TO LIVE & DIE IN LA: MO-CHICA - DISCOVERING PERUVIAN TREASURE
Those who have been following my posts on previous expeditions to LA will know that my opinions on the city’s dining options have been mixed. With one or two notable exceptions, the high end and mid level dining has been a disappointment sometimes bordering on the laughably bad. On the other hand, the budget dining, primarily experienced at one of LA’s thousands of ethnic restaurants has been a revelation, far superior to most of what is available in London and at a fraction of the price. Superb Thai, mind blowingly good Japanese, every style of Korean cuisine I knew about and many I didn’t and, of course, Mexican food that is a million miles away from the, (how can I put it politely? I can't) fucking rubbish we get in London.
Peruvian, however was a new one on me and when Sybil suggested we head down to a food court in South LA for lunch yesterday I was only too happy to go along expecting at he very least an interesting experience. It turned out to be more than that and Mo-chica, a Nuevo Peruvian restaurant, which has already attracted plenty of plaudits and coverage proved to be another little treasure in LA’s impressive ethnic dining scene.
The menu is short but interesting with a handful of daily specials and,unlike so many food court stands, everything is prepared fresh to order, which means a short wait before your food is delivered. However, a small free bowl of pumpkin soup not only served to fill the time but also to convince us that we had made the right choice for lunch.
It was confirmed by the arrival of a shared starter of the “Ceviche del Dia” in this case using sushi grade sea bass “cooked” in a sauce sharpened with lime and decorated with large ears of corn, both fresh and fried, to provide texture. The sauce was good enough for me to request a spoon so that I could make sure none of it was left in the bowl, which tells you all you need to know about a really rather lovely dish.
Sybil’s main course choice of Seco de Codero was less inspiring. Although the meat from a slow cooked lamb shank came from the bone with little effort and was served in a thick beer sauce with a healthy amount of canario beans, it would probably have seemed a more exciting dish to an American, less used to encountering lamb on a menu than someone from Europe who has eaten and cooked with it all their adult life.
More impressive was my own dish of Arroz Con Mariscos where the subtly spiced rice came plumped out with a generous amount of seafood including meaty shrimps, fresh mussels and clams in their shells. It benefited from the addition of a hefty amount of chilli to give the whole dish a little kick, but for $12 provided a healthy enough portion to make any thoughts of dessert seem a little silly.
Mo-Chica does not serve alcohol, but their homemade juices proved a perfect accompaniment to our lunch and we chose a couple of glasses of Maracuya, fresh passion fruit juice, which, I am reliably informed, is often prescribed in Peru for the treatment of urinary infections. So now you know.
If the juice helps you take the piss, then the bill certainly wasn’t and came to $40 including our drinks and a tip, a more than acceptable amount for a decent lunch and for more evidence that I am going to have a great deal of fun exploring all the ethnic eating possibilities in my soon to be new home town.
I can’t wait.