And then there are stall in the wall restaurants in a hole in the wall plaza. That pretty much describes Mo-Chica.
Why did I go to Mo-Chica? Ever since my trip to Gaston Acurio's La Mar in San Francisco, I've been craving Peruvian food. A quick search on the interwebs suggested that Mo-Chica was the most popular of Peruvian restaurants in the LA area. It also helped that Jonathan Gold gave it a once over as well. So when an unexpected window opened up this past Friday, I hopped in the car after work and headed to Mo-Chica.
First off, Mo-Chica is located in the Mercado La Palomar complex. It looks like a community center, and if you're like me, you might drive right by it on your first go around. It's an unassuming location, but inside you'll find Mo-Chica, the original Chichen Itza, and about a dozen different shops.
As soon as I sat down, the chef de cuisine came out and introduced himself. It was a nice touch, hopefully it didn't have anything to do with the fact that:
1. I was the one asian guy in the whole building
2. I was holding a camera.
Anyhow, he introduced me to the dishes of the day:
(My hands were shaking badly due to Urth Caffe Spanish Latte I had a few hours earlier. And thus...the blurry words. Deal with it.)
The rest of the menu was on the giant blackboard along the top of the stall.
Being the petite eater that I am, I decided to go with a light dinner.
I started with the special ceviche, which was made of scallop, striped bass, sweet potato, and roasted Peruvian corn. The scallop and striped bass tasted fresh, but the whole time through this dish I kept thinking about the pH of the dish and how the sweet potato and corn was acting as the base and it was balancing out the acidity of the lime juice. It also reminded me that I sucked at chemistry in high school. But I digress, we're concerned with eating, not chemistry.
Dish number 2 promptly followed the completion of dish number 1. The causa del dia was crab. Peruvian food is ANYTHING but bland. The rich crab filling was balanced by the mild potato with all of it complemented by the aji sauce.
Midway through the causa, I got a small plate of roasted Peruvian corn. Was this the predecessor to the corn nuts we know? Four kernels in (ok, maybe 10), I realized that these roasted corn nuts would be GREAT with a beer, until I read the sign on the wall: Alcohol is not served here. Argh.
All thoughts of beer quickly disappeared when the lomo saltado arrived.
So much for that "light meal" that I planned to have. Needless to say, the bread and rice went mostly untouched. Gotta start keeping track of the carbs at some point right?
Really, can you go wrong with fries, stir fried beef, roman tomatoes, and red onions? Jenga those fries at your own risk.
Thoroughly stuffed, I thought it would be appropriate to just complete the package and order dessert:
All in all, quite an amazing meal at an incredibly affordable price in the most random of places. Mo-Chica is definitely the place to visit for an exceptional Peruvian meal.
Note: Mo-Chica hosts regular tasting dinners and the next one is on October 29, 2009 from 6p-9p. Reservations are required, so if you are interested, call 213-747-2141 to reserve your spot.