Restaurant: Picca [1, 2]
Location: 9575 West Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035. Tel: 310 277 0133
Date: August 15, 2011
Cuisine: Modern Peruvian
Rating: Really interesting flavors
I was really excited to try this new Modern Peruvian. As best I can tell (having never been to Peru other than an airport stop in Lima) Peru has a really interesting culinary melange going on merging Spanish, traditional South American, and Japanese influences. I’ve heard that much of the wave of innovation in American Modern Japanese started by Nobu Matsuhisa (detailed look here) is really just Peruvian. In any case, on to the food.
This space is just above what used to be Test Kitchen last year and is now the excellent Sotto. The chef is Ricardo M. Zarate, a Lima native, and as far as I can tell, he rocks.
The menu. This is all served Tapas style, which you all know is my favorite.
Burgundy! Parker gives this 92, “Bachelet’s 2005 Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes – from 60- to 70-year-old vines both below the route nationale and north of Gevrey in Brochon – offers lovely black fruit aromas with hints of anise and mint. A truly palate-staining intensity of vividly-fresh, tart but ripe black cherry and blackberry is underlain by firm, fine tannins (not precluding an emerging silkiness of texture) and augmented by bitter-herbal and stony notes. Although palpably dense and abundantly tannic, this outstanding village wine still comes off as juicy, sleek, invigorating and refined. Put it away for at least 5-7 years.”
“jalea mixta. crispy mixed seafood, tartare sauce.” Some really good fried seafood. The tartare sauce was fantastic too.
“chicharron de pollo. marinated crispy chicken, salsa criolla, rocoto sauce.” Also good fry. Like uber chicken nuggets.
“tres leches de tigre. rocoto, aji amarillo, sea urchin shooters.” Three different gazpacho-like shooters. I had the Uni one. It was very limey/vinegary which I like.
“ceviche mixto. mixed seafood, sweet potato, choclo.” Mixed fresh seafood marinated. Those things on the right are the giant peruvian corn kernels. The fish was very fresh, particularly the shrimp. The marinate was tasty, but certainly had a very strong lime/vinegar thing going on.
On the left: “santa barbara prawns. lemon grass yuzu kosho pesto.” Very tender sweet prawns, with the sauce definitely adding.
On the right: “black cod. miso anticucho, crispy sweet potato.” Tasty too. The potato chips though were even better 🙂
Apparently in Peru sushi is done with these yellow blocks instead of rice and called causa sushi. The stuff looks like polenta but is actually a mash of yellow potato with some spices.
This is the “unagi. avocado, cucumber, eel sauce” and it’s pretty much your eel sushi. Of all these causas this was my favorite as the polenta is heavier and stronger flavored than rice and the eel held up to it best.
“scallops. mentaiko.” Certainly tasty, but it would have been better with rice.
“albacore. garlic chip, ceviche sauce.” My second favorite of this set.
“spicy yellow tail. spicy mayo, green onions, wasabi tobiko.” Also good, but the fourth potato bar was beginning to feel too heavy.
“arroz chaufa de mariscos. mixed seafood, peruvian fried rice, pickled radish.” This was a nice version of paella. Brighter and more citrusy (by far) than it’s Spanish cousin. The ingredients were very fresh.
“seco de pato. duck leg confit, black beer sauce, cilantro rice.” This was a slight disappointment. It was perfectly cooked, but given the volume level of the flavors of this meal it felt a little muted, particularly the rice.
“chicharron de costillas. crispy pork ribs crostini, sweet potato puree, feta cheese sauce, salsa criolla.” This however was pretty spectacular, one of the best pork sandwiches I’ve tried.
We finished the wine and decided to explore some of the awesome cocktails as “dessert beverages.” These drinks are by mixologist Julian Cox. The cocktail menu.
This was “chilcano de anis, lime juice, ginger syrup, anise syrup, pisco, soda, mint sprig, pernod.” It was pretty damn good, tasting like sweet mint licorice.
“Sabertooth. cachaca, muddled blueberries, apricot liquor, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, shaken, lime wheel & blueberry.” Pretty great too.
“Rhubarb Sidecar.” Cognac, pisco, fresh lemon juice, rhubarb gastrique, shake violentyly (and they mean it), garnished with spiced sugar.” Also great.
“Christopher Oaxacan. Single village mezcal, passion fruit, fresh lemon juice, orgeat, lavender bitters.” The super smokey (and very good) mezcal overwhelmed everything else. It basically tasted like mezcal with lime.
“Lemon tart.” This was a pretty amazing dessert. Light and airy, almost foamy, the intense lemoness paired nicely with the sweet pineapple stuff on the side.
I love even street cart churros but these were pretty supreme. The churros were stuffed with some kind of dulce de leche custard. It kept squirting out but was intensely good. The carob sauce was surprisingly amazing. I remember carob from the 1970s as the horrible chocolate bars that weren’t. This could have been caramel.
Picca was pretty fantastic. They didn’t hit every note perfectly, but it’s a fun (and loud space), the server was very very nice and enthusiastic about the food, and the flavors were bold and powerful, the ingredients first rate. What’s not to love? Unless you prefer crap like el Torito.
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