Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mo-chica's grand opening downtown is today: Alpaca si, guinea pig comes later

Peruvian chef Ricardo Zarate's Mo-chica seemed like a wonderful  find when it opened in Mercado la Paloma south of Downtown three years ago. Zarate was quickly hailed as a talent to watch, and for a while Mo-Chica remained, if not a foodie secret, at least somewhat under-the-radar with its early closing and no-alcohol policies. Then Zarate quickly shot to the top of L.A.'s food scene when he opened the ambitious Picca in Beverly Hills. Now Mo-chica too has grown up, moving from the folksy Mercado to an industrial chic space with a full-bar across from Mas Malo on Seventh St. It's bittersweet in a way, since the sense of a find and maybe a deal too has been lost, but longer hours and a more central location certainly allows many more people to experience Zarate's always on-point cooking, now with delicious cocktails from Brian Summers and Deysi Alvarez. We were invited to sample quite a few dishes from the new menu, which is a bit more compact and casual than Picca's, but with still with plenty of creative Peruvian flavors. Here's a few highlights:
Oaxacalifornia Love, left: mezcal, blanco tequila, pineapple-rocoto; , lime juice and Tha Doggfather, a potent and tangy Pisco sour

ANTICUCHO DE PULPO: grilled octopus, roasted potatoes, jalapeno sauce

CEVICHE MIXTO: halibut, prawns, scallops, squid, red onion, rocoto, leche de tigre, camote

ALPACA ESTOFADO alpaca stew estofado, tagliatelle, aji amarillo sauce, fried organic fertile egg
What does alpaca taste like, you ask? Not as funky as most goat, closer to an earthy beef than to meats in the lamb/goat family. The piquant sauce cuts the earthiness and the fried egg. 
SOLTERITO salad: lima beans, choclo, feta, olives, English peas, queso fresco, rocoto vinaigrette
An odd combo of incredients, and the pea leaves (?) were hard to eat. But the olives, feta, potatoes, corn and peas all played very nicely together.
SANGRESITA: morcilla crostini, fried egg, jalapeno salsa
Not my favorite of the dishes: I've got nothing against blood sausage, but it wasn't a crostini you could pick up like an appetizer, but rather resting on soft bread with a lot of sauce. Just didn't work as a knife and fork dish. (Also, Peruvians really like huevos, but be careful or you could end up with a lot of fried eggs.)
PAICHE: Amazonian fish, ajiaco de arroz, cherry tomato escabeche
Paiche is an Amazon river fish with a meaty texture and mild swordfish-like flavor. Paired with a deeply flavored saucy rice and vibrant cherry tomatoes, it's filling enough to be a main course and very satisfying.
Sol y sombra  creme brulee with fruits
 Our dessert was the fruitiest creme brulee ever, which was a good thing. Though I love a solid dish of cream -- who wouldn't -- this was lightened up with purple corn, pineapple, apples, apricots and raisins. Served in an adorable enamel mini-bathtub, I could have eaten one the size of a baby's bathtub.
514 W. 7th Street (@ Grand) 
Los Angeles


Sun.-Sat. 11:30a-3:30p (lunch)
5:30-11p (dinner)

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