Number 4 on our list of Best New Restaurants of 2009

Photograph by Jessica Boone

A food stand tucked in the Mercado La Paloma, Mo-Chica is Ricardo Zarate’s first restaurant, but with such talent, he’s bound to move on to bigger things. A longtime sushi chef (he also works at Wabi-Sabi in Venice), he deploys the clarity of the Japanese aesthetic to capture the simmered soulfulness of traditional Peruvian food. His quinoa preparations—a fresh salad and a risotto—are stellar, and the sautéed beef, which he stokes with a fiery sauce and tops with thinly sliced onions, is remarkable for its ability to be hearty while keeping flavors distinct. However, nothing on the short menu can match the ceviche. Blended with seaweed, chiles, and diced camote (a kind of sweet potato), then contrasted with hominy-like kernels, the fish is thickly cut and only lightly marinated. A compression of Peru’s multilayered cultures—Inca with a dash of Nisei—it is the city’s definitive ceviche.




The Ceviche Secret
“When the Japanese arrived in Peru a hundred years ago, Peruvians thought it was crazy to eat raw fish,” says Mo-Chica chef Ricardo Zarate. But they loved the way the Japanese were playing with Peru’s traditional ceviche. What they didn’t know? That the Japanese were marinating the fish for only 20 minutes, as opposed to the usual 6 to 24 hours-—not nearly enough time for the citrus acid to “cook” it. “That’s my little secret,” says Zarate. “I dress the fish just before serving.”

»3655 South Grand Avenue // Downtown // 213-747-2141 or

Image courtesy Shutterstock