9575 West Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Dining date: 7/1/11
I knew I’d return to Picca soon, but I didn’t think it’d be this soon. Eight days separated this visit from my last (during the Test Kitchen preview), but I was eager to try more of the menu. Add to it the fact that I kept reading positive review after positive review about the restaurant, and a return trip was in order.
We started with a dish from the primera area of the five-sectioned menu.
choritos. steamed mussels, pancetta, aji amarillo butter
This dish was pretty rich and savory with the pancetta and aji amarillo butter. The mussels were nice and plump, and the bread was crucial to mop up the sauce. Tasty.
albacore causa. garlic chip, ceviche sauce
The sushi causa are some of the most fun and playful things on the menu. Zarate’s interpretation of nigiri sushi, a soft, creamy potato is used instead of rice. I enjoyed the bright flavors from the albacore and ceviche sauce in this causa, as well as the balanced garlic flavor from the thin chip.
spicy yellowtail causa. spicy mayo, green onions, wasabi tobiko
Another good causa here, with the fish getting a little bit of spice from an interesting wasabi tobiko. I really liked the addition of the thinly cut green onions as well.
jalea mixta. crispy mixed seafood, tartar sauce
Hard to go wrong with lightly-battered and fried mixed seafood (including shrimp, calamari, sea bass). The lime was instrumental to cut through the fried batter.
ceviche crocante. halibut, leche de tigre, crispy calamari
I thought there was an interesting textural interplay in this dish with the fried calamari and tender ceviche. The ceviche was reliably good, while the calamari was solid on its own. I do, however, probably prefer the ceviche separately, letting the focus stay on the delicate flavors and textures.
seabass tiradito. thinly sliced sea bass, soy sauce, lemon dressing, sweet potato puree
The fish was briefly seared with a torch, warming the flesh a little bit. The sesame oil and soy gave the dish some Asian flavors, and I thought the sweet potato puree really elevated the dish, adding a rich sweetness. I also appreciated the chip, which added some salt and light texture.
We moved onto the anticucho (grilled meats/vegetables on skewers), perhaps my favorite area of the menu.
scallops anticucho. aji amarillo aioli, wasabi peas
I appreciated the nice char, adding some smokiness to the tender and sweet scallop. I thought the wasabi peas were a really cool way to add some heat and texture.
santa barbara prawns anticucho. lemongrass yuzu kosho pesto
This was a repeat from my last visit and for good reason – it was one of the best bites of that meal. It was just as good this time; a little citrusy heat from the yuzu kosho really heightened the sweet, tasty prawn.
corazon anticucho. beef heart, rocoto sauce
Mmm beef heart. It was slightly chewy, kind of like a bigger chicken heart. The rocoto sauce lended a complementary heat, spicing things up a bit.
seco de pato. duck leg confit, black beer sauce, cilantro rice
This was the lone “entree” we ordered. The duck was crispy with a moist interior, though the highlight for me was the really flavorful rice. I don’t think it was just cilantro (I’m not sure what was in it), but it was really savory and soul-satisfying, especially with the duck meat.
tres leche cake.
Lastly, we shared one dessert. I enjoyed the light, milky cake, and the fact that it wasn’t too sweet.
The food on this visit was just as good as my last visit (which was pretty damn good) and I was happy to see the service was much improved. It’s easy to see why the restaurant has been so popular throughout its young life – it’s sort of a modernized, hipper sibling to Mo-Chica. Picca’s food is a welcome change of pace to a lot of the food in LA; Zarate’s cooking is something unique and different, yet still very familiar – exactly why I think it has staying power.