Just because you haven’t seen Ricardo Zarate around much in a kitchen, doesn’t mean the chef isn’t keeping busy.
Since he exited/was pushed out of (depending on who you ask) the restaurants he helped open—Picca and the shuttered Mo-Chica and Paiche—the chef released a cookbook, The Fire of Peru; consulted at Smoke.Oil.Salt. on Melrose; and did a series of pop-ups dubbed Once last summer. Next, he’ll return to his own kitchen at a still unnamed restaurant set to open in the former Comme Ca space this summer, and offer a few more preview pop-ups before it arrives. Let the rocoto sauce flow.
The forthcoming restaurant will be more akin to what he dishes out in his cookbook than what we saw at Mo-Chica, his first local restaurant that helped put his name on the map, and Picca, for which he got a Food & Wine Best New Chef nod. The menu will feature seafood, vegetables and meats cooked over an open-charcoal grill, along with traditional Peruvian ingredients blended with those he plucks from local farms and markets. Plus, there will be a significant cocktail program, with an emphasis on mezcal. “This restaurant comes form the Peruvian home cooks, the creators and history of my food, the people who are my inspiration daily,” he says in a release.
The space will get a complete overhaul, courtesy Kevin Tsai Architecture, transforming the former brasserie into a contemporary Peruvian hub with a greenhouse, open ceiling and storefront, exposed wood, brick floors, and other new accents.
Since the chef is partnering with Culinary Lab, the group behind Hinoki & the Bird in Century City, Zarate will be popping up there on February 1. Consider his contributions sort of a preview of what’s to come: He and Hinoki chef Brandon Kida will offer tuna ceviche salad with bachi maguro, wasabi leche d’tigre and truffle pickles; buckwheat soba with American caviar, lemon confit and uni emulsion; roasted halibut with broccoli leaf, kohlrabi and onion dashi; Peruvian duck on rice; and Illaka chocolate with black garlic and rhubarb. The dinner is $48 per person, starts at 6pm, and requires reservations.
“L.A. is a part of me. It’s impossible for me not to have a restaurant in L.A.,” Zarate told Digest in 2014. The man sticks to his word.