The seco sauce on Paiche's tamalito verde (above) was so good, and the corn dough so tender, that I wanted to keep on eating. But I couldn't, because I had to share the single small tamal with a friend.
We were eating at a trial-run dinner before the restaurant opens officially tomorrow. Located In Marina del Rey, Paiche is the latest gig for Peruvian chef Ricardo Zarate and partner Stephane Bombet. It's a small plates place, which means minimalist servings at non-minimalist prices. Be prepared to pay well for what you eat. The single tamal was $14.
The seco sauce, made with pureed cilantro, appears again in seco de paiche (above). Paiche is the Peruvian fish for which the restaurant is named. The small slice of fish sits on a stack of rice and beans.
To taste paiche in a more pure state, order it as tiradito (above). The thinly sliced fish is splashed with tamari and aji amarillo lemon vinaigrette (aji amarillo is Peru's yellow chile). A spoonful of sweet potato mousse sits on on the center slice under the decoration.
Paiche plays with Peruvian traditions, making tiradito with seared Wagyu beef (above) and adding Parmesan sauce along with an aji amarillo vinagrette. Even though it has a touch of black truffle, the Wagyu is a bargain at $12 compared to the $14 tamal.
The frituras (fried things) include uni shrimp toast, a wad of sea urchin sprawled over buttery tasting fried bread topped with diced tomatoes. The shrimp paste spread over the bread is so delicate, it's hard to detect. That's rocoto honey sauce on top. Rocoto is another Peruvian chile.
In Peru, Chinese fried rice is as popular as hamburgers or macaroni and cheese are here. Paiche's version (above) includes mixed seafood, according to the menu. However, the name of the dish, chaufa de langosta, means lobster fried rice. That makes it more luxurious than what you usually get in Peru.
The restaurant was jammed for the practice dinners, so the kitchen was under a lot of pressure. That might explain why the churros (above) weren't fried through, or else they were supposed to have soft centers. The crocks on the plate hold lúcuma and chocolate sauces. Not available fresh here, lúcuma is a fruit common in Peru and Chile.
Somehow, Paiche has managed to get all its food, cocktails, wines and beers onto a single double-sided menu. That means very small print for the wines and beers, because there are a lot of them. Hint: Take along a magnifying glass.
Paiche, 13488 Maxella Ave., Marina del Rey, CA 90292. Tel: (310) 893-6100.