St., a Texas-Mexico border “cowboy bar” with a turn-of-the-century feel and authentic cuisine drawn from El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, will open early this year.

Leading restaurateur Owen Kamihira, instrumental in the development and expansion of Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties neighborhood with his highly acclaimed Bar Ferdinand, is enthusiastic about the opening of his second property.

The restaurateur is also a noted artist, known for some of the city’s iconic images in restaurants, from the Buddha at Buddakan to the martini olive sign at Continental for the Starr Group.

Traveling to the Juarez/El Paso border with chef Jennifer Zavala, Kamihira was inspired to “put his art and design background to work to bring that desolate, almost-mythic environment to Philadelphia.”

“Crafting a restaurant is like creating a movie set, except that people can actually smell and taste and touch your movie, rather than just watching it,” said Kamihira. “For El Camino Real, I was inspired by my trip down South, and I wanted to capture that dusty desert feeling.”

To realize his vision for El Camino Real, he hired local artists, craftsmen and designers, including Murf Sherman, who carved an 8-foot longhorn skull from a pine tree that adorns one wall; “Prairie Dog” Phil Wax, who created cowboy paintings that are hung throughout the restaurant; and Joe Brenman, who crafted a wooden Virgin of Guadalupe, which will sit in a galvanized steel bathtub illuminated by Christmas lights, beaming beatifically on the scene.

To further enhance the restaurant’s environment, Kamihira used found components for the architectural details and furnishings, such as the main bar that has literally been pieced together from reclaimed oak from a covered bridge in Lancaster and is over 100 years old.

Zavala has created a menu for El Camino Real based upon some of her previous culinary stints and explorations in Texas, California and Mexico, including her own Mexican and Latin heritage.

“Tex-Mex is really a made-up American cuisine; in that area, there are two separate and distinct food worlds, and I wanted to honor and celebrate both on my menu. Our only North-meets-South dish is our mac ’n’ cheese, which combines three Mexican cheeses in the classic American dish,” she said.

A sampling of menu items will include gordita, a puffed masa shell stuffed with beans, cheese and guacamole; tripitas burritos, a border staple of seasoned chitterlings in a house-made soft flour tortilla; wagyu beef brisket, sourced from a Texas ranch and smoked for 18 hours; and house-prepared jalapeño poppers, made from scratch with apricot-red onion marmalade. Dishes will range in price from $3-$22.

El Camino Real will be open daily for lunch and dinner, 11 a.m.-1 a.m., and will serve brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

For information, call (215) 925-1110 or visit

Iron Hill hosts Belgian brewers

Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant, 3 W. Gay St., West Chester, will once again host Belgium Comes to West Chester, the annual event celebrating Belgian beer brew masters, Jan. 24 at 1 p.m. Guests will meet the brewers and discover new Belgian styles.

Chris LaPierre, Iron Hill’s own head brewer, will host the gathering of more than 15 of the finest craft brewers from the East Coast in the tasting of Belgian beers, including the introduction of some new Belgian styles of brewing.

“This is a great opportunity for beer fans to sample the incredible Belgian-style beers being brewed in the region, all in one place. Belgian beers have become so popular that this year, we added a Belgian style to our lineup of Iron Hill house beers,” said LaPierre.

LaPierre himself will pour for the assembled guests his Heywood, a 10-month-old firken of Quadrupel and the last of the Great American Beer Festival gold-medal-winning Saison.

Also, each brewer from Iron Hill’s six other regional locations will bring a Belgian-style beer.

This year’s lineup of representatives from the guest breweries will include Dock Street Brewery, Earth + Bread Brewery, Flying Fish Brewing Company, General Lafayette Inn & Brewery, Harpoon Brewery, Manayunk Brewery, Nodding Head Brewery and Restaurant, Rock Bottom Brewery and Restaurant, Sly Fox Brewery, Stewart’s Brewing Company, Troeg’s Brewing Company, Victory Brewing Company and more. LaPierre said beer lovers will pay as they go until the beer runs out.

Iron Hill’s handcrafted beers have won high acclaim and, in total, received 39 medals from three of the nation’s most prestigious beer events: the Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Cup and Real Ale Festival. In addition, several of their Belgian-style beers have won medals and will be featured at this month’s event.

For information, call (610) 738-9600 or visit