Andina, one of Portland’s pioneers in the local Peruvian food scene since opening in 2003, has been in hibernation mode since the winter, following a series of changes and reinvention in the fall: a passing of the torch to the younger generation, a newfound focus on Andean crops, a creative pastry program, and more.
Starting Friday, May 14, the restaurant is springing to life again with a new street food-inspired takeout concept called Chicha, a return to indoor dining in the near future, and a brand-new chef: Peruvian-born Alexander Diestra, who’s cooked in Portland kitchens for the past fifteen years.
Diestra comes to Andina with a résumé that includes Saucebox and Clarklewis, but this is his first time professionally cooking the Peruvian cuisine that he grew up with. Along with a planned return to indoor dining, the sister takeout concept, Chicha, will focus on the street foods of Lima and Callao. It’ll also draw inspiration from Nikkei (Peruvian-Japanese) and Chifa (Peruvian-Chinese) cuisines. On the menu, look out for dishes like anticuchos (skewers) of beef hearts, chicken, and lamb; cebiche; salchipapa (sausage-topped fries); empanadas; bowls filled with lomo saltado and aji de gallina; and sandwiches served on Peruvian-Chinese min pao buns.
Those familiar with Peruvian food might associate the word “chicha” with the purple corn drink chicha morada, commonly served in restaurants. There's another drink, chicha, that's fermented and has been consumed in Peru for thousands of years. It’s also a genre of Peruvian music named after the drink, which in turn spawned its own style of street art. Diestra plans to draw on the entire chicha culture for his takeout menu.
“To me, the word chicha means an engagement between music and food,” says Diestra in a press release. “I will always remember, before going to a show, getting some street food. Chicha is colorful, chicha is loud, chicha is the experience of street food cuisine.”