After many years of walking past this small Peruvian/South American restaurant, I finally found a companion willing to join me for a taste of their menu. Located at 20th and I Street, NW, (2 blocks from Farragut West metro) El Chalan is a small basement restaurant with one small dining room/bar area which leads into a second larger dining area, decorated enough so you dont fell like youre in a basement.
The meal started with a glass of unknown house chardonnay and the Bolivian equivalent of a whisky sour, which was indeed sour with a nice little kick, and a basket of white bread with a touch of sweetness. For the first course, I tried the fish broth soup, a bowl of clear richly flavored broth with bite size chunks of firm white fish. My companion and I then split a plate of mixed cheviche, with shrimp, mussels, squid and the same firm white fish. The cheviche was strongly lemony and mixed with a tangle of red onion, lettuce, corn, sweet potato, and small bites of hot pepper (a bit hot for my companion). While the fish and seafood was nicely tender, it was maybe a touch strong for some with lemon and the dish would be better served with a nicer presentation and less garnish.
The main course consisted of an on the bone chicken breast served in a thick rich wine sauce with carrots and rice. The wine sauce was nicely countered by a scattering of raisins. The second dish was goat stew, three knobby chunks of goat meat on the bone again with a richly flavored reduced sauce which matched well with the gamey flavor of goat. The goat in places was wonderfully tender, without falling off the bone but in spots the meat was on the chewy side.
El Chalan is a moderately price restaurant frequented by the embassy/World Bank crowd. Service was friendly and prompt, although only three tables were seated. Dinner of 3 drinks (a glass of wine, a mixed drink, and a beer), 2 apps and 2 main courses ran $54 with tax. With more than a handful of interesting sounding dishes to choose from, El Chalan is a nice place for a relatively inexpensive meal when one wishes to venture off the beaten path.