It was "friends and family" night, a trial run before the restaurant opens on Wednesday (May 30). And it was apparent that chef Ricardo Zarate and managing partner Stephane Bombet have more friends than most of us could accumulate in a lifetime.
The menu is classic Peruvian, comfort food as compared to the trendy approach at Zarate's Picca in West Los Angeles.
That's not to say there aren't a few such things, like beterraga (above), a roasted beet salad with burrata, candied corn and orange aji amarillo dressing (aji amarillo is yellow chile). And, for dessert, crême brulée with more fruit than cream.
Cubes of crisp-edged pork belly come on top of the potato stew carapulcra, which is made from small Peruvian potatoes that are freeze-dried at night then sun-dried during the day. Zarate stirs in chimichurri to spice it up.
Carapulcra is just one dish that shows off Peru's potato bounty--thousands of varieties grow there.
One surprise is the hefty chunk of sweet potato on the plate. Giant corn kernels are on the other side. That's ceviche mixto (mixed) in the center (above). Another ceviche contains only seabass.
Seco de cordero, or lamb shank with cilantro-beer sauce and canario beans (above), moved over from the old Mo-chica, as did lomo saltado, which is a stir-fry of beef strips with French fries. The fries are made with Kennebec potatoes, a hypbrid produced in the USA, not Peru.
Behind it in the photo is "OaxaCalifornia Love," which isn't Peruvian at all except for a dash of spicy rocoto chile mixed with mezcal, tequila, lime juice and pineapple.
Others are "Papa Don't Peach," "Santa Claus is Back in Town" and "Tea-Nage Dream.
The weirdest (right) is indisputably "I'm Grapey and I Know It...(wiggle, wiggle)," which combines pisco with a green grape and cardamom reduction, ginger juice, orgeat syrup and soda.
If you can get around that astonishing name, though, it's a very cool drink.
Mo-chica, 514 W. 7th St., Los Angeles, CA 90014. Tel: (213) 622-3744.