The special tasting menu featured on Tuesdays at Mo-Chica encouraged me to gather a group of friends to experience Chef Ricardo Zarate’s Peruvian cuisine.
We sat in the back room of the restaurant admiring the vibrant red walls with the words “Mo-Chica” in big letters. A hip-looking llama by famed local graffiti artist Kozem enhances this urban restaurant’s unique vibe.
Looking over the cocktail menu by Deysi Alvarez, we ordered watermelon margaritas – a melon libation with a sweet yet spicy zing – and Peruvian maids, which is similar to a mojito with albilla pisco, cucumber, mint, fresh lime and evaporated cane syrup.
Later we ordered a couple of white wines from Argentina and Spain. The Catena chardonnay offered a hint of honeyed tropical fruit flavors.
Three of us selected the five-course tasting menu for $27 per person. The first course was a salad of vine-ripened roasted heirloom tomatoes with smooth burrata, huacatay pesto (Peruvian black mint) and crunchy quinoa, which originated in Peru.
Chef Zarate enjoys using quinoa and Peruvian black mint in many of his dishes.
One friend ordered a la carte off the main menu. Her grilled artichoke was topped with huacatay pesto.
Our second course was an interesting ceviche trio. Our favorite was the Hokkaido (Japanese) scallops with bottarga (a shaved Mediterranean cured fish roe) resting next to monkfish liver with cherry marmalade. Liver of any kind is definitely an acquired taste. The cherries do sweeten its distinctive flavor. Last, was a delicate bite size piece of Hamachi (Japanese yellowtail) with a slightly salty seaweed salad.
The third course was a roasted chicken thigh layered with truffles. The flavors were intensified with Shitake mushrooms and a jalapeno sauce. Our server Jean, from Lima, explained that the sauce is made with tofu to thicken it without having to add any fat. It was a gorgeous dish. We all enjoyed the golden colored Kobacha, a Japanese winter squash.
After taking a bite of the magnificent short rib entrée, we all agreed this dish was the best of the four served. The meat was incredibly tender and full of distinctive flavors that soaked into the creamy quinoa risotto.
Our last course was a splendid slice of tres leches cake. One friend commented that she wished the cake was soaked with more leche, yet she liked that it was accompanied with a blueberry sauce as well.
We asked Jean which Peruvian dishes on the menu were foods that he ate as a young boy. He said that his grandmother would always make him Papa a la Huancaina – a dish of Peruvian potatoes, olives, and hard-boiled egg with a spicy cheese sauce made with Peruvian aji Amarillo peppers. Chef Zarate offers his version with green beans and bacon to elevate it to a more modern culinary comfort food.
Upon leaving, we all agreed that Chef Zarate’s beef short ribs were the highlight of the tasting menu. Many top-notch restaurants in Los Angeles serve beef short ribs for $27. At Mo-Chica, it was one of the five courses served for that same price.
Come try the Tuesday tasting menu at Mo-Chica. The dishes will vary each week, yet I guarantee that you will enjoy the unique flavors and creative presentation of Chef Zarate and his talented culinary staff.
Open for lunch and dinner. The lunch special is two daily dishes with rice and a dessert for $15 per person. The restaurant is open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays. Lunch service begins at 11:30 a.m. Come between 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to get 20 percent off your bill. Dinner is from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. $$ 514 W. 7th St. (213)622-3744. www.mo-chica.com.
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