Mercado La Paloma
3655 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Dining date: 4/23/11
Ricardo Zarate’s star has never been brighter than it is right now. Sure, he’s been a rising star chef in the Los Angeles scene for a couple of years now. However, national attention has come in the form of being named a Food & Wine Best New Chef for 2011.
Mo-Chica is currently the only place you can try Zarate’s food (until Picca opens next month). Here, Zarate brings the flavors from his childhood home of Lima (Peru) to Los Angeles. Although I live in a city full of different cultures, I haven’t sampled a whole lot of Peruvian dishes outside of the occasional lomo saltado and ceviche, but Mo-Chica is as good a place as any to do it.
While the menu has a number of vegetarian-friendly options, Chef Zarate was kind enough to create/modify some dishes for my friend Angela as well.
Each table starts with these “corn nut”-like popped corn.
Causa Del Dia peruvian potato salad of the day
This one was made vegetarian, featuring garbanzo beans and avocado. The garbanzo beans added a nice texture, contrasting the soft potato and avocado.
Ceviche Mixto sea bass, shrimp, octopus, scallops
I always get the ceviche here – it’s one of the best I’ve had in the city. This is the first time I’ve seen a ‘mixed’ seafood one, so it was a must-try. Sea bass, octopus, shrimp and scallops were perfectly ‘cooked’ and paired with seaweed, popped corn, hominy. The generous chunks of fish are clearly the star, but it’s also an interesting study on textures as well. Excellent.
This was a vegetarian rendition of the ceviche here. Interesting. It worked well, with the sweet, juicy tomatillos being a nice touch.
Oxtail Risotto braised oxtail, barley huancaina risotto
This is one of my favorite dishes from past visits, and it did not disappoint here. The oxtail is so tender, rich and flavorful. I really liked the barley prepared risotto-style too. It soaks up some of the oxtail “gravy,” making for some really savory bites. The red onions were a good addition as well, adding some fresh crispness to the dish.
Arroz Con Pollo chicken breast, spring onions, salsa madre, sauteed rice
Another good dish here with a nicely cooked chicken breast. It wasn’t overly moist and juicy, but good. The rice was a star – really flavorful, and cooked to a tender chew. Again, some fresh onions topped off these bites.
Quinotto wild mushroom, quinoa grain risotto, crema fraiche
Here we had a sort of risotto using quinoa. The mushroom flavor was evident, while the creme fraiche aided in getting a creamy finish to this dish. Very comfortable.
Passion Fruit Creme Brulee
A solid creme brulee. Smooth custard with a tropical feel to it from the passion fruit.
This was a very good meal here at Mo-Chica. I’ve been four or five times now, and for the most part, it’s been consistently strong. With entrees in the $10-$13 range, this really can’t be beat. It’s a good chance to try something new; given the fact that Peru is a little bit of a melting pot of cultures, I think one might find that many of the flavor profiles are quite familiar.