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Ricardo Zarate Relocates His Peruvian Baby Mo-Chica to 7th Street Downtown, Opening May 30

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Elizabeth Daniels 5/12

Mo-Chica on 7th between Olive and Grand is the true Mo-Chica. What does that mean? When chef Ricardo Zarate (or Martin) first introduced Angelenos to his Peruvian/Japanese cuisine three years ago via Mo-Chica, a modest stall inside Mercado La Paloma (which quickly became wildly popular), he opened the restaurant he could afford. But, above is the restaurant he would have launched from the get-go if the price had been right back then. Before exploring the new Mo-Chica, which serves all six of the original Mo-Chica's staple plates plus many new family-style additions (the menu is still influx), it's more than worthwhile to note that Mo-Chica inside MLP will fold, and Zarate plus partner Stephane Bombet will re-conceptualize the space into a new Peruvian concept (what happened with Moche?). Going forward, they plan to use the MLP stall as an incubator or testing ground of sorts for future restaurants.

Let's talk shop. It took Bombet/Zarate a full year and a half to open the matured Mo-Chica. They signed a lease way back in the fall of 2010, and since then have shared modern Peruvian small plates and anticuchos with Los Angeles via Picca, the first joint venture between the two. Shortly before Picca's entrance Zarate was named a Food & Wine "Best New Chef," a title which definitely didn't detract from the restaurant's debut.

Aside from the usual last minute hurdles, inclusive of final City approvals and such, part of the reason it took Bombet/Zarate a considerable amount of time to open the new Mo-Chica is because they tore down walls, raised ceilings, and built the above pictured open exhibition kitchen. And then furniture had to be designed, built, and installed -- the overall modern rustic aesthetic was conceived by Bombet and Zarate together. "We designed it," Bombet laughs, "maybe one day we can afford a designer," he says with a smile.

Last night Zarate could be found buzzing by the stove, slightly hidden behind colorful jars of sun-dried Peruvian potatoes, purple potato powder, and Peruvian corn, as he continued to test his recipes for friends and family which starts on Sunday, meanwhile the restaurant fully opens on May 30. And no reservations will be accepted here except for parties of six or more.

In the middle of an up and coming downtown block, across the street from Mas Malo and just next door to Bottega Louie, sits Mo-Chica. Step in and immediately one sees a small red and gold tequila, mezcal, pisco, and rum bar (all Latin spirits, no others served here) -- these feng shui colors, red and yellow, are meant to bring positive energy and a sense of welcoming to the space. Surprisingly, Julian Cox, who is in charge of Picca's fancy cocktail list, didn't create the adult beverages served here. Rather, Brian Summers who spent time at Test Kitchen, and before that was at Library Bar in the Roosevelt for a minute, worked on drinks alongside Deysi Alvarez of Picca who did train under Cox.

Take a look above and one will notice a lack of barstools surrounding the bar. The idea is that one walks up and orders a cocktail, then grabs a stool at that skinny metal bar to the right. And behind that seating space, down the hallway, are a few perched two-tops which will probably serve as bar seating as well. Also down the hall, in place of art, is a series of Peruvian warrior figures, meant to bring good luck, each painted by a lauded LA chef. Walter Manzke, Alain Giraud, Ludo Lefebvre, Nancy Silverton, Roy Choi, Alex Reznik, Evan Kleiman, they're still waiting on two. One from Jamie Oliver and the other from Michael Cimarusti.

Continue down the hall to a cozy room also colored red with blaring graffiti work by local artist Kozem. Communal dining, two-tops, four-tops, a little bit of everything.

Zarate explains that while he is serving the original Mo-Chica menu here, his overall offerings are more rustic Peruvian with larger plates meant for family-style sharing as compared to the small plate tapas thing at Picca. He is playing with more French technique, nothing crazy molecular, just simple, rustic, modern Peruvian food for all. Hours of operation to run 11:30AM to 3PM and 5PM to midnight daily. Lunch and dinner to both commence on May 30.
·All Mo-Chica Coverage [~ELA~]


3655 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90007