Peruvian restaurant Canchita at Dempsey Hill brings a fresh new taste of Peru and greater Latin America to Singapore.
For the longest time, Latin American food in Singapore meant Mexican or Tex-Mex cuisine. In recent years though, other Latin American F&B concepts have sprouted. We saw the introduction of modern asado BoCHINche in 2015 – and more recently steakhouse FIRE at 1-Atico – championing Argentinian cuisine, while casual Latin American kitchen TONITO gave a broader gastronomic stroke across the whole of South America.
The most recent to open – amidst a pandemic lockdown, no less – is Peruvian restaurant, Canchita. Named after the signature Peruvian snack food of roasted corn nuts, Canchita aims to showcase authentic Peruvian cuisine to Singaporeans, and at the same time bring familiar comfort to the Latin American expatriate communities living here.
Caveat. We’ve never been to South America, so we can’t profess to know what is bona fide Peruvian gastronomy. What we do know is that while Canchita head chef Tamara Chavez is originally from Mexico, her stints alongside (now husband) Peruvian Chef Daniel Chavez at the now-defunct contemporary Spanish restaurant OLA and TONO Cevicheria have likely shaped and honed her overall Latin American culinary chops at Canchita.
And we’re loving it.
As expected of any proper restaurant dedicated to Peruvian cuisine, there’s ceviche. Canchita offers various iterations of that Peruvian specialty. There’s the Ceviche Clasico for those who prefer it traditional, or the house special Ceviche Canchita, which adds purple corn chips and grilled octopus for more texture and flavour. Our favourite of the lot? The Ceviche Mixto, which comes with frittered calamari.
We wouldn’t normally think of ordering meat skewers, but don’t miss the Antichucos here. The beef and chicken skewers are wonderfully marinated and redolent with flavour, kissed with char but still tender within.
Then there’s the Lomo Saltado, literally ‘dancing beef’. A tribute to the Peru’s sizeable Chinese community, it references the action of ingredients – in this case, chunks of beef tenderloin – being tossed in a wok. While really just a Chinese stir fry atop some thick-cut fries, it’s hearty and comforting.
And true to Chef Tamara’s Mexican roots, there are tacos offered at Canchita. And they are excellent, a cut above those offered at most Mexican restaurants in town. The Tacos of Love, for example, features fluffy corn tortillas that’s filled with an eclectic melange of chopped chorizo, prawns, tomatoes and dressed in spicy adobo sauce and piquant pico de gallo for the perfect bite.
But we reserve our strongest praise for Canchita’s Arroz con Mariscos. This signature rice dish of Chef Tamara’s is a hat tip to her time in celebrated Lima restaurant El Mariscos, and as its name implies is chockfull with seafood. Think seafood paella, but with beautifully melded flavours that are elevated from the use of Peruvian panca chili, tomatoes, crab butter, and white wine.
Like its food, Canchita’s drinks programme is also strongly Peruvian, if not Latin American, in focus. Its wines predominantly hail from nearby Argentina and Chile (alas Peruvian wines aren’t widely exported), with some from Spain as well. There’s the Catena Alta Chardonnay from Mendoza, Argentina that will go swimmingly well with almost any seafood-based dish. For pairing with meats, the Cabernet Sauvignon-based Haras de Pirque Hussonet Gran Reserva from Chile’s Maipo Valley is a great bet.
There are some excellent cocktails too. Since you can’t not have a pisco-based cocktail at a Peruvian joint, we recommend the Pisco Sour Macerado, a strawberry-flavoured sour with a lovely bite from black pepper. Otherwise try the fresh flavours of the Margarita Tamarindo, a tamarind twist on the classic Margarita (with the bizarre addition of some salted black bean brine). And if you love your Daiquiri like we do, Canchita’s Daiquiri comes with a touch of pineapple and mint to enliven the palate.
Located in the quieter end of the Dempsey F&B enclave, Canchita offers a culinary glimpse of Peru and its South American neighbours. We’ve never been to that part of the world (we need to change that once travel permits). But we highly suspect, based on the response of the local Latin American expatriate communities to its opening, Canchita comes very very close to heart and home.
Address Block 9A & 9B Dempsey Road, Singapore 247698 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 5.30pm to 10.30pm Mondays to Thursdays; 11.30am to 3.00pm and 5.30pm to 10.30pm Fridays to Sundays
Tel (65) 8028 1994