If you haven’t heard of ‘that Peruvian restaurant in Moseley’, Chakana, then where have you been for the past two and a half years bab? Everybody’s talking about it.
Chakana made OpenTable’s list of the top 100 restaurants in the UK last year, the only Birmingham restaurant to be included. Critic Jay Rayner gave it rave reviews stating “it’s all kinds of fabulous”, and after my recent visit I threatened Twitter followers that if they didn’t book a table I would eat my beret. Thank you friends for saving me from dry mouth, indigestion and regret.
On a Friday evening in January, I booked their Peruvian 9-course tasting menu priced at £60 PP. Located in an old bank on the Alcester Road in Moseley and run by Michelin-starred chef Robert Ortiz, Chakana is stylish and underrated. Stark white walls dressed only with pops of vibrant artwork, Chakana is a sleek and modern salute to traditional Peruvian fare. As I take my seat, I feel comfortable right away thanks to the friendly welcome from our server. Within five minutes,
our Peruvian experience began with a pre-dinner cocktail priced at £8.50. James had the Chakana Pisco Sour and I opted for the Melon Pisco Punch, the perfect little taster of what was to come. Our spirits were certainly lifted!
The first dish was the Peruvian quinoa corn bread with rocoto chilli tigers milk yoghurt which was a great introduction to Peruvian cuisine.Combined with the yoghurt it was light but tickled the taste buds perfectly. Now I want more.
Next up was the Tuna Quinoa Nigiri served on quinoa instead of rice, one mouthful and it was gone, just like that but was incredibly satisfying. The tuna was zesty fresh and the quinoa a perfect replacement for the traditional sticky rice.
The course that many people rave about is the Sea Bass Ceviche with tigers milk, sweet potato and canchita corn. I had a bit of a Ratatouille moment, one bite and the whole room fell silent, I zoned out, all that mattered was that dish. I don’t think I have ever had an experience like that, it was incredible and possibly the best fish dish I will ever have.
Service is sharp if perhaps a little speedy as they rarely give you a break in-between courses. I didn’t mind this, I don’t like waiting for food but a word of warning for those who get full up easily and like a break. After the Ceviche which is a tough dish to top, we were served the hand-dived orkeny scallop tiradito with Andean chillies and it was well up for the challenge set by the ceviche. It was sweet and punchy, a dish that doesn’t look like much but my god, it packs some phenomenal flavours. It’s just a shame there wasn’t more of it.
After the scallop dish, we noticed that the time between courses seemed to be getting longer as the room started to fill up. From a 5-minute wait between courses it became a 20-minute wait and a bit of a pain in the arse to try and grab someone for a drink. I could see there were only three staff members on that night with a full house of diners, so we understood and carried on with our night but made sure to two order two drinks instead of one!
Next course was the Asparagus Causa which was a nice refreshing dish with an organic egg, It was a bit of an unusual dish and not my favourite but was pleasant enough. The Pisco poached red mullet was packed full of flavour and I found myself constantly moaning “Mmm!” for the whole minute it took me to finish it. So far, the dishes were pretty quick to eat and with the waiting time getting longer I couldn’t help but feel very hungry in-between courses.
Up next, the 24 hour confit suckling pig (the only meat dish on the menu) was cooked to perfection. The meat fell apart easily and each mouthful was like a box of fireworks going off in my mouth. It was a definite second favourite and I was thankful they offered a bigger portion of this dish.
Now I am not a dessert person at all. Although I am partial to a pack of Lidl’s chocolate pretzels time to time. But Chakana reminds me to treat myself and explore variety. A chocolate bomb is not exactly adventurous as M&S seem to be flogging them every Christmas, but Chakana’s 75% Amazonian Domm with blue potato jam was a clever and dramatic way to end a tasting menu and the Petit Fours were the cherry on top of a delightful evening.
Service was great at the start, within 10 minutes we were served a cocktail and our first course however as the evening progressed the waiting times got longer but is understandable as the restaurant was packed and I could only see three staff members serving. Can dishes get Michelin stars? Because Chakana’s Ceviche should definitely have one. One thing that may not be everyone’s cup of tea was 80% of the dishes were swimming in sauce. Now for me, I didn’t mind it as long as it’s full of flavour I don’t really care, but some people may end up desperate for something crunchy and crispy.
Exciting, vibrant and plentiful, Chakana is compelling throughout and is worthy of all the praise it gets.
Book your experience here