Latin American street food at CHE.
IT’S as Australian as Vegemite, though less divisive – that mysterious, moreish, guilty pleasure of ingredients that it pays not to think too deeply about, apart from how delicious it makes chips taste.
But chef Alejandro Saravia has spent a lot of time thinking about chicken salt, creating his own to sprinkle over handcut, skin-on chips at CHE. Grinding roasted chicken skin to a powder with seaweed and salt, it makes a winner of a roasted Peruvian-style chicken dinner at this handsome new Fitzroy diner.
From the team behind CBD’S San Telmo and Pastuso restaurants, CHE (Spanish for “mate”) follows in the South American footsteps serving chicken, helados (ice cream) and empanadas.
That chicken is marinated for 48 hours in a blend of chilli and Peruvian dark beer before cooking over charcoal, delivering a super-succulent bird.
The quinoa salad almost dared me to order another half chicken or a meatfilled empanada. It’s hard to make friends with salad, especially one packed with this much raw kale, no matter how many golden beetroots and pickles it comes with.
But it not all penance for the vegos. The corn and cheese empanada is definitely the pick of the lot (that also includes smoked beef and chicken versions), the hefty pastry filled with juicy kernels in a molten pool of cheese.
And Argentina’s gift to sweet tooths the world over – caramel dulce de leche – here comes in brilliant soft serve form, lovely as is in a cup or cone, even more impressive when doused in Malbecsoused blueberries. Bring on summer.
Sweet, authentically accented service ferries those chooks and chips to tables inside the diner and to the streetside courtyard where sunny afternoons have cold beers and the best people-watching this side of the Yarra covered.
With a tight offering of Argentinean wine and beer including Quilmes, CHE promises good times and (almost) guiltfree chicken salt. Mate, get on board. 296 Brunswick St, Fitzroy, che.melbourne.
FROM TOP A selection of dishes, including the roast chicken, and the dulce de leche soft serve with Malbec blueberries.