Potato salad of the day was bright yellow potatoes layered with crab meat and avocado.
For a while now, it's been bruited that Peruvian food is the NEXT BIG THING. I'm still not sure I buy it as a trend, because I still feel like there's a limit to what you can do with raw fish, potatoes and giant corn kernels. But then I probably said that about Vietnamese too, so what do I know?
In any case, Mo-chica, in the Mercado La Paloma food court (convenient to USC but south of Downtown), is taking these traditional ingredients as far as they can go with an expert hand at combining flavors. The menu is compact, but rotating specials keep things fresh. Since the other stands in the Mercado are closed in the evening, Mo-chica is fairly empty at night, but the marketplace buzzes at lunchtime.
Here's some of the uniformly bright, modern Peruvian dishes we tried:
Ceviche of the day was yellowtail, with a tart, complex dressing incorporating corn, onions and yams. A complementary grilled sardine amuse-bouche had a wonderfully sharp corn and bean-studded dressing.
Aji de Gallina is a stick-to-your-ribs chicken stew with bread sauce and walnuts. It's more of a winter dish, but Mo-chica's version had more going on than the version I had in San Francisco. Use one of the three salsas to provide another layer of flavor.
Salad of the day was a lively mix of barley, lettuce, and plantain fritters.
We also tried the unusual Chicha morada, a tea made from purple corn. The deeply-colored drink has a sweet, fruit taste similar to jamaica. All this came to just $30, which is pretty amazing for this quality of food -- they also use organic produce.
3655 S. Grand Ave.