Mo-Chica (Los Angeles, CA) [2]

514 W 7th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014
Dining date: 4/29/13 and 6/25/13

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Ricardo Zarate and business partner Stephane Bombet have been a busy tandem, opening three restaurants in the past two years. Mo-Chica opened just over a year ago, the current middle-child in the growing group of restaurants. Given its downtown location is very convenient to me, I’ve made more than my fair share of visits for both lunch and dinner.

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This post actually covers a recent lunch as well as a visit for their special anniversary menu. The lunch special is something my coworkers and I have partaken in a number of times. It’s a good deal for downtown standards; $15 buys a main course that comes with a couple of small sides and dessert. The latest promotion, slightly more limited, was to celebrate their anniversary – the restaurant served a $27 five-course dinner on Tuesdays in June.

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Paiche (Marina Del Rey, CA)

13488 Maxella Ave
Marina del Rey, CA 90292
Dining date: 4/10/13

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Paiche opened this past Friday, the newest venture from the Mo-Chica/Picca team of Ricardo Zarate and Stephane Bombet. I’d been to Paiche the week before for the collaborative dinner with Naomi Pomeroy (of Beast in Portland), but this would be my first look at the restaurant in its true form. The restaurant opened up for a Friends & Family night to celebrate the grand opening and get a full night’s service under its belt.

Overall I would say the style of the food is very similar to Picca and Mo-Chica, but the izakaya approach presents a few differences. Portions are tapas-sized, sized to be able to share a lot of different flavors. The menu is, by far, the most vast I’ve seen from the team with over 50 items on the menu. The drink side of the menu is equally as large, with almost 20 cocktail options on the menu and dozens more in terms of wine/beer/spirits.

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Naomi Pomeroy @ Paiche (Marina Del Rey, CA)

Naomi Pomeroy (Beast)
13488 Maxella Ave
Marina del Rey, CA 90292
Dining date: 3/26/13

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While it seems like downtown’s Mo-Chica is still a relatively new restaurant, chef Ricardo Zarate and Stephane Bombet (Picca, Mo-Chica) are about to unleash their newest concept Paiche in Marina Del Rey. Dubbed a Peruvian izakaya, the team is bringing Zarate’s Peruvian style closer to the water. I haven’t seen a menu of the new place, though a preview (and what appears to be a few old favorites and a bunch of new creations) is here.

8594769580 52ca2f2c73 Naomi Pomeroy @ Paiche (Marina Del Rey, CA)

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In order to celebrate the grand opening (April 2), Paiche teamed up with Food GPS on a couple of one-night collaborative dinner events featuring a number of past Food & Wine Best New Chefs. The first dinner hosted Naomi Pomeroy of Beast in Portland (2009 Best New Chef) on a 5-course, $52 affair. The second night brought in Jamie Bissonnette of Coppa and Toro in Boston (2011 Best New Chef) and Viet Pham of Forage in Salt Lake City (2011 Best New Chef) on a 6-courser for $62.

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Mo-Chica (Los Angeles, CA)

514 W. 7th Street
Los Angeles, 90014
Dining date: 5/27/12

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Mo-Chica was chef Ricardo Zarate’s first restaurant in 2009, located in the Mercado la Paloma near USC. A lot has changed since then with Zarate being named a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2011 and having one of the bigger restaurant openings last year with Picca. With all of his success, Zarate’s been able to relocate his first restaurant to a much larger location and kitchen (and thus, menu). The new digs are in the heart of downtown at 7th & Grand, steps from the ever-popular Bottega Louie. The grand opening is on the 30th, however I dropped in on one of the soft-opening nights this past weekend.

Since I live and work in downtown, I’ve been eagerly anticipating this opening. Like the former Mo-Chica and Picca, Zarate brings food from his Peruvian homeland, something that still seems to be unique in the already-diverse LA food scene. Also similar to the sister restaurants, an open kitchen offers a view of much of the cooking and preparation – always fun to see.

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Brian Summers and Deysi Alvarez are in charge of the cocktails here (not usual suspect Julian Cox), and we tried a few (from left to right).

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OAXACALIFORNIA LOVE mezcal, tequila, lime juice, pineapple rocoto gomme
PAPA DON’T PEACH banks rum, fresh peaches infused with calvados, peach bitters, simple syrup, lemon juice
THA DOGGFATHER aka PISCO SOUR pisco porton, egg white, lime juice, lemon juice, cane syrup sugar, angostura bitters
TEA-NAGE DREAM oro quebranta pisco, pitta & brendan’s tea

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Smoky mezcal cocktails seem to be all the rage right now and I’m still on that bandwagon. The Oaxacalifornia Love was my favorite of the four with its lingering smokiness countered by sweet pineapple and lime flavors.

arroz con mariscos peruvian seafood paella, salsa criolla

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This is a similar dish to what I’ve had at Picca and the previous Mo-Chica, and found this version to be a strong one. Squid, shrimp and mussels were all cooked well, as was the rice with just a little bit of texture. A creamy sauce brought it all together. The crisp red onions were a theme throughout the evening, adding a bright freshness to the dish.

estofado de alpaca alpaca stew estofado, tagliatelle, aji amarillo sauce, fried organic fertile egg

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I think this was my first time having alpaca; it reminded me of lamb but much less gamey. This dish presented a tender chunk of the meat to go along with fresh tagliatelle and a buttery aji amarillo sauce. A fried egg added some extra richness to the dish.

seco de cordero lamb shank, canario beans, cilantro beer sauce

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We found this to be a generous portion – a sizable lamb shank was slowly braised, leaving tender and gamey meat. The red onions and tomatoes on top did a good job of adding some freshness to cut through the rich meat while the beans and peas were a nice way to sop up much of the residual braising liquid.

choritos a la chalaca grilled chopped mussels, prawns, squid, tomato choclo salsa

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When ordering this dish, we had Picca’s steamed mussels with pancetta and aji amarillo in mind. This was a much different plate where chopped mussels, prawns and squid were placed back into a mussel shell with a citrusy sauce. I found this to be a cool and refreshing dish, though I was still longing for Picca’s mussels.

colita de rez oxtail, trigo de mote, huancaina salsa criolla

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The portion of this oxtail seemed small compared to the lamb shank. However, the meat was deliciously tender and rich, and I really enjoyed the barley risotto which reminded me of one of my favorite dishes at the old Mo-Chica. Some corn nut-like popped corn added texture.

carapulcra peruvian sun dried potato stew, crispy pork belly, chimichurri

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A hearty potato stew was topped with chunks of pork belly. I liked that the pork wasn’t overly fatty, it still seemed somewhat lean yet tender and flavorful. I wished the skin was crispier though as it seemed a little limp. A chimichurri provided a bright accompaniment to the pork.

tiradito de jurel spanish mackerel tiradito, ginger amarillo sauce, garlic chips, sesame oil

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Tender slices of Spanish mackerel were complemented by citrus and ginger flavors, as well as crispy garlic chips. The addition of sesame oil added some earthy depth; a lot of components here, but I thought they were pretty well-balanced.

paiche amazonian fish from peru, ajiaco de arroz, cherry tomato escabeche

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This might have been my favorite plate of the evening. The white fish was moist and went well with the juicy cherry tomatoes; a spicy risotto-like rice base completed the dish.

As expected, our dinner at Mo-Chica was a strong one full of delicious and hearty Peruvian fare; this move adds another good restaurant to the ever-expanding downtown scene. The food, atmosphere and pricing all closely resemble Picca more than the old Mo-Chica, with a number of the old favorites to remind us of the restaurant’s roots. While I’ll miss the seemingly bargain-basement prices of the old restaurant, I’m sure I’ll find myself here more often due to the location and the more complete food and alcohol offerings. It’s open for lunch too, so I’ll have to add this to the lunch rotation.

Picca (Los Angeles, CA) (4)

9575 West Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Dining date: 12/14/11 and 2/1/12

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Generally regarded as one of the top restaurant openings in 2011, Picca has truly been a hotspot since opening in June. It seems that every time I’ve visited, the restaurant’s been packed – boisterous and full of energy. It’s easy to see why; the restaurant has an addicting combination of delicious and interesting food, top-notch cocktails and a unique vibe. It’s still somewhat of a novelty cuisine-wise for many people, and I think that’s some of the appeal – it’s something different.

I’ve dined here on six occasions now; this post recounts the last two visits. The first was in December, a dinner hosted by Steve Plotnicki (Opinionated About Dining). The second was a week ago; originally searching for a DineLA dinner, we ended up just ordering a bunch of plates off the regular menu. Given there are a lot of repeat dishes with previous posts, I’ll just touch on some of the new items and highlights.

Dinner One:

albacore ceviche rocoto-infused ponzu leche de tigre, japanese cucumber

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chicharron de costillas crispy pork ribs crostini, sweet potato puree, feta cheese sauce, salsa criolla

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Rich and savory flavors were at play in this dish, led by the succulent pork and zesty salsa. With some creamy sweet potato and feta cheese, it all came together on a thick toasted bread for some pretty delicious bites.

causa snow crab cucumber, avocado, huancaina sauce
causa spicy yellowtail spicy mayo, gree

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conchas a la parmesana scallops, parmesan cheese, spinach, lemon dressing sauce

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anticucho tomatoes burrata, black mint pesto

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Bursting of juicy flavor, I thought the burrata (warmed slightly) and tomatoes were heighted by just a little bit of smoky flavor. Some mint pesto completed the take on the Italian classic.

anticucho black cod miso anticucho, crispy sweet potato

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The smoke of the grill worked really well with the buttery fish, accented by a  little bit of miso.

grilled eggplant

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anticucho corazon beef heart, rocoto walnut sauce

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Always reliable at Picca, the beef had a wonderful chewy texture and good beefy flavor; some rocoto sauce spiced things up a bit.

arroz con erizo peruvian paella, mixed seafood , sea urchin sauce

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grilled 32oz rib-eye aji amarillo

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I’d been wanting to try this dish for a while, a daily special. Satisfying anyone’s inner carnivore, the rib-eye is prepared sous vide and finished on the anticucho grill – a perfect medium rare every time. The meat met my expectations; it was tender and flavorful on its own…honestly I didn’t even think it needed the aji amarillo side.

seco de pato duck leg confit, black beer sauce, cilantro rice

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alfajores dark chocolate, dulce de leche

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vanilla bean pisco flan

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bonbon churros

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quinoa pudding

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Dinner Two:

Before dining, our friend brought in one of his prized spirits, a 20 year Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.

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Mixologist Julian Cox called this “liquid gold” – I found it to be very smooth, sweet and rather maple-y.

albacore ceviche rocoto-infused ponzu leche de tigre, japanese cucumber

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chicharron de costillas crispy pork ribs crostini, sweet potato puree, feta cheese sauce, salsa criolla

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Just as good as the previous time; this has become one of my favorites at Picca.

causa albacore garlic chip, ceviche sauce
causa spicy yellowtail spicy mayo, green onions, wasabi tobiko

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anticucho tomatoes burrata, black mint pesto

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arroz con erizo peruvian paella, mixed seafood , sea urchin sauce

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Hearty and very comforting, I love the flavor of the rice in this dish. Sea urchin was blended into the sauce, adding a richness and an additional depth of sea flavor.

anticucho corazon beef heart, rocoto walnut sauce

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anticucho beef filet sea urchin butter, garlic chip
anticucho papa a la huancaina potato, quail egg, pancetta, chives

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ceviche mixto mixed seafood, sweet potato, choclo

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tiradito de atun tuna, soy ceviche dressing, sweet potato paste

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pig foot stew

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I actually didn’t know this was pig’s feet until afterwards. The pork was pretty delicious, soaking in its own rich braising liquid with some roasted tomatoes and lime to brighten things up.

bisteck a lo pobre skirt steak, egg, pan fried banana, chickpeas tacu tacu

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choritos steamed mussels, pancetta, aji amarillo butter

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The mussels were pretty tasty, accented by some salty pancetta. I think the aji amarillo butter was what brought everything together, adding a richness and warm peppery flavor to the dish.

oysters a la chalaca pan fried oysters, cherry tomatoes sarsa

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One of my favorites – the oysters were fried and put back in the shell, complemented by the acidity of a fresh salsa.

arroz chaufa de mariscos mixed seafood, peruvian fried rice, pickled radish

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Interestingly, the fried rice was very Chinese in flavor. Topped with a mix of shrimp, mussels and squid, I enjoyed this plate.

seco de pato duck leg confit, black beer sauce, cilantro rice

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quinoa pudding

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I liked these cookies; rather light with a sort of shortbread texture, I think we had a chocolate one and a dulce de leche one.

vanilla bean pisco flan

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Picca has become a reliably good meal; in fact, I think these last two meals were probably the strongest I’ve had here. The execution’s been on point and the flavors spot on. Really tasty. My favorite dishes would have to be the tomato, black cod, and beef heart anticuchos, the always-reliable ceviches (though they can be found at Mo-Chica too), arroz con erizo (Peruvian paella), choritos, oysters a la chalaca, and the chicharron de costillas.

Previous Picca posts:
Picca | (2) | (3)

Picca (Los Angeles, CA) (3)

9575 West Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Dining date: 8/23/11

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Judging by the fact that the restaurant was packed on a Tuesday night, Picca is still one of the hottest restaurants in LA and definitely one of the biggest restaurant openings of the year. My first two trips to Picca were in parties of two, so my dent into tasting the extensive menu was pretty limited. However, on my latest visit we had a party of 6 – clearly, we would be able to try a significant amount of the menu. I enjoyed the food in each of my previous visits, so I was pretty excited to sample some more.

One of the off-menu recurring specials has been this 32-ounce ribeye. I’ve been wanting to try this…but it’s huge. Given that this was everyone else’s first time at Picca, we opted to try a number of other dishes instead. Because I’ve commented on many of these in my past two posts, I’ll just add some overall thoughts at the end.

tuna tartare. tuna, lemon soy dressing, wonton chips

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empanada trio. beef, chicken, eggplant, salad

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jalea mixta. crispy mixed seafood, tartare sauce

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chicharron de pollo. marinated crispy chicken, salsa criolla, rocoto sauce

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conchas a la parmesana. scallops, parmesan cheese, spinach, lemon sauce dressing

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oysters a la chalaca. pan fried oysters, cherry tomato sarsa

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causas: salmon, yellowtail, unagi

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ceviche crocante. halibut, leche de tigre, crispy calamari

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seabass tiradito. thin slice sea bass, soy sauce, lemon dressing, sweet potato puree

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anticuchos: spot prawn, sweet potato, black cod, scallop

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 toro ceviche.

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arroz con erizo. peruvian paella, mixed seafood , sea urchin sauce

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seco de pato. duck leg confit, black beer sauce, cilantro rice

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carapulcra. roasted black cod, peruvian sun dried potato stew, chimichurri

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sudado de lenguado. halibut stew, peruvian corn beer sauce, yuyo

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chanfainita. braised oxtail, mote and potato stew

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tres leches cake.

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chocolate cake.

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Similar to my other visits, I thought the food was strong. While I have always enjoyed the anticuchos (spot prawns!) and causas, I really enjoyed ‘oysters a la chalaca’ with the brightness and acidity in the tomatoes really heightening the sweet oyster. The toro ceviche was one of the specials that evening. Not exactly a ceviche (it appeared to have been seared with a blowtorch), but the fish was good…though I’m not sure it was worth the $26 with so many other items priced much lower. I liked the duck confit too; the duck was predictably tender and savory, and I thought the cilantro rice was an excellent accompaniment. As for the desserts, the chocolate was an off-menu special. The chocolate cake was good itself, but there was a passion fruit-like filling that I really liked with it too.

Previous Picca posts:
6/23/11 | 7/1/11