Hailing from Peru, ICHU brings a bouquet of exotic flavours to Hong Kong. This is the first restaurant in Asia launched by Chef Virgilio Martínez, renowned for his celebrated fine-dining Central restaurant in Lima, named the best restaurant in Latin America three years in a row and now number 5 on The World's 50 Best Restaurants list.
ICHU is named after a plant that grows only in the extreme conditions of the Peruvian Andes, and with the help of Martínez’s head chef, Sang Jeong, a fresh transplant to Hong Kong from his Lima eatery, the two hope that this restaurant concept flourishes on Asian soil.
Unlike Central, which is all about fine dining with an experimental twist, ICHU focuses on contemporary Peruvian cuisine in a relaxed setting. Designed by Joyce Wang Studio with raw finishes, dark, earthy tones punctuated with jewel-like hues and a large outdoor terrace, ICHU channels plenty of seduction.
We recently sat down to taste the signatures of the restaurant, starting with a range of imaginative cocktails courtesy of mixologist Massimo Petovello, whom you might have met back during his time at Bueno Aires Polo Club or aqua.
Clockwise: Espinoso ($130) – blanco tequila, cactus, Sichuan button and aloe vera, Hon-tiki ($140) – pisco, kümmel, Don’s Gardenia Mix and mango, Fauna y Flora ($140) – bourbon, lemon,
hops and goat’s cheese
Clockwise: Camuflaje ($120) – gin, cucumber, lime and seaweed, ICHU Pisco Sour ($120) – saffron-infused pisco, eucalyptus, corn syrup and lime, Signal Rojo ($160) – champagne, pisco, purple corn pudding and pomegranate, Cascaras ($140) – dark rum, cacao, herbal elixir and coffee
We’re not lushes, but we did try a sip from each glass, and our favourite was the Camuflaje for its refreshing lightness. What will put hair on your chest? The Cascaras, which felt like a punch in the throat – not for the light of heart.
A staple of South America, the humble quinoa ($140) was made fancy with juices from spinach and beetroot, dressed with goat cheese’s and ginger sofrito. This was one of our favourites of the evening thanks to its delicious pop and texture.
The pez límon ($180) was a ceviche made with chunks of fresh yellowtail tossed in yuzu vinaigrette and huge Peruvian corn kernels. We loved the chew of the hearty kernels.
A signature of the restaurant, the pargo al rocoto ($160) reflects the Japanese influence on Peruvian cuisine with thin sashimi slices of snapper mixed with celeriac, avocado, red tiger’s milk and spicy rocoto pepper sauce.
We're not big fans of raw beef, although the tartar de lomo con maiz ($140) did go down quite smoothly owing to the combination of Wagyu loin and sweetcorn purée.
What do you do with burnt avocado skin? Easy – crush it into a powder and roll fresh avocado in it. The palta quemada ($100) had us scratching our heads – we couldn’t quite figure out what flavour the burnt powdered skin brought with it. The aji limo chilli peppers and tomato sauce, however, added plenty of flavour.
The pulpo a lo macho ($290) tasted a lot like a stir-fry with tangy tomato sauce. This dish was made with a tree tomato, something we’ve only seen at ICHU. This “tomato” is a classic of South American cuisine and feels more robust than a regular tomato, with a tougher skin and large, sturdy seeds.
Another favourite of the evening, the costillas de res ($360) was a hunk of delicious, incredibly tender beef short rib smothered in coriander-rich seco sauce.
The winner of the evening was the pez Amazonia ($420), a whole sea bass cooked in banana leaf, then drizzled with a delicately tangy tamarillo sauce and corn relish. The sweetness of the fish and delicate tang of the sauce perfectly balanced each other.
For dessert, clockwise: queso de cabra ($100) – goat’s cheese with raspberry sorbet and quinoa, semilla de cacao ($90) – chocolate mousse with popcorn and purple potato, maiz caramel ($90) – pineapple mousse with popcorn and caramel, tres leches ($90) – vanilla, cake and carrot sorbet, chocolate crème with coconut (price TBC), trio of sorbets and ice cream – watermelon, dulce de leche and guava ($90)
ICHU is definitely a restaurant you should try at least once. The atmosphere and imaginative menu are unlike anything we’ve experienced in Hong Kong, and we felt like Alice in Wonderland tasting exotic ingredients such as Peruvian corn and tree tomato. This isn’t comfort food because of the unfamiliar flavours, but it’s certainly something that will expand the palate.
3/F, H Queen’s, 80 Queen’s Road Central, Central, 2477 7717, book online
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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