Ricardo Zarate has mastered the trick of making Peruvian cuisine festive and contemporary while never losing sight of the culture from which it springs. The ceviche criollo—its cubes of sweet potato bobbing in leche de tigre broth with hominy-size kernels of choclo—captures a land where potato is native, corn varieties are many, and squash is a staple.
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Hovering above Sotto along an innocuous block of Pico, the new spot from Ricardo Zarate is more than an upgrade of Mo-Chica, his outstanding Peruvian counter south of downtown; it's an evolution. A trained sushi chef, Zarate telegraphs the Peruvian pantry's mountain grains, tubers, and heirloom corn varieties through the crystalline Japanese aesthetic. He adds moist chunks of slow-cooked pumpkin to quinoa stew, finishing it with just enough Parmesan to focus all the flavors. Snow crab fortified with spicy huancaina sauce plays off the earthiness of the potato causa square on which it sits. Choclo, or crunchy dried corn, is folded into fiery leche de tigre (citrus marinade), cubes of sweet potato, slivers of sea bass, and strands of seaweed for the city's definitive ceviche. Presented on a wooden platter, the $72 rib eye—rubbed with spices and then charred—may be showier than anything the 38-year-old chef could do at Mo-Chica, but it's a celebratory dish that brings together the whole table