Humberto Leon's Chifa Offers a Taste of the Peruvian-Chinese Cuisine
The cofounder of Opening Ceremony has opened a family restaurant in LA.
Chifa, a term used to describe Chinese cuisine in Peru, became Wendy Leon’s culinary focus when she opened her restaurant in Lima in 1975 while her son Humberto Leon, cofounder of Opening Ceremony, was only four months old. The family migrated to Southern California just a couple years later, in pursuit of the American dream. This meant that Chifa had to close its doors. However, fast forward to 45 years later, and after allocating two years to perfect the design concept of its dining space, the family restaurant is back and better than before, continuing its legacy with the inception of Chifa LA.
Located in Eagle Rock, just north of Downtown Los Angeles, Chifa is instantly recognizable for its inviting, monochrome green exterior as well as its signature handcrafted heart-shaped window, one of its most notable design characteristics. “From Chifa, With Love” is scribbled along the window’s perimeter, fitting for this fine-casual establishment that truly serves food straight from its heart.
It’s no question that Humberto, who’s known for being co-creative director at Opening Ceremony and formerly KENZO, has exceptional taste and a superb eye for detail. With assistance from architect and friend Michael Loverich, he proposed a unique design concept for the interior of the new restaurant, which oozes various shades of green that symbolize good luck in Chinese culture. The walls are also adorned with a funky black and green wood grain print, a wallpaper design that Humberto created in collaboration with Calico.
Pulling visual inspiration from concept artist and industrial designer Syd Mead, the dining room possesses an incredibly retro-futuristic feel. Sourced by Humberto in Paris, gold-hued fortune cookie-shaped chandeliers suspend over the dining tables, while other avant-garde lighting complement those statement-making fixtures. “The perimeter glass spheres are sourced from the 1970s from all around the world. They are by Koch & Lowy and I love them,” Humberto told us.
You’ll also be enamored with the whimsical, curvilinear tables crafted from recycled acrylic, which Humberto designed himself. “I wanted something that was repurposed but also had the elegance of mahjong tiles,” he shared. There’s flatware to complement the curvature of the marbly, minty tables as well — the gold spoons, forks and knives are all designed by Izabel Lam. Wavy, statuesque vases dress the tables with vibrant pops of color.
Complemented by chunky, colossal gold legs, the velvety “love seats” are simultaneously playful and elegant. “The chairs have a heart-shaped butt, and I wanted something that just draws you in. There’s something so subversive about the chairs. They look like marshmallows,” Humberto said, adding that he wanted to explore the juxtaposition of childlike furniture and quality materials. Heart-shaped motifs also decorate the custom terrazzo flooring, which contains a mixture of glass, sea shells, pearls and other pebbles.
Chifa continues its legacy by serving delectable, modern Peruvian-Chinese dishes. In addition to providing warm, engaging service and inspiring customers with its design ethos, the restaurant is building a tight-knit community with special collaborations. Earlier this year, Chifa teamed up with Solange on a shrimp fried rice inspired by the singer’s childhood memories of having Chinese food in Texas. The restaurant also collaborated with artist and cake connoisseur, Lexie Park of NÜNCHI, to create a stunning jelly corn dessert.
For Angelenos looking for a sophisticated dining experience, read our review of Chifa below.
THIS PLACE IS PERFECT FOR: Getting a delicious taste of the Peruvian-Chinese cuisine. Design enthusiasts will also appreciate the stylish interiors of the eatery.
WHAT YOU SHOULD ORDER: Chifa is not only an aesthetic and visual treat, but also a culinary delight. It’s clear that Chifa understands the (gastronomical) assignment, as the restaurant was chosen by Conde Nast Travel as one of the best new restaurants in the world in 2021. The restaurant’s recipes are infused with natural and organic ingredients, without sacrificing authenticity and taste. Its menu, featuring comforting Peruvian-Chinese dishes, is modernized with a hint of American flavor.
The business is truly a family affair, with Humberto as the creative director and unofficial beverage director, and his sister Ricardina as the CEO. Ricardina’s husband, chef John Liu, is in charge of the kitchen, with recipe contributions from other family members. The Black Sesame Cheesecake Tart ($7 USD), for example, is Wendy’s grandson’s recipe, while the YoYo Good4u drink ($9 USD) can be credited to Humberto.
“We’re serving our heart. If it’s not the best, we don’t put it out,” said Wendy, who’s affectionately called “Popo” by her children. Some of her personal favorite dishes include the Si Yao Chicken ($29 USD), Brûlée Char Siu ($17 USD), Lomo Saltado ($31 USD) and the Braised Spare Ribs ($21 USD).
We sampled a smorgasbord of items that included the Pollo Ala Brasa ($25 USD), a roasted chicken that’s dipped into a dry brine for 24 hours to achieve maximum flavor, served with crispy golden French fries and a spicy Peruvian aji sauce. Meanwhile, the Braised Spare Ribs, one of Wendy’s recommendations, were caramelized in soy sauce with golden sugar. Both dishes were incredibly tasty.
OUR FAVORITE DRINK: The YoYo Good4u drink is known for its health-oriented properties. Infused with Manda, basil seeds and matcha yogurt spritzer, the beverage was very refreshing.
4374 Eagle Rock Blvd,
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Tiffany Harrison is a multifaceted creative who is skilled in visual storytelling. She immerses herself in artful endeavors within photography, prop styling, product design and creative writing. Tiffany’s work is very conceptual and is inspired by contemporary art, which she is truly passionate about. You can connect with Tiffany on her website and Instagram.