I’ve always known Alfonso Zhicay, the Ecuadorean culinary star behind Woodside’s Casa del Chef Bistro knew his way around ceviche, but it took a pandemic and a vegetarian ceviche of all things to fully convince me.
Like many chefs, Zhicay has pivoted during the pandemic, launching a new concept called PapaViche, a collaboration with fellow Ecuadorean Chef Humberto Guallpa of Freemans. I wanted to do only potatoes and then he said, ‘what about with ceviche?’” Zhicay said. “Potatoes and ceviche, why not let’s do it.”
Opening night at PapaViche.
When it comes to ceviche I tend to prefer the bracingly citric Peruvian version to the soupier and sweeter tomato-based Ecuadorean version, but Zhicay’s shrimp ceviche—listed on the menu as Alfonso’s Ceviche—knocked my socks off. The plump shrimp lounged in an orange liquor that was as bright as a gazpacho, but also had an incredible depth of flavor. “It’s a twist. It’s not exactly Ecuadorean ceviche,” Zhicay says noting that one of the secrets to its depth is roasted tomatoes that are added to a shrimp shell consomme. (more…)
Hugue Dufour and a crack a team of other Queens chefs, and myself take over the Beard House.
Queens has hit the culinary big time! Of course some, myself included, would argue that the borough has always been a big deal when it comes to food whether authentic regional Chinese cuisine, stellar Mexican seafood cocktails, or brunch at an haute bizarre Canadian steakhouse. There is perhaps no greater hallmark of culinary fame though than recognition by the James Beard House, which is presenting the First Annual Queens Cooks this Sunday evening, and has been kind enough to ask me to act as emcee for the evening’s festivities. (The dinner is sold out, but you can put your name a on a cancellation waitlist by phoning 212-627-2308). (more…)
Alfonso Zhicay brought farm to table cuisine to Woodside.
As someone who’s been eating in Queens for more than 15 years I can safely say that I’ve never encountered a restaurant quite like Casa del Chef, an Ecuadorean-owned farm to table bistro around the corner from Filipino fast-food purveyor Jollibee. The chef in question is Alfonso Zhicay, who made his bones at places like Bouley and Union Pacific, and worked with Dan Barber for many years. I’m so very honored Chef Zhicay will be cooking alongside two other Queens culinary superstars Huge Dufour and Danny Brown at The Catskills Comes to Queens on August 1. Zhicay was kind enough to take the time out of his busy schedule to answer seven questions, including the accidental road to chefdom.
I’m so honored to have you participating in The Catskills Comes to Queens. Tell me about the dish you’ll be preparing August 1. It’s a seasonal favorite with our customers that combines savory and sweet: braised short ribs -cooked for 10 hours with lots of tamarind, fruit chutneys, Madeira wine and bay leaves.
What inspired you to open Casa del Chef? For many years I have been working with wonderful chefs in world-class restaurants. I have been looking for the right opportunity to open my own place where I can fully express my skills and passions in a cozy neighborhood setting.
What are some of your favorite ingredients to work with? There are so many, but a few of my favorites are sherry wine vinegar, basil oil lemon dressing, and of course fresh vegetables. (more…)