Showing posts with label peruvian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label peruvian. Show all posts

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Sipping through the Spring Cocktails at Mo-Chica

by guest blogger Brian Lee @iam_robot

By now I trust you all have made it to Mo-Chica. Since its opening more than 2 years ago, this modern Peruvian delight is known for its fantastic lunch deal, expansive happy hour menu and wildly exotic fares (alpacas stew, Amazonian fish escabeche, etc). It’s definitely one of my favorites and it almost seemed like a miracle when Zarate moved to this upscale DTLA location after 3 years residing as a modest food court stand in Mercado Paloma (east of USC). I remember I was redeeming my $20 groupon and I was thoroughly wowed with his mashed potatoes & crab dish (Crab Causitas).

Last Monday I had the chance to taste their spring cocktail menus. Each season, experienced mixologists update their cocktail menu to accentuate local and seasonal ingredients and both classic and new trends. This time, Deysi Alvarez, also mixologist at Zarate’s Paiche & Blue Tavern, incorporates fresh fruits and floral accents to match up Zarate’s fresh tropical dishes like Chicken Truffle Causitas and Crab Causitas. I think I ate 8 of those crab causitas ...
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I really like how Alvarez infuses lots of unconventional ingredients into her drinks (egg whites, chica morada reduction, or rhubarb cardamom gomme). As strange as some of these ingredients sound, her drinks are very approachable to amateur cocktail drinkers like me – they mostly taste refreshing without being overly fruity or sweet.

Below is the list of cocktails presented to me:
Basil Blossom - Thai basil infused quinoa vodka, violet liqueur, fresh lemon, simple syrup, soda water
IMG_2476 This is probably my favorite. I am bewildered with the floral aroma and burst of fruity flavor from the vodka and violet liqueur. I was hesitant about the violet liqueur inclusion at first but the aroma is very subdued & not artificial at all. Overall the cocktail feels very light with some fizzy finish. I thought this would pair very well with lightly seasoned dishes or steamed vegetables.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Revisiting Picca with Gojuchang Lamb Chops and Avocado Cocktail

I never got around to writing about Picca when they first opened, so with the newly decorated upper level mezzanine (I love the warm lights) and new menu items come my opportunity to write about it.

They did not change the entire menu but there are plenty of new items, my favorite of which is the Anticucho de Cordero (lamb chops, gojuchang marinade, aji amarillo miso, $28)

It's a bit pricey for two lamb chops but I just can't get enough of that gojuchang marinade! The lamb was tender but even after the meat was gone I wanted to keep sucking on the bone ...

There are a couple of new cocktails as well, but one of my favorites remained from the old menu, which is the green one pictured below: The Avocado Project (5 Island white rum, fresh avocado, vitamin C (orange juice perhaps?), fresh lime juice, agave nectar, salt, $12)

When I first ordered this drink I was expecting a creamier drink, instead the citrus cuts it nicely, making it a beautifully balanced drink with a hint of avocado flavor.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Peru to Malaysia Test Kitchen at Zengo

Richard Sandoval's Zengo at the Santa Monica Place does a different "Test Kitchen" menu every once in a while, and the latest is a Peruvian Malaysian take. Malaysian food is very similar to Indonesian so I wanted to check this out! The Test Kitchen items are indicated with a "TK" to the left of the item's name on the menu.

I like the entrees on this TK menu. Try the Char roasted halibut, ginger chile marinade, crispy lentil rice cake, sambal butter sauce, charred banana leaf ($25)

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The halibut was nicely cooked, sitting atop the aromatic banana leaf, and I liked that sambal butter! It's not that spicy as far as sambal goes but definitely packed some spices.

I also enjoyed the Arroz con Mariscos, mussels, scallops, calamari, shrimp, yellow curry, Malay rice, Thai basil ($14)
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This seemed more Thai than Malaysian with the curry broth, but nonetheless it's a flavorful and comforting dish for the cold weather. The two dishes above are probably my favorites of the TK menu.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mo-Chica's $27 Tuesday OG Tasting Menu

When Mo-Chica was just a stall at the Mercado La Paloma, Ricardo Zarate would do special tasting menus on Tuesdays. They've no revived the Tuesday tastings at the downtown Mo-Chica. The "OG Tasting Menu" offers 5 courses for just $27! A good deal, right?

The menu changes but when I went the 5 courses started with an Heirloom tomato salad, crispy red quinoa, fresh mozzarella, huacatay pesto

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A fun Peruvian twist on the cliche tomato mozzarella with pesto

The next course is a Ceviche trio:
tuna sashimi, yuzu miso, green shiso, mountain yam
Diver scallop, aji amarillo aioli, wasabi, tobiko
Hamachi, jalapeno ponzu, nori lettuce, garlic crisp
ceviche trio
I'm glad they included a ceviche course in the tasting menu, because what's a visit to Mo Chica without some? Because it was more unusual to find, my favorite here was the scallop. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Paiche (Marina del Rey)

After Picca and Mo Chica, Ricardo Zarate is moving further south with Paiche in Marina del Rey.
The name Paiche comes from a type of fish from the Amazon, but you can't just use the name without serving it, so Paiche does indeed serve paiche. Of course, I had to try some and went for the Paiche tiradito (Amazonian fish, aji amarillo lemon vinaigrette, tamari, sweet potato mousse - $10)
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In keeping with their other restaurants, the cocktails here are worth trying. The cocktail program is helmed Deysi Alvarez who has been working with Zarate and Stephane Bombet at the previous restaurants. One of my favorites is The Last Ice Age (Pisco Porton, Hakushu whiskey 12yr, egg white, lime, lemon, evaporated simple syrup, Fernet Branca drops - $13)
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It's frothy without being too sweet or rich, this will be nice for the summer nights ahead.

For appetizers, I suggest the Yuquitas (stuffed yucca beignets, Manchego cheese, grated parmesan - $8)
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These beignets are quite unique. They're pretty light, chewy, and the combination of fried yucca and creamy cheese is delicious.

Friday, January 13, 2012

La Mar Cebicheria (New York)

The first time I visited La Mar in Lima, Peru, I fell in love. With ceviche, with causa, with Peruvian rice. We loved it so much we went back for a last meal before we left Peru. I was very excited when La Mar in San Francisco opened. Alas, I was disappointed - I think the service (and lack thereof) contributed to my bad impression (I received the wrong ceviche and when I told his waiter, his response was "ok". No apology and no correction was made).

I gave La Mar in the US another try with the New York location, where the kitchen is managed by executive chef Victoriano Lopez who was Gaston Acurio's right hand man for almost twenty years. Unlike the casual, outdoor Lima location, the New York La Mar is lavish and posh.

We started with the Cebiche tasting, pre-set to consist of three types: elegance, popular, and nikei cebiche) - $28

Ceviche sampler
The "elegance" was a cebiche with warm water fluke, red onions, Peruvian corn, and yam in a "leche de tigre of five elements" - whatever the five elements are. The "popular" had salmon, shrimp, and Spanish day-boat octopus in a green leche de tigre with crispy calamari. The "nikei" is reminiscent of an ahi poke, made with yellowfin tuna, red onion, cucumber, daikon, avocado, and nori in a tamarind leche de tigre.

All three of the ceviches were very good, with all of us having different favorites (mine was the "popular"). On the other hand, for the price the portions were really small. Since there were four of us, it was definitely not enough and we had to get a full order. I wanted to try something different so we ordered the Limeno cebiche (fluke, Spanish day boat octopus, calamari, scallops, blue shrimp, in aji limo leche de tigre) - $19
Limone Cebiche
The seafood used was really fresh and unlike many ceviches I had in LA where the leche de tigre is so tart, we even drank the ones here by the spoonfuls even when the fish was finished.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Last Day for Chimu. Go!!

Today is the last opening day of Chef Mario Orellana's beloved Chimu, a takeout window next to the Grand Central Market offering "Peruvian soul food". His new restaurant, Red Hill, will be opening in December but he plans on serving "Neo-American" food, which means that today may very well be the last day you can have his Peruvian dishes. So, if you haven't gone yet, change your lunch plans and go!

After hearing the closing news, I myself jetted to try it for the first time yesterday. The Lomo Saltado ($12) may well be the best version I've ever had. The beef was so tender and the tomato slices surprisingly juicy.

The Seco de Cordero ($11) made with lamb belly, canario beans, and black beer sauce gives a very different flavor profile that is equally great. Again, the lamb belly was very tender with lightly crisped edges, the crunchy corn provided a nice texture contrast. The sauce was rich and slightly spicy. Soul food, indeed.
Try the traditional Peruvian drinks, too, like the Chicha Morada (purple corn), green barley tea (I believe this was called Emolliente?), and Maracuya (passionfruit).

I regretted not ordering the Chancho (pork belly) - I heard that's great too. Really, I should've ordered the whole menu. Maybe I'll see you there today.

Chimu
324 S Hill St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 625-1097
Chimu on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mo-Chica: Bringing Upscale Peruvian to a Casual Downtown Mercado

Ever since it opened, Ricardo Zarate's Mo Chica has been applauded all over the blogosphere as perhaps the best Peruvian restaurant in town, but the location belies its quality. Tucked inside Mercado La Paloma, a community marketplace in South Central, only those knowing where to go would find it.
I had wanted to check the place out for so long and then the 30% off Blackboard Eats coupon came along and now there's really no reason not to go. I joined the group of bloggers Sinosoul, Wanderkind, Lush Angeles, and Thirsty Pig for a dinner here.

There are juice bars, clothing and knick knack stores, then to the right of the entrance there are neatly arranged tables. That had to be it, and it was.
It looks like a food court but you do get waitress service here, so just take a seat and wait.

Addictive Peruvian corn nuts to start!
The big and starchy peruvian corn is perfect for these corn nuts. They left this plate in front of me and I have to admit I probably ate most of it.

Mo-Chica offers three traditional Peruvian drinks (non-alcoholic, Mo-Chica has no liquor license): Maracuya, Cebada, and Chicha Morada. I had a hard time deciding but finally decided to try the Cebada, their version of barley tea (or barley juice, rather).
A good choice if you wanted something less sweet yet still distinctive and refreshing.

Crab Causa ($4)
This was a generous portion of creamy delicious crab meat for just $4! The causa I had at La Mar in Lima was potato topped with seafood, here it is instead lots of crab topped with a layer of potato. For the price, highly recommended. I would've happily ordered another.

Next we got some Peruvian potatoes in a creamy mayo sauce.
Nothing special here, with the egg and all it reminds of potato salad. Not bad but wouldn't crave it. Moving on.

Seabass Cebiche ($12)
Since the cebiche option changes, depending on your luck what you have may be better or worse. The seabass is definitely good and this was one of the best ceviches I've had in town, although in comparison to the causa we just had, this $12 for seabass cebiche seems a little more steep.

I arrived before everyone else in the group and since the waitress said there was only one order left of the special of the day, I reserved it immediately:
Ling Cod Carapulcra with sundried potatoes, Chimichurri Sauce ($14)
Carapulcra is an ancient Peruvian stew typically made with dried potatoes, chili, cumin, peanuts, and usually pork. The ling cod carapulcra here is a much more refined and lighter version. I'm really glad we got the last order, this was an amazing dish. The stew was flavorful yet restrained enough to not overwhelm the flavor of the cod itself.

They had another ling cod preparation since the carapulcra ran out and it was also good, but I enjoyed the carapulcra more.

Oxtail Risotto ($13): Braised oxtail, barley-huancaina risotto
The oxtail was so tender and moist and the risotto well flavored and well prepared. Despite the use of a gelatinous cut and a creamy risotto, the dish was quite well balanced and was not overwhelmingly heavy. This might be my favorite dish that night.

Seco de Cordero ($13)
Lamb shank, canario beans, cilantro, beer sauce
I looked up canario beans and they are apparently yellow Peruvian beans. The lamb shank was quite tender and flavorful also but while I normally love lamb shank, I actually preferred the oxtail here. Still, this was another very nice dish and not too heavy.

Everyone was going to skip dessert but I couldn't help myself when I heard "maracuya creme brulee."
The slight tartness made for a nice finish to our meal.

Mo-Chica's food preparation and plating were definitely unexpectedly refined considering its location. Ricardo Zarate has brought Peruvian cuisine in the area to a new level, and with prices that are undeniably reasonable with the entrees priced less than $15. Our meal that night? Sure we used a 30% BBE coupon but $17 per person after tax and tips for what we had was ridiculously cheap.

Mo-Chica
3655 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90007
(213) 747-2141
www.mo-chica.com
Mo-Chica on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mario's Peruvian: Great Seafood

After my trip to Peru last summer, I fell in love with Peruvian cuisine, but I haven't managed to try many of the Peruvian restaurants in LA. One of the ones I've had my eye on is Mario's but since it's kinda far it's hard to drag someone there. When I finally had the chance to do so, I immediately went. There was a wait and the small restaurant was packed. We waited about 30 minutes - since it was cold I waited inside but felt kind of in the way of all the servers bringing food/dishes in/out.

By the time we got seated, we already knew what we wanted to order.
We wanted something light with seafood, so instead of going with the deep fried stuff, we went with the Siete Mares soup ($13.00)The seafood was fresh, and the broth was very delicious! The name siete mares means "seven seas" so I tried counting the number of seafood types: squid, crab, shrimp, clam, mussels, fish, octopus. This is a relatively light dish - again, I Loved the broth. Do give it a try sometime!

I ordered the lomo saltado ($11.25) since I've been craving it for a while! Lomo saltado is beef sauteed with onions, tomatoes, and french fries.
The meat was a little tough, but the flavors were excellent. I love the fries also and kept eating them with the fragrant rice! Next time I might try out the seafood version, saltado mariscos, so I can avoid having my beef overcooked and yet still get to taste the delicious flavor of saltado.

For good measure we ordered dessert: Crema volteada/flan ($3.00)
This is a pretty heavy duty flan! Rich and dense - a bit too dense for my taste although it's still tasty. Eat in moderation :P

Overall I loved Mario's. The food was excellent although I would stick with the seafood as the meat can be tough and overcooked ... The line can be long during dinner time, so go early or just prepare to wait! (It's worth it!!)

Mario's Peruvian & Seafood
5786 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323)466-4181

Mario's Peruvian Seafood on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Jungle Food Marathon Part 1: From Africa to Peru

9 foodies, 4 "jungle foods" restaurants (+1 drink stop), 7 hours.

Back in November (yes, I'm behind ... ) 7 foodbloggers and some of their +1s made a trek from Inglewood down to Westminster to hit "jungle food" restaurants, i.e. cuisines from countries with jungles. Led by Mattatouille, the group that included FoodMarathon, LA&OC Foodie, FoodDestination, DigLounge, Teenage Glutster, and I made our first stop at a Nigerian restaurant, Nkechi African Cafe.

This was actually a detour as our original stop, Saaris, was closed. Thanks to iPhone's Yelp app we managed to find this African place nearby.
The place was completely empty when we arrived and the one staff they had there was definitely shocked to see the nine of us walk in.

We got some fermented palm juice to share around the table. It tasted slightly carbonated and was actually lighter and not as sweet as I had thought (or wanted it) to be.
So here you can order any type of rice/stew and get any of the different types of meat they offer.

We started out with some Jollof Rice with mixed meat
This was a good start. The tomato based rice reminds me of jambalaya a bit. The mixed meat was tasty (they were deep fried :P ).

Next we had some egusi soup (made with melon seeds) with goat meat, with some balls of starch (either fu fu which is made of cassava, or eba, made from yam)"
The egusi soup with goat meat was not bad, though the texture was rather interesting. It's rather hard to describe. Let's just say I would eat this again. If I have to.

The other dish we got was the ogbono soup, which is made with mango pits, and we ordered this with fish.
Umm. So. None of us liked this. I think Mattatouille was the only one who kept giving it more tries, while most of us stopped after two or three. The consensus, I believe, was that this tasted like "rubber tire with a slight hint of blue cheese."

Besides Teenage Glutster, I think this was the first time most of us had Nigerian food, but it's doubtful that we would try ogbono soup again. At least we can say that it tasted pretty darn authentic :P

Nkechi African Cafe
2717 W Manchester Blvd
Inglewood, CA 90305
(323) 541-1265
Nkechi African Cafe on Urbanspoon

Now, with that rubbery taste in our mouth, we rushed down to our next stop - El Rocoto Peruvian restaurant down in Gardena.
The strip mall joint was relatively busy and our server was a bit surprised (disappointed?) that the nine of us only ordered 4 dishes but then we told her of our lil excursion.

BTW, I was also disappointed because I saw Cusquena Negra on the menu but apparently they don't actually have it :(

We started with, of course, some ceviche mixto.
Just like Food Destination, I also just went to Peru last summer, and having had the amazing ceviche at La Mar, this doesn't quite measure up, but it was still pretty good.

We also got a combination plate containing seco de cardero (lamb stew with cilantro) and cau cau (tripes and potatoes)
The seco de cardero is hearty and gamey - this was my favorite dish of the whole meal. I wanted to get seconds but it was all gone by the end :< (Hmm I think FoodMarathon finished it .... ) The 'saltado' dish which is just sauteed with tomatoes and onions with thick fries served with lightly seasoned rice is a very popular Peruvian dish. Here we got the seafood version, saltado mariscos
I thought this was a decent version, though not as flavorful as I've had before.

We also got some Chifa dish, which is the Peruvian version of Chinese dishes. This is the pollo enrollado (chicken rolled up with pork, shrimp, asparagus, with veggies in oyster sauce).
I have no real opinion on this dish. It was enjoyable though I prefer to have my Chinese and my Peruvian food separately.

This meal definitely was way more enjoyable than our first and we were glad to get the ogbono soup taste out of our mouths!

El Rocoto Peruvian Restaurant
1356 W Artesia Blvd
Gardena, CA 90248
www.elrocoto.com
(310) 768-8768

El Rocoto Peruvian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

This adventure is to be continued on my next post as I go through the other restaurants. In the meantime though, you can read the other bloggers' accounts of this adventure:
LA&OC Foodie's , DigLounge's, , FoodDestination's, Teenage Glutster's and then you can take the quiz at FoodMarathon's site!

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