The Monster loves him some Peruvian food. Back in August when he and Mrs. Monster traveled to Peru the food was often times other-worldly. A wildly eclectic flavor palette, interesting and fresh ingredients, this was a trip of serious gustatory delight.
And so it has become near obsession to find a place in LA that begins to approximate those flavors. Picca just doesn’t cut it for The Monster even though that menu is as close to what he saw in Peru as our city allows. Most Peruvian in LA seems a dumbed down version of what you might get in Cusco or Lima. Delicious as it might be, it is still Peru by way of America. And so The Monster, a true fan of Mo-Chica when it was but a stall in Mercado Paloma, decides to give Ricardo Zarate’s other Peruvian downtown a whirl hoping for the best.
Separated into a front and back room, this is a loud, crowded, energized space that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is very much in keeping thematically with where restaurants in Peru find themselves today. Right down to the well curated cocktail list and menu of favorites that have enough modern twists to work for those who grew up with the standards and those who want something more adventurous.
Lunch specials come with soup and salad, rice and dessert and The Monster decides on the Tallarines Verdes Con Camarones which is grilled black tiger prawns, tagliatelle, peanuts, Peruvian black mint pesto. To start, some anticucho de pulpo is the call, grilled octopus, roasted potatoes, jalapeno sauce along with the ceviche mixto, halibut, prawns, squid, red onion, rocoto leche de tigre and sesame oil.
Service is friendly and the food starts popping almost immediately. Here’s some salad (pretty boring), there’s some soup (pretty decent).
Look at this ceviche, it’s marvelous. Fresh and bright and bursting with flavor, it is a taste of the real Peru in downtown LA. And that octopus (despite The Monster’s crappy-ass picture because he forgot his camera, thanks iphone) is righteous. Hallelujah, maybe The Monster can find a little slice of authentic nouveau Peruvian flavor in our fair city.
But then the main dish arrives and once again The Monster appears as if he’ll be searching for a place that truly brings him to eating nirvana, because this dish is wildly average. What sounded so unique on the page comes out flat in execution.
Dessert, a hugely rich chocolate mousse is a small portion with big flavor, a perfect end to the meal.
All in all Mo-Chica proves it’s worthy of another shot, but ultimately it didn’t replicate the wonders of eating in Peru.
Why go? You aren’t going to Lima anytime soon.
Monster rating: 3½/5 Monsters
514 West 7th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014