Updated on December 17, 2020 by Julia
Address: 2/F, 199 Hengshan Lu, near Yongjia Lu // 衡山路199号2楼, 近永嘉路 (Line 1 Hengshan Rd, it’s literally right next to the exit)
Hours: Tues-Sun, 5:30 PM – 10:30 PM, Sat-Sun, 11 AM – 1 PM for brunch
Visited: January 2018
Average Cost Per Person: 200-400 RMB
Colca is nestled in the Former French Concession in an area that houses a number of expat-friendly restaurants such as Garlic. Situated on the second floor, there’s a huge patio near the entrance which will make it a definite brunch re-visit when we get that one month of nice weather between winter and summer. The inside is what you would expect from a Shanghai establishment that averages around 250-400 per head– dark. However, the inside is surprisingly large, so you never feel like the next table is crowding into your conversation as it seems to be the case for several Xintiandi locations.
We went for a celebratory goodbye dinner with a group of people who are adamant that we only eat Chinese food. The only words I can throw around when suggesting non-Asian establishments are Italian, French or the word “tapas.” That’ll get them to perk up. To be frank, Shanghai’s food scene has produced a lot of potential of excitement, but very little to live up to that excitement– to the point where I’ve severely reduced my expectations.
However, I was intrigued by Peruvian food, having only had it once, and have heard great things about both the new opening of Colca and its sister establishment, Azul. I can genuinely say that there were several dishes that were unequivocally impressive to every one at the table.
Since I arrived just before the end of happy hour (used to be 7:30, but I guess it ends at 7 PM now, ugh), I ordered the highly recommended Pisco Sour and Paloma. I’m not connoisseur of cocktails so to me the Pisco Sour was very typical while the Paloma packed too much of an alcoholic punch so no one ended up finishing it.
For appetizers, we started with the don ceviche and the scallop-chia tiradito. The Don Ceviche is a fresh seabass in a pool of classic tiger’s milk, sweet potato and corn, topped with a generous serving of red onion. The scallop-chia tiradito is topped with an avocado sauce, chili and rice crackers laid on top of a generous serving of chia sauce. As noted before, it may be personal preference, but I found both dishes to be lacking in flavor. Both plates just reminded me I was eating “raw” seafood (and I am diehard fan of sashimi)– none of the sauces packed a punch or impacted the fish. This was really surprising to me since a co-worker had gone a month before and said the flavors were almost too overwhelming for her.
However, these were made up by the chicken and truffle and mushroom croquettas. I assumed the insides would be more solid, but they somehow were able to get a thin, crispy outside with an extremely tender and moist inside. It was almost as if cream of mushroom soup was delicately placed into each of these balls. However, I really didn’t taste the difference between the chicken and the truffle and mushroom. If I had any more lack of self-control, I would’ve eaten all 8 myself. Regardless, this is an appetizer I 110% recommend.
Forewarning, the mains are actually quite hearty. I would definitely say each could easily fill up 3-4 people, but we’re a hungry bunch and ended up with three mains which was more than enough to say no to dessert.
The first dish was the lobster seafood rice and I couldn’t have been happier. Topped with a generous piece of lobster, the rice had a great creamy consistency without feeling overwhelming. Previous reviews noted that the lobster rice was too “lime-y,” but it seems like they may have revised the recipe from these reviews as the dish was able to bring a great balance of creamy and peppery flavors.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the lomo saltados. A traditionally Peruvian dish that stir fries marinated sirloin, onions, tomatoes, peppers and fries, this was a 100% miss. This is also a dish that’s harder to live up to my expectations because I’m definitely biased towards what I believe is the best lomo saltados located near the USC campus in LA. The dish is meant to feel homemade and cozy. And although Colca wants to take Peruvian food to a level of fine dining, I didn’t see how they were trying to elevate this dish besides serving it on a nicer plate.
First off, from previous reviews I’ve seen online, there were definitely fries included before, so was the point of elevation removing the fries or did they purposefully leave them off for this dish? Secondly, the meat was extremely tough and chewy and lacked any type of flavor. I felt like I was constantly forcing myself to chew through the cuts of meat. Otherwise, the dish was a greasy and flavorless mess of bell peppers and onions. Furthermore, without the fries as carbs to “sop” up the grease, the side of rice was not proportioned well enough for the amount of meat and vegetables.
We had originally decided to stop there, but there seemed to be room for more so we ordered the seafood cau cau, a traditional stew dish. I think this and the lobster rice are definitely contenders for the top dish. A mixture of shrimp, mussels, and squid in a curry-like mixture topped with halibut, the only thing I wish I could’ve done was mixed some rice into this. It seems like a strange dish to have a table share on its own due to its stew like consistency without a carb base, but regardless, the spices blended perfectly. Halibut, a fish that is quite bland on its own, does well with such a heavy sauce– however, for some, this dish might be too salty. However, as someone who heavily emphasizes flavors in her dishes, this was a great combination.
Overall, I’m not dying to go back. I was impressed with my culinary experience, but I’m open to exploring other places. The seafood cau cau and lobster rice definitely left an impression, but for the price tag, more dishes fell flat than anything else. However, as I said before, I wouldn’t mind coming back to check out their brunch menu. Unfortunately, service was very flat. The restaurant barely had patrons when I first entered, however, it was hard to get any one’s attention. Our waiter seemed unimpressed/unhappy the whole time, and when I asked for his recommendation between two dishes, he simply just noted the name of one without explaining the differences in flavor profiles or what would suit the needs of our table.
I’d say try it to experience the croquettas and lobster rice, but otherwise, maybe try brunch instead?
Would I return?: Maybe for brunch, but not again for dinner, unfortunately