The Hits Keep Coming (and Going) at Chimu Downtown


If you work Downtown and saw the L.A. Times write up of Chimu last week (the new Peruvian place in the Grand Central Market) you must have run right out and tried it.  I know I did. Twice. Despite being a take out window just outside the Grand Central Marketplace, the menu of modern Peruvian cuisine is a bit out of my price range (“entrees” are $10-13) but I couldn’t help but splurge. The chef’s pedigree is top notch- he used to work Lazy Ox, another acceptable Midtown Lunch splurge, and Mo Chica, the Peruvian restaurant that was clearly used as a model for Chimu’s concept and menu style.  But the dishes themselves are mostly unique and changing every day.

The dishes the Times called the standouts are available every day, and likely will be for the foreseeable future.


As promised the tongue (which is now $11, up from $10 when they first opened) is deliciously tender, and perfectly complemented by lentils in a cool yogurt sauce- although the first time I had the dish last week it came with a less complementary savory bean mixture (likely the same one that comes with the pork belly.)  They claim that the menu is constantly in flux based on available ingredients, but it’s more likely they just ran out of lentils that day. With the lentils, it’s the kind of dish that will make you wonder why you don’t eat tongue all the time.


The pork belly ($11) is listed under appetizers, but it could be considered a small entree (lord knows it’s rich enough!)  especially if you are sharing a number of things in a group.  It’s as crisp and fatty and excellent as everybody says.


But even better is the lamb belly ($11), also listed under the appetizer section.  Just like the pork belly, the texture is most excellent but it’s the curry-ish “black beer sauce” that puts the dish over the top.  I also love how they include a bit of the same popcorn/radish mixture that gets mixed into the ceviche. Interestingly enough, the price for this dish went down a $1 since the original menu was printed.  (It started at $12.)


Not surprisingly it’s the Peruvian “standards” that are the least impressive at Chimu.  The lomo saltado is more traditional than the semi-deconstructed version at Mo Chica, but still leaves me longing for the greasy mound of meat and potatoes you get at Mario’s.  And while Chimu’s green sauce had a beautifully subtle flavor, it lacked that punch in the face I always look for in my aji. That being said, the chunks of beef were a much higher quality than what you get from the places around Cahuenga, and were perfectly cooked. And at $11 it’s the closest thing to a filling Midtown Lunch you’re going to get at Chimu (because lord knows I’d never order the $10 vegetable saltado.)


Just as there will be people who will love the lomo saltado, there will be an equal number of people in love with the pollo ala brasa ($13).  Brined to a salty perfection, the chicken is wonderfully flavorful and juicy.  But what you gain in moistness you lose in crispy skin. And there wasn’t the strong smokiness that Peruvian rotisserie chicken usually has.  In other words, if you’re the kind of person who peels the skin off of your roast chicken (it should be a crime) you’ll likely love this version.  If you like the smokey, crispy skin you get at Pollo ala Brasa on Western and don’t mind sacrificing a bit of moisture to get it, you should skip Chimu’s version.


Considering the chef’s stint at Mo Chica it’s no surprise the ceviche is also amazing, but they took it off the menu this week while they worked on the two new dishes that are debuting today. Drumroll please…


Are you kidding me?  I should have waited and gone today.

And therein lies the beauty of Chimu. If the first month is any indication, it will be awhile before we get sick and tired of this place.  Sure, they are still working out the menu and service kinks. For example wait times can get a bit too long for a place that doesn’t have waiter service and some will think the menu is too expensive for a outdoor take out window in the heart of Downtown.  But the level of cooking is top notch, and has easily launched Chimu into “Best Lunch at Grand Central Market” territory

The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • I love Mo Chica but don’t have time to drive from my office downtown to the Mercado Paloma.  This is perfect!
  • I don’t mind paying a little extra for fancy restaurant quality food
  • Been eating at the Grand Central Market forever, and so excited to have something new
  • Lamb belly and pork belly are my favorites, and Chimu cooks them perfectly.
  • What’s better than lomo saltado made from quality chunks of steak?  Nothing, that’s what.
  • The most important thing to me about rotisserie chicken is that it isn’t dried out, and this version is super moist
  • Everything is fatty without being greasy.  Perfectly executed food.
  • So excited to try the new dishes they come up with every week

The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • Food from a take out window at Grand Central Market shouldn’t be this expensive (I don’t care how good it is)
  • Takes way too long! They need to work the kinks out in the kitchen
  • How can you have pollo ala brasa without crispy skin?  I’ll stick to the original Pollo ala Brasa on Western
  • I don’t like fatty meats, like lamb belly and pork belly.
  • I don’t like my Peruvian food all gussied up.  I’ll stick with Mario’s, thank you.
  • Did I mention it’s too expensive?

Chimu, 324 S. Hill St., 213-625-1097

Located on Hill just outside the Grand Central Market. 1 hour free parking in GCM parking structure on 3rd and Hill with validation.


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