Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Incan Road to Culinary Greatness

Mo Chica Prawns

Mo-Chica is one of my favorite restaurants to open in LA in the past couple of years. I love everything about it. For starters, it’s in a really cool space. A stone’s throw away from the USC campus (don’t worry; parking is in a fenced in and guarded parking lot), Mo-Chica resides in Mercado La Paloma Community Marketplace, a large converted warehouse, which has been transformed into a funky, vibrant, multi-cultural food court of sorts with several restaurants, a couple shops and an occasional art exhibition. The tables designated for Mo-Chica in the open air space are covered with plastic tablecloths. But do not be misled by the ultra-relaxed and casual atmosphere. The food at Mo-Chica is just as refined and sophisticated as any of the fanciest restaurants in Los Angeles.

Mo-Chica describes its cuisine as “Modern Peruvian” and its brilliant chef, Ricardo Zarate, has taken traditional Peruvian dishes to a whole new level. In terms of appetizers, I love the Causa (Peruvian Potato Salad) of the Day, especially when it’s Blue Crab Causa. Mo-Chica also has amazing Ceviche, which in the Peruvian fashion includes both giant kernels of white Peruvian corn as well as crispy toasted “corn nuts.” Both the Causa and Ceviche are must-haves when dining at Mo-Chica. My favorites main courses include Braised Oxtail with Barley-Huancaina Risotto, Lamb Shank with Canario Beans, Cilantro and Beer Sauce, and Mo-Chica’s take on Arroz con Pollo (chicken and rice). The food at Mo-Chica is very reasonably priced and when I go with friends, I usually wind up ordering all of these things plus more. Given the food court locale, there is no alcohol, but they serve great exotic non-alcoholic drinks including a barley iced tea with herbs and ginger root, a passion fruit drink and my favorite, purple corn tea. Save room for dessert, especially the Tres Leches Cake, which is out of this world.

I am not alone in my love of Mo-Chica as Chef Zarate was recently named one of the ten best new chefs in America by Food and Wine Magazine. If you haven’t been yet, you are missing out. Mo-Chica is located at 3655 S Grand Ave. in Los Angeles.

UPDATE: Mo-Chica has moved to fancier digs (and an actual stand-alone restaurant space) Downtown, a couple doors down from Bottega Louie. The new address is 514 W 7th St, Los Angeles. In a nutshell: the food is still excellent, the menu is more extensive (they have Alpaca Stew!), it’s pricer of course, they can serve alcohol now and have awesome cocktails, and the decor is very cool. I do miss the little inexpensive place at Mercado La Paloma, but I love the new Mo-Chica and still highly recommend it. I’ve added photos below of the new location a few of the new dishes, including my favorite addition, Anticucho de Pulpo (Grilled Octopus with Roasted Potatoes and Jalapeno Sauce). FURTHER UPDATE Mo-Chica has unfortunately closed. If you’re looking for upscale modern Peruvian food, I recommend Mo-Chica’s sister restaurant, Picca Peru.

Sea Bass Ceviche with white Peruvian corn and "corn nuts"

Sea Bass Ceviche with white Peruvian corn and “corn nuts”

Chilled Peruvian Potato Salad with Crab

Chilled Peruvian Potato Salad with Crab

Lamb Shank with Canario Beans, Cilantro and Beer Sauce

Lamb Shank with Canario Beans, Cilantro and Beer Sauce

Chicken with Rice

Chicken with Rice

Old Digs

Old Digs

Anticucho de Pulpo (Grilled Octopus with Roasted Potatoes and Jalapeno Sauce)

Anticucho de Pulpo (Grilled Octopus with Roasted Potatoes and Jalapeno Sauce)

PIcarones -- Spiced sweet Potato & Kabocha Peruvian Beignets with Chancaca Reduction

Picarones — Spiced sweet Potato & Kabocha Peruvian Beignets with Chancaca Reduction

New Digs:  Front Room

New Digs: Front Room

New Digs:  Back Room

New Digs: Back Room

Mo-Chica on Urbanspoon


Filed under Downtown, South Los Angeles

Pilgrimage to the Hole-yland

The Donut Man is one of LA’s treasures. It is consistently ranked among the top five donut shops in the country and it has unbelievably amazing donuts.   But here’s the catch:  it’s located in Glendora (off of historic Route 66 and not far from Raging Waters in San Dimas), which, although technically in Los Angeles County, means a 45 minute to one hour drive in non-rush hour traffic for most people reading this blog.  Is it worth it?  I definitely think so.   Mainly because of their amazing and famous Fresh Strawberry and Fresh Peach Donuts.  The Fresh Strawberry Donuts are made between February and mid-July each year.  This weekend is probably the last weekend of the year to get them (I recommend calling first to make sure).  The Donut Man stuffs fresh sweet and tart strawberries coated in a light glaze (similar to the fresh strawberry pies at Marie Calendar’s) in between the top and bottom halves of the most delicious not-too-sweet glazed donuts to make these awesome concoctions.

But if you can’t make it there in time to get the last Strawberry Donuts, don’t worry.  The Donut Man is starting to sell their Fresh Peach Donuts (which are the same concept as the strawberry ones, only with fresh peaches), and they will have these peach ones until mid-September.  The Fresh Peach Donuts should start being available later this afternoon and the next few days will be the only days during the year when you can get both Fresh Strawberry and Fresh Peach Donuts.  That’s right; it’s a rare intersection of strawberry and peach glazed donut goodness!  The Donut Man is open 24 hours, so what are you waiting for?!  While you are there, you will definitely also want to sample their famous Tiger Tail, a twisted glazed donut about a foot long which contains a delicious stripe of chocolate.  They have dozens of other varieties.  I can’t resist their Peanut Butter and Jelly Donuts.   My mouth is watering just writing about this.  So much for the summer diet…

The Donut Man is located at 915 East Route 66 in Glendora.

Worth the drive


Peanut Butter and Jelly Donut

Donut Man on Urbanspoon


Filed under Glendora

Finger-Lickin’ Korean Goodness


KyoChon serves Korean fried chicken and it is insanely good! This is not your run of the mill fried chicken and it is certainly nothing like the KFC variety. There are many different kinds of chicken at KyoChon. However, the most popular item is their chicken wings, which are very much like Buffalo wings, but with an incredibly delicious Korean-style sauce.  You have your choice of three different flavors of wings including Spicy & Sweet Wings and Honey Wings but, by far, my favorite is the Original Soy Garlic Wings. I recommend the Soy Garlic even if, like me, you usually go for the spicy option; trust me on this one. The Soy Garlic sauce is so finger-licking-good and the fried chicken is so crispy and tasty. It’s the perfect mix of saltiness, tangy sweetness, crunchiness and juiciness. You can also get bigger drumsticks and a whole fried chicken. Another option is the healthier (and less tastier) grilled wings, but really what’s the point?

A new offering at KyoChon are the Sal Sal Strips, which are battered strips of white meat lightly fried and then coated with puffed rice crumbs and cooked to a golden crisp. They are served with your choice of dipping sauces and can also be included in a salad. The Sal Sal Strips are good, but I much prefer the wings. If you want to try all of the wings, they offer a sampler platter. I’m big on sampler platters, so if that’s the way you want to go, I won’t hold it against you. Side dishes include rice, potato wedges and my favorites, broccoli salad and sweet radish pickles. The broccoli salad is made with fresh broccoli, bits of bacon, green onions and raisins in a homemade sauce; it’s really great.

KyoChon is a very popular chain in Korea with with over a 1,000 locations, only a few of which are in the United States. They opened their first Los Angeles branch in Koreatown, but there are three additional LA locations; in the Glendale Galleria, Westfield Culver City and Los Cerritos Center. It’s surprising that one of the most delectable things in LA can be found in mall food courts. I often go to the Glendale Galleria location and it’s every bit as good as the Koreatown location, although if you’re looking for a whole fried chicken, you can only get that in K-town. KyoChon proudly advertises that their chickens are always fresh and hormone-free, so that makes it kind of heathy even it you don’t go for the grilled option, right??

KyoChon is located at 3833 W 6th St., Los Angeles (in Koreatown) and in the Glendale Galleria, Westfield Culver City (formerly Fox Hill Mall) and Los Cerritos Center.

Soy Garlic Fried Chicken Wings

Baked Wings in Hot & Sweet Sauce

Original Sal Sal Strips

I love the Broccoli Salad!

It's surprising to find such good food in the Glendale Galleria!

KyoChon Chicken on Urbanspoon


Filed under Cerritos, Culver City, Glendale, Koreatown

They Call Me Mr. Tibs

I love Ethiopian food. It’s exotic, healthy and very tasty. My favorite Ethiopian restaurant in LA is Nyala. Nyala is located in “Little Ethiopia,” the stretch of Fairfax between Olympic and Pico that is filled with Ethiopian stores and restaurants. Nyala is a great place to go for dinner after a day of shopping or movie-going at the Grove.

Ethiopian food is all about the spices and Nyala does not disappoint. For a first time visit, here’s what I recommend ordering for the table: get the Vegetarian Combination (small portions of each of their vegetable dishes including Red Lentil Stew, Yellow Split Peas, Bean Stew, Collard Greens and Mixed Vegetables, which are carrots, potatoes and cabbage cooked with garlic and ginger), the Doro Tibs (boneless pieces of chicken breast sautéed with onions, garlic, tomatoes, seasoned red pepper sauce and seasoned butter) and the Shrimp Tibs (similar to the Doro Tibs but with shrimp). You can order the food as spicy or mild as you want. I also recommend trying an Ethiopian beer or Nyala’s special iced tea. I’m not a big iced tea drinker, but I love the iced tea at Nyala; it’s spiced and really unusual.

Your dinner at Nyala will start with a complimentary appetizer of spiced hummus and triangles of fresh baked pita. I could easily eat a few plates of this. The main course dishes are presented and/or poured on top of a large round piece of Injera Bread. Injera is the essential element of Ethiopian cuisine and is soft, spongy and slightly sour. It’s not something that’s amazing by itself, but it’s the perfect accompaniment for the sauced Ethiopian vegetable, meat and seafood dishes. In addition to the large piece of Injera under your main course dishes, they bring you a basket of Injera to eat your food with. Essentially the bread is your edible eating utensil; you will not be getting a fork or spoon. You rip off pieces of Injera and use it to pinch and scoop up the rest of the food. Once you’ve eaten the meat, seafood and vegetables, you will want to enjoy pieces of the large round Injera at the bottom, which has soaked up the various sauces. Delicious.

Nyala is located at 1076 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles (in Little Ethiopia/Carthay neighborhood).

Hummus and Pita

Shrimp Tibs

Injera Bread aka Your Eating Utensil

A very cool restaurant

Nyala Ethiopian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Carthay, Mid-City