On a busy stretch of La Cienega Boulevard in West Hollywood, in the handsomely outfitted space that recently housed the now-closed Japanese Restaurant Onizuka, chef Ricardo Zarate has opened his second outpost of his Peruvian pop-up, Colibri. The first location, which opened in December 2022 in Hollywood, serves classic Peruvian comfort food and has been met with enough enthusiasm to extend its run for another year.
Here, in the new location, with vaulted cathedral ceilings, upholstered green velvet booths, dangling greenery, and tables set with hand-thrown pottery, Zarate, who is known previously for Rosaline and Picca, alongside chef Michael Fiorelli (Olivetta, Love and Salt) set out to introduce Los Angeles to the centuries-old style of Italian-Peruvian cuisine that stems from a large wave of Italian immigration to Peru in the 1800s.
“I love the interaction and the exchange of knowledge I have with Michael,” says Zarate of working with Fiorelli. “I get to learn so much from him. And he’s such a talented chef.”
The pair originally met in 2011 when they were young chefs being honored at the Aspen Food and Wine Festival. Now, twelve years later, thanks to a chance encounter, they have reunited.
“I think it was meant to happen,” says Zarate. “We always planned to do something like this one day. I took this location and thought, ‘This is amazing. What am I gonna do with this place?’ So I went for a walk,” he says.
“We literally bumped into each other on the street,” says Fiorelli of the serendipitous encounter on a sidewalk near the restaurant space.
Using each chef’s expertise, the menu brings a fusion of Italian and Peruvian ingredients and preparations. Seafood crudos, pasta tossed in sauces like lamb ragu verde; with whipped ricotta — a dish that sprung from Fiorelli’s classic bolognese embellished with Zarate’s Peruvian flourishes — in this case finished with beer instead of wine, along with chilis and cilantro.
“I said let’s use your ingredients and my process and see where it goes,” explains Fiorelli.
The menu also includes charcoal-grilled proteins like sea bream with blistered tomatoes and yucca and chicken thighs with peperonata and zucchini crudo.
In addition to the Colibri dining room- an additional taqueria is located separately on-site, Tacos on the Alley by Alberto ‘Beto’ Mendez of L.A.’s family-run El Zarape will offer tacos late into the night along with a margarita-heavy cocktail program which is available to Colibri diners, as well.
When asked how long this concept will run, Zarate likens it to theater.
“Right now we have three months. But like theater, if it runs good, we stay longer,” he says. “Let’s do the best performance we can. And let’s have fun and let people enjoy and that’s what we do. And to be honest, I have never been more excited in my lifetime than on this project.”
Stay on top of the latest in L.A. news, food, and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.