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It Doesn't Get Better Than Picca Peruvian Cantina

If you crave a gourmet meal in LA like you'd have it in Lima, your only choice is Picca

By Richard Koffler
Published on LatinoLA: July 5, 2011

It Doesn't Get Better Than Picca Peruvian Cantina

I've been a big fan of Mo-Chica, Chef Ricardo Z?írate's eatery half-mile east of USC's campus, since I first tried it over a year ago.

Until then my fave Peruvian restaurants in LatinoLA had been Mario's (Melrose @ Vine) and Mamita (somewhere in far-away Glendale). Although these two are certainly very good, they are not nearly as great as how Mo-Chica plays with classic dishes I grew up eating in Lima. (And if your frame of reference is El Pollo Inka, I can best describe how bad it is by saying that it's as good Peruvian food as Taco Bell is good Mexican food.)

Others have certainly noticed Chef Z?írate, too: he was deservedly named by Food & Wine magazine as one of 2011's Best New Chefs.

But now LatinoLA has something even better: Picca, Chef Z?írate's recently opened restaurant on Pico near Beverly Drive.

?íQu?® delicia! The wife and I went on Saturday expecting to eat as well as in Lima. And eat well did we!

Portions are small by design. Instead of eating the typical appetizer + entr?®e + dessert, you need to try four or five dishes, each the size of an appetizer. There are 50 choices on the menu, mostly Peruvian classics plus several Japanese-Peruvian fusion dishes.

I stayed away from the fusion stuff this time, wanting to stick to Peruvian classics: anticucho de coraz??n, ceviche criollo, chicharr??n de pollo, carapulcra, conchitas a la parmesana, and bisteck a lo pobre. We also tried the jalea mixta, which, although not strictly a classic, looked very good on a neighboring table. We finished with tres leches cake, also not a classic but one of my wife's favorite desserts.

The place is small, pleasant and comfortable. Mirrors mostly all around and one wall with a beautiful stylized mural of an Andean village (photo inset shows a very small piece of the mural).

Service was top-notch. All Spanish-speaking Latinos but no Peruvians (I couldn't help but correcting one of the waiters on how to pronounce aj?¡, Peru's native chili pepper; he was pronouncing it ahi, the Hawaiian tuna.)

We had a 6p m reservation, which was instantly honored. The place was packed to the ceiling when we left 90 minutes later. I hope it continues its early success so I can keep enjoying it as often as I can.

Picca isn't cheap. By the time we were done with the meal plus a (perfectly executed) pisco sour for the wife, coffee (no refills but good), tax and tip, our meal for two blew over $100. So it's not for eating there routinely unless you're budget-agnostic.

But if you crave a Peruvian gourmet meal in L.A. like you'd have it in Lima, your only choice is Picca.

All in: riqu?¡simo, cinco estrellas, y cinco bravos para mi tocayo Ricardo.

Picca's website.

About Richard Koffler:
Ricardo is Abelardo el Editor's partner in LatinoLA. He was born and raised in Lima, which unfortunately he doesn't visit as often as he should.

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