Ricardo Zarate's New Mo-Chica: Sangrecita, Paiche + More Ceviche
Ricardo Zarate wants you to know something before checking out his new Mo-Chica. Slated to open Wednesday, May 30, it replaces an earlier version of the same name that closed yesterday. "Peru. It's in South America," says Zarate, mock-serious. "Its limits are Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia and Chile." He recalls how one guest had thought Peru bordered Spain. "The point is, I'm trying to introduce my country through my food."
D. Solomon Mo-Chica's kitchen
Mo-Chica, a few doors from Bottega Louie in downtown L.A., is poised to become an excellent ambassador. Zarate describes the menu as "comfort food," with cooked foods in large portions -- think stews -- rather than tiny tapas of, say, raw fish, as at his other restaurant, Picca. And the visual style -- red walls, gold accents, a graffiti mural -- is vibrant and fun. "We want to introduce Peruvian food, so we need to be trendy, no?" says Zarate.
Zarate dreamed up Mo-Chica while working in London more than 10 years ago. Investors didn't bite; Peruvian food seemed too foreign. So Zarate went solo to launch a small, quick-serve Mo-Chica in 2009 at Mercado la Paloma, a colorful warehouse-turned-marketplace south of downtown. Its popularity helped Zarate open the upscale, Japanese-inspired Picca in 2011. And now, a new Mo-Chica with room to serve about 80 patrons.
Zarate isn't flying solo anymore. On a recent afternoon, more than a dozen people flit around the restaurant, including managing partner Stephane Bombet. A glass-walled kitchen in the front dining room reveals an apron-clad team chopping and sautéeing at a frantic pace. Today they need to finish the sangrecita. Zarate describes it as black sausage, similar to morcilla, and a traditional Peruvian breakfast food. He'll serve it with chimichurri and huancaína sauces along with fried egg and grilled bread.
Another new dish is paiche -- "the best fish you are going to eat," if you believe Zarate, who says it tastes "buttery like a black cod." It comes from the Amazon River in Peru, where it's being farmed as an antidote to overfishing. Zarate plans to roast the paiche, also called arapima, and serve it with ajiaco de arroz, a rice soup. He'll also prepare spicy tuna ceviche with yuzu mayonnaise.