Mo-chica's interior includes high-top tables, booths and an open kitchen fronted by jars of raw ingredients.
Mo-chica 2.0, a more fashionable, ambitious upgrade of the Mercado La Paloma original from chef Ricardo Zarate and business partner Stephane Bombet, hosted a complimentary lunch for media types on October 9. Their goal was partially to share plans for Paiche, their seafood focused Marina del Rey restaurant, named for the massive Amazonian fish. Zarate also educated attendees on popular Peruvian ingredients. When he first came to Los Angeles, he said, “The hardest part of making the food was finding the ingredients. I had to be creative to recreate the flavors.” Now he’s growing more ingredients by teaming with local farms like Weiser, which ensures that the flavors don’t get lost through importing process.
On October 9, Bombet and Zarate hosted a lunch for media types, partially to share plans for Paiche, their seafood focused Marina del Rey restaurant, named for the massive Amazonian fish. Zarate also educated attendees on popular Peruvian ingredients.
Purple corn contributes to Peru’s most famous (non-alcoholic) beverage, chicha morada. At Mo-chica, Zarate boils purple corn with pineapple skin, cinnamon, lime juice and sugar to form the drink. He also let us know that purple corn was a powerful dye for Inca clothing.
Zarate grows aji amarillo, Peru’s most versatile pepper, on Weiser Farm. Growing the pepper stateside lets the flavor shine more than the spice.
Caygua is a Peruvian “cucumber” with black seeds that’s used in sautés and pairable with onions in omelets. At Picca, Zarate stuffs caygua with meat and grills them.
Huacatay, Peruvian black mint, contributes to sauces like aji.
Rocoto is a Peruvian bell pepper, red in color, with a black stem and seeds. The spice level approaches habanero, and Zarate uses it in marmalade, sauces, and as we learned, in chocolate alfajores.
In Peru, they have about 1000 varieties of quinoa, the nutrient rich grain. Incas had labs to mix seeds for quinoa and potatoes, and scattered them throughout Peru.
We experienced the raw materials in practice at lunch. Crab causa incorporated aji amarillo mashed potatoes, fresh crab and avocado. Persimmon salad featured fennel, arugula, grilled persimmon, prosciutto, aji amarillo, and persimmon vinegar.
Sea Bass Ceviche included rocoto, leche de tigre, choclo and cancha.
Butter lettuce supported grilled miso paiche and camote crisps.
Alpaca crostini featured meat from a llama’s cousin, a fried quail egg, jalapeño salsa and aji amarillo aioli.
Black cod joined cilantro pepian sauce in a contemporary ceramic bowl, along with cilantro oil, potatoes and micro greens.
Carapulcra was a stew of reconstituted potato flakes that hosted crispy pork belly.
Quinotto – quinoa risotto – featured wild mushrooms, cilantro truffle oil and microgreens.
We tasted a recent addition to Mo-chica’s lunch menu, pan con chicharron, a beast of a sandwich that combines ciabatta, crispy pork, camote puree, salsa criolla and shaved purple onion, served with Kennebec fries and fried sweet potato confetti.
Dessert consisted of mini sol y sombra, kiwicha (amaranth) crème brûlée with purple corn compote. Bombet and Zarate also handed out bags of alfajores, including traditional dulce de leche and chocolate rocoto, both cookies showered with powdered sugar.
Address: 514 West 7th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90014