A chalkboard drawing of a wild-eyed creature pedaling away on a bicycle greeted Chimú visitors on Sunday, along with the word "FAREWELL."
Chimú has closed its doors, or rather, its take-out windows, which served up steaming plates of chancho, lomo saltado, pollo a la brasa and seco de cordero.
On Saturday, Chimú's last day, chef Mario Alberto was telling customers, "It's time to move on," accented with a good-natured shrug. "I wish we could have stayed open longer, seen it grow, but I also look at it as moving forward," he tells us.
Chimú, "Peruvian soul food" eatery in Grand Central Market's outer courtyard, was lauded for its inventive take on Peruvian classics. Jonathan Gold described it as "a happy marriage of [Josef] Centeno's imaginative cuisine and [Ricardo] Zarate's aesthetic of elevating Peruvian recipes with modern techniques and fine ingredients."
Alberto has worked with both acclaimed chefs, Centeno at the Lazy Ox Canteen and Zarate at Mo-Chica. Since its May opening, Chimú had won a dedicated following.
Alberto would eventually like to open another version of Chimú, especially as Peruvian food is seeing an upswing. (In his review of Picca, another recently opened Peruvian restaurant, Gold noted that we are "nearing the Peruvian moment in cooking" as Latin American food moves from "folk fusion to full-bore world cuisine.")
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"There's so many different influences in the cuisine: Chinese, Japanese, indigenous, pre-Columbian," Alberto said. "There's room to stretch it out and play with it."
He also pointed out the availability of new ingredients: "There are so many varieties of potatoes, chiles, fruits, like coconut."
But for now, it's "adios" to Chimú. "Sometimes things don't work the way you plan," Alberto said. "I want to thank everybody for the support. Sorry for letting everybody down."
It's unclear what this means for the opening of Red Hill, the Echo Park restaurant in which Mario Alberto is partnered with Local owner Jason Michaud. Alberto was previewing food from Red Hill on Sunday at Silverlake Wine.