Mo-Chica - Los Angeles
Even still, we opted for the earliest seating available. The cost of the meal got progressively higher the later your reservation was. For every two hour block your seating time was closer to midnight, it increased $20, and all you got for the price hike was an extra added cocktail. We weren’t about to go over that fiscal cliff if we could help it. So it was with a unanimous bipartisan vote that dinner would be at 6:00 p.m. for us!
Soup was next. Or to be more exact, chupe de papa, which had an object floating on top that we all initially thought was some sort of baked mussel. It wasn't. It was actually a creamy dollop of Dungeness crab riding a piece of toast--a surprise that became immediate justification for the trek that took us on 5 North to the 91 West to the 110 North to the heart of LA’s downtown.
Then came what my friend decided was the best dish of the night: a baseball-sized cocoon covered in panko breading that hid barely cooked tiger shrimp and other squiggly seafood in a mirepoix. You cut into it and the filling spilled out like candy from a burst piñata. It was a satisfyingly crunchy dish, sort of like a Japanese korokke crossed with a Mexican coctel that's been possessed by the soul of a Maryland crab cake.
At the midpoint of our meal, the a shooter of pisco sour arrived, and it was a classic and faithful rendition of Peru's national drink, properly made with an egg white froth leading to a brisk gulp of bitterness, citric sourness and an alcohol burn akin to weak tequila.
It was a multi-step process. The cylindrical lobes of beef were first immersed in vacuum packed bags to simmer in a sous vide machine kept at exactly 121 degrees. Then came a quick sear in a hot pan before the meat was sliced to individual portions. Was it done? Not quite. A disc of solid sea urchin butter was then laid down on top. A roaring blowtorch melted it to a creamy liquid that ran off the sides and dribbled onto the puddle of mashed potatoes. The completed plate is decorated with drops of pepian sauce, a sort of cousin to chimichurri with big grains of sea salt that energized every bite I took of a steak soft and pink.
Dessert was a dense square of chocolate cake topped with shattered cancha, the crunchy Peruvian corn snack that I wouldn’t have thought could sub for peanuts in a dessert...that is, before that night. Also on the plate along with some ice cream was a strawberry slowly stewed to become something almost savory, slightly spicy, and briskly tart. It wasn't quite a preserve, and it wasn't quite a compote. Heck, I don't know what it was, except that I wanted a bowl of it. Whether it was even Peruvian is not known since Zarate isn't just about Peruvian food--he's about good food.
514 W 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
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