dineLA’s Restaurant Week was a great excuse to take some mid-day breathers and enjoy multi-course lunches with friends, which pretty much never happens during the week. I’d been meaning to get back to Paiche, the contemporary Peruvian izakaya from chef Ricardo Zarate and business partner Stephane Bombet, the affable duo that also runs Picca and Mo-chica. We’ve co-produced special dinners in the past, so I’m a believer in their approach, but they still have the ability to surprise me every now and then. That was the case with the most memorable dish from my dineLA lunch: Quinoa Con Alverjitas.
The risotto, which eschewed rice for decidedly Peruvian quinoa, featured grains cooked in vegetable stock with yogurt, pea puree and fresh, firm English peas. The topper consisted of crunchy pea tendrils sautéed with soy sake sauce and a crisp quinoa garnish. On the rim of the bowl, I found bright green huacatay oil, crafted from Amazonian black mint. This was a great seasonal dish that typified Zarate’s finesse.