In the heart of Liberdade, we give you one top Chinese. Just a hop from the nearest Metrô, Chi Fu was once known for being a bit rough and ready decor-wise; but they’ve cleaned up their act impressively, with a radical nine-month-old reform. An elevator carries an almost exclusively Chinese clientele between the two golden floors, wallpapered with mesmerising images of the Forbidden City.
Sea cucumber? Lobster? Unidentifiable photograph? The exotica comes at a price (up to R$180 or so), but for the mains, Chi Fu is luxuriously cheap. There are a paltry 201 dishes to choose from on the telephone-directory-sized menu – it’s just that if you can’t speak Mandarin, it’s going to come down to pointing at the images on the menu. We pointed at several, and got a huge carp with ginger, steamed mustard leaf, battered shrimp, and rice noodles with mixed seafood.
The carp, dressed in splashes of green shoots and water chestnuts, swam happily in oceans of gingeriness; but it was the noodles that were the big sensation, for their humble but go-back-any-day-of-the-week sweet sauce and generous mix of fishy morsels.
Chi Fu does the business for the locals, and it did it for our gang too. This isn’t exactly the place for a romantic date for two – the circular tables are vast, and six diners at each is the minimum. Get there early, too, or you’ll have mops washing the floor around your feet after 10pm.