ALAMEDA -- Webster Street's Chicha Contemporary Peruvian Bistro is bringing a mix of cultures to the Island with its recipes for food, drink and fun. The restaurant, which opened several months ago, recently hosted several special events and has plenty planned for 2014.

"We want to bring cultural traditions from Peru and other parts of Latin America to Alameda, not only food," said owner Carolina Yong. "This means lots of music, tango dancing, salsa night, foreign movies and more."

Like cooking, producing culture takes creativity, energy and drive, and Yong said one of her aunts was considered "the mother of criollo cuisine" in Peru.

"She was known as an artist," she explained.

Right now, Peruvian food is attracting lots of attention, Yong said, and for good reasons.

"It's one of the trendiest, gastronomically speaking, worldwide, because of its multicultural influences. It's probably the world's first fusion cuisine," she noted.

Peru, the birthplace of the Incas, was colonized by the Spaniards. Slaves were brought in from Africa, and immigrants came to the Andean nation from different parts of Europe, as well as from China and Japan.

"One item on our menu is Inca tabouli, made with quinoa, bell pepper, pine nuts and huacatay," a Peruvian herb that's like black mint, the restaurant owner said. Some of Chicha's special holiday dishes, she said, are "a fusion of traditional European recipes with native accents from Peruvian cuisine, like pork loin served with rosemary-infused pisco sauce."


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Picso, Peruvian brandy made from grapes, is the key ingredient in many cocktails served at Chicha. The restaurant itself gets its name from a popular drink made with fermented and nonfermented corn. Chicha morada, for instance, is made from purple maize that is boiled with pineapple and cinnamon.

One of Chicha's chefs, Peta Robles, is known for sharing her talents in and out of the kitchen, Yong said.

"She is fantastic at making stews, traditional dishes and desserts, and she is one of the best female percussionists from Peru," the restaurant owner said. "She comes from a very musical family."

Yong, who comes from a culinary family, is pleased that her son, D'artanyon Siu-Smith is helping at the restaurant with the office operations, as well as with special events and other activities.

"We have a vision for more cultural events and sharing diversity with Alameda," he said.

Before Christmas, the restaurant invited Peruvian musician Rosa Los Santos for a night of traditional Latin songs. It also hosted an evening of salsa dancing. On Sunday, Chicha will partner with Rhythmix Cultural Works to present a night of flamenco and Latin American treats. Food served that evening is set to include adobo de chancho (marinated pork roast), rice and glazed sweet potato.

The restaurant also invites the community to reserve a spot for New Year's Eve. Along with champagne, some items on the menu are ceviche passionado, which is yellow ahi tuna with passion fruit; empanadas with crab, ricotta, mozzarella and huacatay sauce; roasted pork loin served with Inca tabouli; and grilled mahi-mahi.

Yong said she's upbeat on Chicha's prosperity for 2014, since community support is so strong. One regular customer, for instance, brought in a 12-foot Christmas tree as a gift.

"We like the spirit of Webster Street and Alameda," she said. "It's about helping others succeed."