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.

3655 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90007
(213) 747-2141
Mo-Chica on Urbanspoon



Realy enjoyed their ceviche too. Wish I ordered the oxtail risotto when I was there.


I think I might be the only person who hasn't been to Mo-Chica now! I really need to get in soon! Curses that I missed that Blackboard Eats special!


Mmm! My brother, dad, and I really loved our lunch here. So yummy!

food je t'aime

mm the carapulcra was one of my favorite dishes but the night I had it at the Mo-Chica BreadBar Hatchi event, it was made with black cod...and I've been craving their causa!

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