Oh Ricardo Zarate, you’ve come such a long way since your days at Mercado La Paloma, the original location of Mo-Chica.  I first dined at Mo-Chica when it was housed in this food court-esque type venue.  It really blew my socks off at that time, probably being the best fancied up Peruvian food I’d had, even better than the highly lauded Andina in Portland.  Since then, I’ve tried Picca, Zarate’s second effort, but was a bit disappointed.  I left that meal still wearing both my socks.  The H.o.P. (House of Piggy – this is the reference for my family for all of those new to my blog) dined there without me and was also unimpressed.  Soooo, I have yet to try Paiche and instead wanted to try Mo-Chica again to see if it was still just as good as a I remember.

Ceviche Mixto halibut, prawns, scallops, squid, red onion, rocoto, leche de tigre, camote

I think I’m REALLY over ceviche at Peruvian joints.  They’re just SOUR SOUR SOUR.  It’s hard to appreciate anything else, say the inherent freshness of the seafood?  Nope, nope, NONE of that.

Yellowtail Tiradito rocoto ponzu, garlic chips, green onions

I apologize for the poor quality photos.  It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged and I’m still trying to remember how to use my camera again!  Anyways, the yellowtail was not as fresh as it could have been.  Not much special going on here.

Causa de Cangrejo Aji amarillo mashed potatoes, fresh crab, avocado

I thought the causa was really good last time with the freshness of the crab shining through on top of a tasty mash of potatoes.  The crab seemed a bit too mayo-y this time.  It was still a pretty dish.

Chicharron de Pollo Marinated crispy chicken, rocoto aioli

I think I was expecting something more special than juicy chicken tenders, but juicy chicken tenders is what we go.

Tallarines de Camarones grilled tiger prawns, tagliatelle, peanuts, peruvian black mint pesto

This dish probably stood out from the others due to its use of pasta and pesto.  It was more creamy than herbacious as other pestos I’ve had.  The tiger prawns were meaty with good snap.  I appreciated the char.

Arroz con Mariscos peruvian seafood paella, salsa criolla

This was a pretty solid offering, but Smooth Obturator saw the giant pile of onions and turned his nose the other way.

Paiche amazonian fish from peru, ajiaco de arroz, cherry tomato escabeche

Another solid dish.  The fish was moist and the rice was juuuust right.  I do love most things with tomatoes.

Arroz con Pollo chicken, cilantro rice, salsa criolla

I really was very impressed with this dish last time.  Chicken is hard to impress me too!  Somehow this time around, this dish lacked a bit of sumethin’ sumethin’ if that makes any sense.  I think overall, the food felt that way.

Patita Pig trotter stew, aji panca, grilled chorizo 

I had a version of this at Picca and remember really liking it.  This was probably my favorite dish that night being hearty with great balance of flavors.  Maybe it was bit heavy handed with the salt, but I like salt.  People who dislike pork should NOT order this because the use of pig trotters really imparts a strong porkiness which can be a turn off for some people like Triple T.

Picarones sweet pototo kabocha peruvian beignets, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, chancaca sauce

The last time I had horrible desserts was at Picca and here the desserts were almost as bad.  These donut things were just terrible.  They had a weird texture and an equally untasty bittersweet sauce.  DO NOT order these.

not entirely sure what this was…

It was really annoying that the desserts were not English words, which is totally fine, but they also had NO descriptions.  When the waitress explained them to us, she used more non-English words.  My small brain could not process all the descriptions of the multiple desserts and then also descriptions of the descriptions on top of that!  Anyways, this was some sort of chocolatey bar with something crunchy on it and some sort of mousse made from something Peruvian.  Lousiest description ever, but I know most of you just look at the pics anyways and totally skip the text.  

So Mo-Chica was a bit of a disappointment considering my really great prior experience.  First of all, the food came out very quickly which was a bit off putting not just as a blogger (because I’m pressured to take pictures so my dining companions can eat), but as a diner.  We felt pressured to shovel the food down just to make space for the coming plates.  Was it our fault for ordering a lot because we are the H.o.P?  No, of course not!  One should not be penalized for ordering more food than can fit on the table.  Secondly, the food overall had a bit of that “pre-made” taste.  It’s hard to describe it further.  I understand that a lot of restaurants make many components ahead of time and “fire it up” as ordered, but I don’t want that thought to cross my mind while I’m paying $15 for a small plate of food!  The only thought I want in my head is “Yum, sooo derricious!!”  Unfortunately, I didn’t think about that much as much as I was expecting to.  Despite my less than wow review, I still think Mo-Chica and Zarate are showing Angelenos how Peruvian food can be special and refined.  I would recommend it as a solid joint, but your experience won’t be without some pitfalls.
If you’re looking just for some good old lomo saltado, I would recommend Mario’s.  I got food poisoning here and spent the night with my head hanging over the porcelain throne, while on a separate visit Mega Tron got hospitalized from the food here.  Soooo you know its LEGIT, right?!  Despite their obvious health code violations, I love the lomo saltado here and I’d go back again and again.  I guess I’m a masochist.

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