A few weeks back while shopping at Guido Marcello (my favorite Italian market) I ran into chef Ricardo Zarate. After chatting with him for a few minutes, he left me with an open invitation to come try his peruvian cooking first hand. Seeing all the hype online I knew I had to take him up on his offer and go see this new young chef at work ASAP!
Whenever I think of peruvian food I visualize soggy and delicious french fries swimming in a sea of chunks of juicy meat. While that vision is drool worthy in and of itself, the food that Mo-Chica is otherworldly. While the base flavors you'll find at this restaurant have roots in Peru, the soul of the food they're dishing up resides in the heavens.
Mo-Chica is located in the Mercado La Poloma open air shopping center. Inside you'll find a number of hand made craft booths, a juice bar, and other restaurants. The markets surrounded by fake palm trees, and randomly strewn seats and tables. Try your best to imagine the most humble cafeteria environment possible, but don't let the thought scare you away. I too had doubts that a restaurant located in such humble surroundings would be able to pump out food equal to it's 5 star hype. However the meal that followed that initial doubt was otherworldly!
Ricardo Zarate is IMO the Salvador Dali of the Peruvian food world. All of my previous expectations regarding how refined, inventive, and delicious this type of cuisine can taste have been redefined.
Once a month Ricardo goes to town at Mo-Chica with a 5-6 course tasting menu. While i'm sure the regular menu items are delicious, I wanted to experience his culinary vision without the traditional peruvian borders. So with my birthday around the corner I got together a small group to go check it out.
We started with
Cruncy, oily , and addictive pan fried corn kernals. The best way I can describe these little lovable morsels is to say they're like salty, savory, Corn Pops!
Course 1: Locro Soup
This luscious soup is made from sweet japanese pumpkin it has a creamy, buttery flavor with a hint of tangy ginger. It seems everyone tries to make pumpkin soup this time of year, but this was the best I've ever had. It put the pumpkin soup I recently had at Grace to shame. As it arrived we all looked at each other; how do we eat it without spoons? Ya... were stupid like that, we expect spoons, but they set us straight by telling us to pick it up and drink it.
Course 2: Causa
A refreshingly unique dish with a slightly salty savory potato base, topped with sweet delicious little tomato glazed scallops.
Course 3: Tiradito
I'd never had a broth made out of Yozu tomatoes before, but now that I have I think it may just be the perfect pairing for yellowtail belly. Ricardo is also the head chef at a sushi restaurant in venice, so I wasn't surprised when my teeth floated though the yellowtail like a knife through warm butter. The tang of the Yozu reduction was sublime, and balanced this fatty fish exquisitely.
Course 4: Seared Bluefin Tuna
One word WOW, this course was amazing! It was my second favorite dish of the night. It's reduction is made by cooking the Chica Morado purple corn drink (one of three juices they offer you with your meal.)
Course 5: Oxtail
If I was broke and had a kid I'd sell him/her to get money to order this dish; it's a pity it's not on the normal menu. A large chunk of fatty Oxtail which has been cooked for 8 hours, sitting elegantly in barley Huancaino Risotto. I swear, my eyes did circles in my head as I devoured it; and then I sucked on the inner bone marrow, it literally fell apart as I touched it with my fork.
Course 6: Picarones
Pumpkin Doughnuts, with a Chancaca Honey dressing. They were light and delicious.
Everything I put in my mouth was remarkable, dreamy, unique, and inspired; if Mo-Chica existed in Peru I'd imagine people would flock to it in hordes.
After the meal Ricardo was nice enough to come by and chat with us for a few minutes, he's just as humble as the surroundings little Gem of a restaurant lives within. Easily the most exciting flavor rich meal I've had in 2009. I'm certain he'll do great things in the future, clearly he's on of the most talented young chefs in the country.
3655 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90007
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