Choza Mama in Burbank - not so much, no.
The two people at work who don't like to adventure with their food were away today, so I took the rest of us and commandeered the car to go to Choza Mama, a Peruvian restaurant on the corner of Alameda and Olive, directly catercorner from NBC. I pass it often and had often wondered.
Yeah. Uh. I lost a few "food know-it-all" points today.
I ordered a plate of cebiche mixto for the group to share, and called for it to be extra spicy. I got lomo saltado (I was in a mood for tasty stir-fry, what can I say?). One of our group got the chicken version, and then one got pollo con mani (thick peanut sauce) and one got aji de gallina (chicken in thick walnut sauce).
I, of course, had to try it all.
The cebiche had hardly any taste at all. It had jalapeno peppers cut up on top, but I swear they must have been blanched, because they didn't taste even remotely spicy. They must have been out of octopus (my favourite bit in a cebiche mixto), because it was squid, fish cut in odd sizes, and shrimp. It wasn't BAD -- it just wasn't good at all, and I felt like I'd wasted my money. I tried the leche de tigre and it wasn't tasty, either.
The lomo saltado and pollo saltado were fine -- could have used a bit more soy sauce. The rice was rice. It also came with another side, and I chose papas a la huancaina (boiled potatoes in cheese sauce). These were the highlight of my meal today... the cheese sauce was tangy and great, and the potatoes were chunked rather than sliced, which gave them a better mouth feel.
Then there were the other two chicken dishes. I'll say right up front they tasted fine, but they looked like, er, pollo a la revenant. I've never seen such a disturbing-looking dish in my life. The colour, the texture, and the quick congealing just made it so unappetising I couldn't eat more than a bite. It tasted pretty good, too -- but just put me off my feed.
It was expensive, but not out of range for a Peruvian place. The saltados were $8.95 and the cebiche was $10.95. It was a LOT of food for the price.
The final verdict -- if it were the only Peruvian in town I'd go now and then, but since I have not one but four better alternatives in North Hollywood and Van Nuys (that'd be, in descending order, Las Quenas, Marilu, El Hatuchay and Lau's), which includes the best cebiche I've ever had (from Las Quenas), I won't be going back unless others take me.