Ricardo Zarate's New Mo-Chica: Sangrecita, Paiche + More Ceviche
|Mo-Chica's back room|
Eat at Mo-Chica, and you'll shake off the generalization that Peruvian cuisine is all seafood. Peru has 1,500 miles of coastline, sure, but it's also home to desert, the Amazon and the Cordillera of the Andes. The country's foods differ from region to region, and Zarate aims to present "a little bit of everywhere." Peruvian cuisine incorporates foods from outside its borders, too, dating to the arrival of the Spanish in 1531. Chinese and Japanese immigration have been influential as well, and indigenous elements persist.
As Mo-Chica expands, Zarate will keep the Mercado la Paloma spot to try out new concepts. "I am very attached to that place. ... It made me grow my career," he says. Part of the attachment includes a desire to serve South L.A. locals, and not just USC students. That was a challenge for Mo-Chica, where prices ranging from $6 to $14 were expensive compared to nearby options, no matter how hard Zarate tried to keep costs down.
Right now, Zarate is focusing on the next few hectic days. Except for the unopened boxes of Pisco Patron and other Latin American liquors, the place appears ready. Jars in the front kitchen store and display colorful condiments both local and Peruvian. Dishrag-style napkins and candles set into piles of corn kernels sit on handsome wood tables. In the back dining room, a mural by local artist Kozem depicts an alpaca spray-painting the restaurant's name. And windows along the hall between the front and back rooms contain figurines of ekeko, a paunchy, jolly guy carrying packages who represents good luck. Zarate asked L.A. chefs to paint the figures, and the results range from solid gold to bright colors and designs. As if the chef didn't have enough good luck on his side.