Causa del dia, Scallop Ceviche with uni, Mercado Paloma, Lomo Saltado
Peruvian cuisine is considered one of the most diverse in the world due to the mixture Spanish, Japanese, African, Chinese, and Italian influences on the Incan culture. Unfortunately, growing up in Michigan and living for 5 years in Seattle didn’t help me appreciate this. It wasn’t until my time in NYC and now here in Los Angeles that I’ve discovered Peruvian cuisine. Aside from a variety of ceviches and lomo saltado and aji sauces, my palate for Peruvian is still quite naive–and so based on LA Weekly’s critic Jonathan Gold’s recommendation, we jumped at the first opportunity to try Mo-Chica, a new Peruvian restaurant in the Mercado La Poloma.
There is no signage to Mo-Chica, but the Mercado unmistakable, lined with banana plants and large inviting glass doors. Very small and cozy compared to Grand Central Market, it houses about 4 other eateries and a few gift stalls. But don’t let the idea of eating in the food court style of the mercado disuade you. It’s actually quite clean and quiet during the dinner hours that we were there. There’s plenty of street parking and the mercado has a decent sized lot.
On to the food. We met the chef and co owner and Lima native, Ricardo Zarate on one of our visits and he couldn’t have been more welcoming. A veteran chef of numerous high end Japanese restuarants, he knows his way around seafood and Peruvian cuisine. He goes to the fish market daily to obtain fish for his ceviche del dia as well as menu del dia. The special one night was scallop ceviche with uni ($10). This was amazingly fresh–the sweet scallops and richness of the uni was an out of this world combination we’ve never had before in ceviche. The ceviche of the day ($5) varies. One day we had tuna and another was yellow tail. Both were extremely fresh and refreshing with perfect crisp citrus flavors.
Lomo saltado ($13) is beautifully presented with crisp log like fries on top of tender fillet of beef. The sweet onions and tomatoes were flavorful and a sauce was so good you want to dredge those fries in and lick it up.
We were reluctant to get the Causa (potato salad-$4) because it’s just a potato salad right? Wrong. We were so glad we did. Subtly sweet mashed yellow potatoes atop a crab salad mixture with a slightly spicy aji sauce…delicious! We could have easily eaten two of these.
Arroz con marisco, Arroz con pollo, chicha morad and maracuya, trio of aji (huacaina, rocoto, huacatay). See our rendition of peruvian aji sauce.
The Arroz con Marisco and Arroz con Pollo were similar in that both contained sauteed rice and topped with salsa madre sauces. The Arroz con Marisco is similar to paella but without the saffron and had clams, shrimp, squid and mussels. The chicken was very flavorful and tender but though perhaps more of it would have been nice–or maybe it was so good we wanted more? Drinks ($2) include a great passion fruit juice, barley tea with ginger and herbs, and chicha morada (purple corn tea). A trio of sauces: huacaina and rocoto (aji sauces) and huacatay (peruvian black mint) comes with each dish along with a small toasted crostini.
Seco de Cordero, ceviche del dia, Mo-Chica logo, Tallarin with crispy seabass
You would never expect this type of fine ingredients with such lovely execution and presentation at these prices at a mercado food court–and that’s the beauty of this great find by Jonathan Gold. The service with the ladies serving you are friendly and courteous–and no, you do not have to bust your own tables. When something we eat inspires us to find recipes and explore more of Peruvian cuisine and culture, we know this will be a place we’ll enjoy again.
In Mercado La Paloma
3655 S. Grand Ave., L.A.
11 am- 10 pm M-Sat.