Che: it's Argentinian for mate. It's also a handy acronym for chicken, helados and empanadas, the holy trinity of South American street food that forms the core of CHE's menu. The casual restaurant, which opens in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, on August 7, is the latest project from Alejandro Saravia, Jason McConnell and Michael Parker, the team behind Argentine-flavoured San Telmo and Peruvian diner Pastuso.
Saravia brines free-range chooks in cumin, sun-dried Peruvian chillies and dark beer, then spins them for an hour in a custom-made charcoal oven that smokes as it roasts. What results is somewhere between an Aussie charcoal chicken and Sunday lunch in Lima.
Wellness advocates might opt for a quinoa salad cooked in almond milk with pickled cucumber and golden beetroot; the rest of us hand-cut chips dusted in chicken salt made from dehydrated chicken skins and konbu.
The empanadas are all hand-made, and filled with both traditional and idiosyncratic stuffings: minced Gippsland beef, green olives, currants and egg; corn and cheese; roast chicken; and smoked brisket. At $5 a pop, Saravia recommends ordering one of each: "I would personally smash three or four empanadas, no problem."
"Helado" is Spanish for ice-cream, in this case flavoured with dulce de leche. CHE reduces condensed milk slowly and adds a little glucose and egg yolks, then swirls the mixture into a soft-serve cone. Roasted macadamias are an optional extra, as is blueberry and malbec jam.
Saravia has developed a bit of a problem with helado: "We couldn't stop eating it on our last trip to South America," he admits. "Every single day, without joking. We had it every single day."
Open Mon-Tue 5pm-late, Wed-Sun noon-late.
Shop 3, 296 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy