Photos by Clarissa Villondo, Words by Kaylee Dugan
If there’s one thing you should know by now, it’s that Jose Andres is never going to steer you wrong, and neither are any of his chefs. Whether you’re going to eat, drink, or get your hands dirty at one of his restaurants, you’re going to have a good time. If you want to do a little drinking, a little eating, and a lot of learning, China Chilcano’s new ceviche class, an adaptation of Jaleo’s already very popular paella class, should suit you just fine.
Just like at Jaleo, you can expect to enjoy a series of cocktails and lite bites while a consummate professional demonstrates how to cook an A+ ceviche. The main difference between the classes is that the paella class forces you to don an apron and get your hands dirty. Which is perfect if you like cooking, find hands on learning easier, or just have a weird thing for cutting lots of vegetables. The ceviche class is far more hands off. Instead of getting a tour of the kitchen or handling knives, a ceviche station is set up off in a corner of the restaurant where everything is demonstrated for you. If you’d rather let the professionals handle everything, this class is definitely going to be more up your alley.
After being greeted with a delicious (and non-alcoholic) Chicha Morada (made with purple corn, pineapple, and “spices”), we were introduced to head chef Carlos Delgado, who was going to take us through the basics of Peruvian ceviche. He took us through each of the ingredients, explaining their importance to the dish and started blending up the citrusy white sauce. As he explains the basic history of ceviche and the variations of the recipe (which largely depend on your proximity to the sea), small bites of different ceviches were passed around. From the fattier variety (featuring avocado), to the brighter, extra citrusy type. As chef Delgado got to work slicing the fish, it was finally time for a Pisco Sour. If you haven’t had one of China Chilcano’s Pisco Sours yet, you’ve fucked up. It’s a perfect blend of sweet and sour, but what really solidifies is quality are the beautifully blended egg whites, making the drink not only taste good, but feel good.
And just like that, our ceviche was done. Delgado passed out full plates (while a server passed out some refreshing Chilcanos) and it was finally time to get a taste of what he’d been making. It was very good. Incredibly bright and flavorful, the fish was incredibly fresh and was able to maintain its more delicate flavors. The chunks of sweet potato balanced the acidity, while the onion and corn gave a little extra complexity to the dish (and some crunch). During the presentation, Delgado explained that what set their ceviche apart is truly the freshness of their fish and he could not have been more right.