Here in Los Angeles, we love and support our local chefs. We especially adore our local chefs who not only cook amazing food, but also give to charitable causes. In the midst of a whirlwind start to 2011 with a restaurant relocation, a restaurant opening and a well deserved Food & Wine Best New Chef 2011 award, Chef Ricardo Zarate still finds time to give to charity. He recently made a guest appearance at Fraiche for the kick off of Rustic Mondays with Chef Benjamin Bailly, where proceeds went to Operation USA. Last month he held a fundraising dinner at his flagship restaurant Mo-Chica in downtown LA, where his Japanese business partner coordinated a charity to support Japan.
One Thursday of each month, Zarate hosts a multi-course tasting dinner at Mo-Chica for $35, what I consider to be the best deal in America. His menus are well thought out and executed perfectly, every tasting offering a different combination of delicious dishes with his signature style of understated beauty and elegance that reflects his training in Japanese cuisine. Last month he donated $10 from every $45 tasting menu to Japan charity, with Street Gourmet LA‘s Bill Esparza and his bossa nova trio Cachaca Nova providing live musical entertainment for the night. Out of all of the tasting dinners that I have attended at Mo-Chica, this was the stand out; every beautiful plate was fully infused with his generous heart and charitable intention.
YUQUITAS CON POLLO
stuffed yuccas, manchego cheese, crispy chicken, rocoto sauce
Little bite-sized deep fried snacks were not only adorable but delectable, dipped in the savory rocoto pepper sauce that added a subtle kick of flavor. Everybody enjoyed the playfulness of this satisfying appetizer- what is there not to like about deep fried crispy cheese and chicken, and getting to lick your fingers at the end?
scallops strips, spicy lemon dressing, salsa criolla
One of my favorite dishes of the evening was the tender and delicate scallops tiradito, thinly sliced with a drizzle of magnificent spicy lemon dressing, salsa criolla and a garnish of microgreens. An elegant dish with a perfect balance of acidity and spice, almost too beautiful to be eating in a downtown LA food court, yet this is exactly the allure of Chef Zarate’s popular joint.
Peruvian cocktail, ginger juice, ginger ale, pisco brandy
Chef Zarate’s favorite cocktail, the Chilcano, got a modern twist with ginger juice to add extra zing to the refreshing drink.
sea bass, tomato stew , crab meat, roasted tomatoes, garbanzos
My other memorable dish of the evening was the perfectly cooked tender cut of sea bass, a glorious mound of moist flesh with crispy crackling skin, mounted on a base of tomato and garbanzo stew with a generous topping of crab meat. Seafood never tasted this good, with a hint of smokiness in the rich tomato broth that accented but didn’t overshadow the amazing piece of fish.
Peruvian-style crispy pork belly, black mint sauce
The final savory course was a hearty serving of crispy pork belly, fully injected with juicy pork fat and delightful pork belly essence. The surface was cooked to a nice crisp while the interior remained moist and fatty. Served on a bed of creamy bean purée, it was the piquant black mint sauce that brought all of the flavors and elements together for ultimate deliciousness.
Classic Peruvian dessert made of dulce de leche, shortbread
Spain, where alfajores originated, and all other Latin American countries have their own version of alfajores, and Chef Zarate’s Peruvian style alfajor was made by layering crumbly square shortbread cookies with dulce de leche. I’m impartial to soft chewy Argentine alfajores, but Mo-Chica’s rendition, made by Zarate’s new Spanish pastry chef who will be creating sweets for Picca, was equally scrumptious.
The evening was completely packed with satisfied happy diners who thoroughly enjoyed Zarate’s most successful tasting dinner event yet, while Bill Esparza and crew were rocking the house with contemporary takes on bossa nova classics like So Danco Samba and One Note Samba. This tasting dinner was days before the big announcement of Zarate’s win for Food & Wine’s Best New Chef 2011, and for all of those lucky diners who were able to attend the dinner, we got a good taste of exactly why. Thank you Chef Zarate for donating to support Japan.
3655 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Mo-Chica will relocate to its new grand location soon
9575 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Picca will be opening in the upstairs ex-Test Kitchen space in May 2011
Random trivia: Did you know that an alfajor, which is a traditional Arabic confection, finds it word derivative from an Arabic word for honeycomb? They are traditionally made with honey, almonds, hazelnuts, sugar, flour, breadcrumbs and natural spices.