The Los Angeles restaurant world is always evolving, and at ever furious speeds. There’s a new restaurant every week, it seems, and while we can’t help but look up for a moment when something new comes around the corner, it’s important to remember the good ones that are worth going back to.
It’s always a great time to revisit Mo-Chica, the Downtown L.A. incarnation of which just turned 1 a month ago. And over the weekend, Peruvian Independence Day was the occasion to do just that. From the Deysi Alvarez’s glorious cocktails to Ricardo Zarate’s bold-flavored dishes featuring top-notch seafood framed by exotic ingredients like rocoto, choclo and quinoa, it was a welcome reminder that despite all that, this is an accessible, delicious destination without the fuss near the Historic Core.
While I caught a peek of the new Marina del Rey restaurant’s interior and fare through one of the Best New Chef reunion dinners brought to Paiche by Food GPS (Portland’s Naomi Pomeroy was guest chef), last night was the first time I got a real taste of Ricardo Zarate’s new menu, taking center stage, thanks to a lucky invite to Friends & Family night.
I was loving the weather this past weekend in Los Angeles. At one time, I may have been one of those annoying Midwest ex-pats that complained about “missing the seasons,” but let’s be honest: Heat wave after heat wave into October does not a City of Angels make. We finally get to bring out the boots and maybe even sweaters. Late October is better than never, as they say.
Inspired by the grey clouds as well as the feeling that we Southern Californians will always have one foot in the sunshine, I recalled Mo-Chica’s Quinotto – a quinoa-mushroom dish that invokes the consistency and tastes of a mushroom risotto. Drizzled with parsley-infused oil, this savory dish is perfect for the grey clouds that have been finally adorning our skies.
About a little more than three weeks ago, you may have gotten the Blackboard Eats code for 30% off Mo-Chica. You may have gotten it because you’ve heard about Chef Ricardo Zarate. You may have gotten it because you were curious about Peruvian food. Well if there were a legit Blackboard Eats post that I ever wrote with urgency, let it be this one because your Mo-Chica code is about to expire this weekend.
To start off, there are few things that will draw me into Trojan Land. No, I don’t harbor Trojan bittnerness as a Westwood-bred Bruin; it’s just like anything else. It better be for something specific. Like soul food. Or Chanos. Or the start of The Great Walk of LA. A Revlon Run-Walk or Nike event. Or yes, now: Mo-Chica. Ask Caroline – she was a little skeeved, though neither of us were familiar with the Mercado Paloma marketplace, a food court of sorts. Nancy, who wrote the Mo-Chica post on Caroline’s blog,Â was a pro, though, as a Trojan.
Each entree averages around $10 – which, considering the food, is quite a bargain for how much flavor Mo-Chica packs in each dish. I was especially impressed with the range of dishes with not even a consequence of nutrition value guilt. No dish was particularly heavy, and the thought that I was missing out never occurred to me. I was full, all right, while wanting to chase more tastebud titillations if only I had the capacity to digest them, too. The dishes, which centered around seafood, were perfectly executed in flavor and even portion…you wanted just another bite but knew that the next dish lay just around the corner. That’s how good Mo-Chica is. After all, it’s probably no accident that it’s a repeat mention for @thejgold, who also named it as the Best Peruvian Ceviche he’s had outside of Peru. First things first, I need to visit Peru.
I’ll take Mo-Chica – the contemporary equivalent – in the meantime.
Because I had read about the Ceviche and the Causa – both of which were indeed mind-blowing. But nothing was to prepare me for the Arroz Con Marisco, which was so packed with seafood in every bite (tiny clams especially), I couldn’t believe how deliciously hearty this rice dish was for the flavor and value. I might have to order this dish every time I return, just so I’m sure not to miss any seafood goodness (I am always a seafood pasta kind of girl when in Italy, too).
The special that we ordered this night went beyond our expectations – and I never remember ever having liked Fava Beans as much as I did at Mo-Chica. The fish was perfectly cooked and tender and the sauce had a ton of flavor which bordered on a kind of curry. The texture of the dish had a nice gumminess thanks to the beans, and it became clear that this was a main dish, an entree.
For dessert: Get the passion fruit creme brulee. The top layer was thankfully perfectly torched in our rendition, and the consistency of the custard was super creamy, dense and packed a whole lot of passion fruit flavor. Divine.
So don’t let this Blackboard Eats code go to waste. The entrees average about $10 with the appetizers starting at half that; apply the 30% off and you are in contemporary Peruvian heaven at a bargain.
Mo-Chica 3655 S Grand Ave Los Angeles, CAâ€Ž 90007 213.747.2141â€Ž
Breadbar Century City’s monthly Hatchi series continues in January! The “foodie exhibition” of sorts rotates guest chefs for one-off nights so Angelenos can get a taste of everyone. Thursday, January 28, Hatchi will feature Chef Ricardo Zarate of Mo-Chica fame. Contemporary Peruvian tapas will be served, and if the glowing concensus about Mo-Chica is any indication, reservations will fill up fast.
True to its title, the night will feature eight dishes running $8 each. And if you’re smart about things, you’ll dine with at least a couple others so you can try everything on the menu. (Apologies ahead of time if I underestimate your capacity, perhaps, to single-handedly handle all eight by yourself.) Six of the eight will be savory, two will be desserts. Peep the “Peru Mucho Gusto” menu below (still under revision, subject to change):
KIWICHA CON LECHE Y ESENCIA DE MAZAMORRA Kiwicha coconut pudding, purple corn essence, mixed nuts
Rarely find yourself in the USC area? Have an unfounded aversion to strip malls or do you simply love quality Peruvian food with a contemporary feel? Make your reservation at Breadbar for Chef Zarate’s turn at Hatchi.