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Dec 1, 2009 06:05 PM

Amazing Peruvian Food in an Unexpected Location - Mo-Chica

If we had ordered the entire menu it would have come to $101. I know, I counted. We came close - ordered all but two dishes. The waitress did not believe us and kept insisting we did not order things.

We found out about this place through Jonathan Gold and other sources, and it sounded quite special. Plus, a friend of ours had already been there several times and raved. So me met him at the restaurant and as I alluded to, pretty much ordered the entire menu. The head chef/owner Ricardo Zarate was not there at night. My understanding is that he may still work nights at his gig at WabiSabi in Venice, but I could not get a clear answer on that.

No matter, he manages well, and his team did a fantastic job.

The setting is a food court in South Central called Mercado La Paloma. Not as bad as it sounds, actually. Except the part where they do not allow alcohol. The host did wait on our table and she was very friendly and helpful, albeit disbelieving on the quantity of food we were ordering.

What we ordered: (See link below for pix)

Peruvian giant crunchy set soft corn served as a complimentary starter. Yum. Needs beer, though

Chicha Morada -Purple Corn Tea -
Maracuya - Passion Fruit Juice
Cebada - Barley Ice tea with Herbs and Ginger Root
$2 each

These Juices were far less sweet than they looks. Quite refreshing,actually. I love these juices as they are similar to the authenticMexican juices; not nearly as much sweetener and acid versus JambaJuice and the like.

Causa del Dia - Crab (Peruvian Potato Salad) - $4
Great combination of flavors and textures and chilled just enough to have a delightful custard effect. Good quality crab.

Papa ala Huancaina - Roasted Potatoes, Boiled egg, Huancaina Sauce - $3
Same sauce as the Causa which was good but redundant. Actually, the flavors here are perhaps too similar to the causa, but delicious nevertheless. Next time I would order one or the other

Salad - Quinoa and Greens - $5
Refreshing light salad with a burst of protein from the Quinoa. Everyone loved it but me. Why? I hate Feta cheese and it was a component of the dressing.

Seco de Cordero - Lamb Shank, Canario beans. Salsa Criolla, Cilantoro beer sauce - $13
Amazing dish for only $13. The shank was perfectly cooked and was fork-tender. The beans were so amazing that I perhaps even enjoyed them more than the lamb. The onions on top were mild and sweet and served as a nice foil to the fatty lamb.

Loma Saltado - Beef Filet, Salsa Criola, Fried Potatoes - $13
The quality of the Filet was decent. For me, I like the potatoes more crunchy. These were so starchy I had to ask if they were perhaps Yucca and not potatoes, but I was incorrect.

Special Menu - Moonfish and Lentil - $13
The fish (Moonfish is also known as Opah) was very fresh and perfectly cooked, with a good crispy sear on the outside and buttery and flaky in the middle. The Lentils were meaty and flavorful and kept their texture. The same garlicy sauce used in many of the dishes was used here as well.

Quinotto- WIld Mushrooms, Quinoa grain Risotto, Crema Fraiche - $10
Probably my husband's favorite dish. This was a wonderful spin off on the Piedmontese Classic, except lighter and more delicate. Plus the quinoa is so much healthier than rice you don't feel nearly as guilty enjoying its rich creamy power.

Ceviche Del Dia - Striped Bass - $5

Due to communication problems, we did not get this until after the entrees. It was definitely the highlight of the meal. Only one is pictured, but we actually wound up ordering 2 more it was so good. I like the way they marinate the fish in the citrus to order; it does not marinate all day and overly "cook" the fish. The quality of the bass was excellent. Tender cuts without stringiness. And I love the accompaniments of crunch and smooth with the acid. The Peruvian giant corn, a bit of sweet potato, a few onion slices.

Arroz con Pollo - Chicken Breast, Spring Onion, Salsa Madre, Sauteed Rice
We had a lot of trouble getting this dish due to a communication error. We got it at the end and there was a problem with getting the picture. It was a good dish with appropriately tender chicken and moist rice but I actually preferred some of the other dishes we got.

All in all, Mo-Chica has great quality, healthful cuisine (if you are careful about ordering) and the prices can't be beat. I want to go back and try the tasting menu. And more Ceviche.

See my blog for food and restaurant pix: http://foodandwineblog.thefoodietrave...

3655 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007

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  1. Very nice review. Had you seen the write up that one of the LA board regulars (and now a "professional" reviewer for the LA Times) - Thi Nguyen - did on Mo-Chica and Puro Sabor back in June of this year?

    2 Replies
      1. re: Servorg

        Didn't see that article either. Thanks Servorg.

      2. And here is Joshua Lurie's FoodGPS write-up in August with pics:

        The food there is really good - just wish it were a bit more convenient.

        1 Reply
        1. re: carter

          thanks. Yes, the location is not ideal. And I would really like to enjoy some wine or beer with this cuisine. I suspect with raw talent like he has things will only get better for Zarate

        2. i realize that i'm a bit late to the party but mo-chica is a real treasure in this city. the quality of the food for the cost makes it a great value. just went on saturday and thought everything i had was good. the quinotto, the quinoa salad, the lomo saltado, the aji de gallina, and the arroz con pollo. i'm a big eater. i'm a big fan. made a reservation for the next tasting menu night.

          1. I echo wasabica and cdub that Mo-Chica is a true gem in the city! I totally did not expect such excellent cuisine in a food court/marketplace. The food is really amazing! Everything that we ordered was delicious:

            Chicha Morada--purple corn tea
            Cebada--barley ice tea with herbs and ginger root
            Causa del Dia--Crab
            Ceviche del Dia--Seabass
            Oxtail Risotto--braised oxtail, barley huancaina
            Beef Tac Tac--grilled steak, fried egg, Peruvian rice
            Carob Mousse

            Can't wait to go back and try the other dishes!

            3655 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007

            16 Replies
            1. re: fdb

              Woah! Was the Beef Tac Tac a special? I don't recall seeing it on the menu before...


              1. re: Dommy

                Hey Dommy, when I went back and looked at the review I linked to that Thi did in the LA Times for Mo-Chica I noticed (by reading a little more carefully than I must have the first time) that he mentions a Peruvian chicken place out in the Valley (Reseda Blvd. in Northridge) called Bonano's and it doesn't appear to have been reviewed here on the LA board before. It sounds (from the online reviews I read) and looks (from the photos) to definitely represent a missed opportunity for the Valley (and traveling) hounds.

                I will do a place link for it and add it to this thread, but for now here is the menu via Sporq:

                ADD: Never mind, place link already in the data base. (although at the moment I can't get the damn link to show up in this post! - after 5 tries) Got it!

                Bonano's Chicken
                8363 Reseda Blvd, Northridge, California 91324, USA

                1. re: Servorg

                  Interesting! Thanks for the heads up.... I have recently become enamored with the Chupe de Camarones at Marios... I could always try a few more! :)


                  1. re: Servorg

                    Hey Servorg, my wife often works out in the Northridge area, and she really likes Bonano's. I've only tried their pollo a la brasa (she'll bring home a couple of birds every so often for dinner), which I found to be really good. It's a wood-fired rotisserie, and is very popular around that part of the valley.

                    1. re: bulavinaka

                      Hey, you have to bring these things to our attention! You can't (obviously) rely on my careful reading of reviews to find and report on these!! ;-D>

                      1. re: Servorg

                        Sorry - been laying low on this one because I haven't actually been to Bonano's yet. In the mean time, please continue your diligent efforts so I can be my usual lazy-ass self. :)

                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          Alrighty then...I've got a new plan. Let's blame it all on Thi for not putting Bonano's up front and center in his wonderful review where not even the halt and the blind (me) could have missed it! (g)

                          1. re: Servorg

                            As fate would have it, my wife worked out in Northridge again. I got home too late from work and had to run the kids around, so making dinner was not going to happen. Guess what she brought home for dinner? Bonano's pollo a la brasa! Better than I remember it in the past. Yeah, it's great Peruvian-style chicken, but the nice woodsy smokiness to the chicken really comes through and puts this one on another plane. The aji verde is earthy and somewhat herbal compared to a baseline aji - not as spicy as Puro Sabor's.

                            The jalea de pescado y mariscos is a dish that my wife always orders when she goes to sit down and eat with others. She says the pescado is very memorable.

                            The alfajores are very Peruvian - much larger than the Argentine version, and the cookie portion is more dense and grainy. Something that I've never tried before was the suspiro a la limeña - dee-lish. Let Wiki explain:


                            One of my wife's associates crowned this as his favorite dessert in the world just a few weeks ago...

                            Thi's brief mention in passing of this place is probably due to the wide coverage of Peruvian food in general. This place should definitely be on SF Valley Hounds' Chowdar.

                    2. re: Servorg

                      Thanks for mentioning Bonano's. Went last weekend for the chicken but ended-up getting my favorite dish instead: Pescado Sudado. It was really, really good. My friend thought it was the best version she's had in L.A. Hopefully, I'll get around to try the chicken next trip.

                      1. re: Galen

                        Thanks for the report. Next time we are out in that area of the Valley I aim to test drive a few things off of their menu...

                        1. re: Galen

                          I tried the chicken yesterday at Bonano's. The fries were limp but the chicken and garlic rice were amazing.

                          1. re: Galen

                            Now you have me drooling. Thanks for reporting back. What size chicken did you get? And the funny thing is I like limp fries, so that will probably be a plus for me.

                            1. re: Servorg

                              I got the quarter chicken because I only like dark meat. Probably the best chicken I've ever eaten. The aji sauce is really good. Creamy and reminds me of Zankoo.

                              1. re: Servorg

                                My wife usually comes home with two birds, salad, and a big plate of big limp fries. The salsa remedies the fries issue for me, but for you, you're in for a treat!

                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                  The flavor of the juicy chicken is amazing.

                        2. re: Dommy

                          Yes, we ordered a seabass special but they ran out so they brought us Beef Tac Tac instead.

                      2. With regard to the location - I just read in Downtown News that Mo-Chica is opening on 7th Street in DTLA (in the former Sandella’s Flatbread Café space) in March. This is VERY exciting!

                        3655 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: aching

                          Glad to see they are expanding, I love Mo-Chica but that spot sucks for parking.

                          It'll be closer when I do move to Little Tokyo for work but right now I'm really close to their current location which makes it such an ease to go there for lunch.

                          3655 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007

                          Little Tokyo Restaurant
                          150 E Bonita Ave, San Dimas, CA 91773

                          1. re: Johnny L

                            There's a GINORMOUS parking lot right behind that building - it takes up the whole rest of the block down to 8th Street. I *think* it's $5 to park there? So you'll be all set!