Monday, December 19, 2011

Picca - 12/14/2011

9575 West Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
(310) 277-0133

I know its odd that I'm writing about Picca so soon after my last visit, but I was invited to dinner by Steve Plotnicki, author of the blog Opinionated about Dining and subsequent book Opinionated About U.S. Restaurants. The New York based Plotnicki wanted to reach out to more West Coast bloggers for the 2012 edition of his book and I was flattered to be one of the people selected to contribute. As a show of his appreciation Steve took a handful of us to Picca while he was in town.

albacore ceviche - rocoto-infused ponzu leche de tigre, japanese cucumber
This was one of the special ceviches for the night. The smoky tang of the rocoto-infused ponzu was an apt companion for the lightly seared albacore while the cucumber adds a touch of freshness on the finish.

chicharron de costillas - crispy pork ribs crostini, sweet potato puree, feta cheese sauce, salsa criolla
This is probably my single favorite course at Picca, and one I've had on all four of my visits to the restaurant. The tender pork has just enough fat to make the dish rich, while the criolla adds a zest and succulence for balance.

causa snow crab - cucumber, avocado, huancaina sauce
causa spicy yellowtail - spicy mayo, green onions, wasabi tobiko
Next up was a pair of causa sushi, Ricardo's variation on nigiri uses aji amarillo marinated potato in place of rice. First up was a snow crab, while I normally find the mayo tinged crab a bit blunt, the acidity and spice of the yuzu kocho added a marked liveliness. Though, I would eschew the stuff at a Japanese restaurant, the spicy yellowtail works well with the bed of potatoes.

choritos - steamed mussels, pancetta, aji amarillo butter
Though I've never cared for the typical mussels steamed in white wine, I have been enjoying the deeper smokier flavor of mussels paired with some sort of cured meat where the smoky richness of the meat offsets the funkiness of the shellfish.

conchas a la parmesana - scallops, parmesan cheese, spinach, lemon dressing sauce
Whats not to love about a fresh scallop filled with spinach and melted cheese. The cheese reminds me of a Ritz cracker and provides an enveloping savory weight to the other elements on the plate.

anticucho tomatoes - burrata, black mint pesto
A cooked twist on a caprese, the blistered tomatoes and melted burrata have a much softer and juicier consistency than with a raw preparation while the smoky char adds a nuanced bitterness into the mix.

anticucho black cod - miso anticucho, crispy sweet potato
Yet another play on a Japanese staple, this time black cod with miso. The fish maintains the oily succulence and tender flesh its known for with the sweetness of the miso nicely balanced by the woody essence of the binchotan charcoal.

grilled eggplant
This was an off-menu special and though I don't normally care for eggplant I found this to be quite enjoyable. A dusting of salt provides enough savoriness to counter the eggplant's inherent sweetness while the charred exterior adds a nice textural element to the mushy softness I normally associate with eggplant.

anticucho corazon - beef heart, rocoto walnut sauce
I wasn't blown away by the heart my first time here, but this is the single best beef heart that I've ever eaten. The meat is tender yet muscular and pliant, actually it made me think of a chicken "oyster". Last time around there was a distinct iron tinge to the meat but that was much less noticeable this time around replaced with a heavy dose of beefy richness. Personally I could have done without the walnut sauce, the texture of chopped nuts was a distraction from the luxurious mouthfeel of the corazon itself.

arroz con erizo - peruvian paella, mixed seafood , sea urchin sauce
A delicious seafood-heavy take on paella. The seafood is well cooked, but the star of the dish is the rice with its deep woody flavor augmented with a liberal application of uni sauce. Citrus and microgreens provide lighter touches to counter the heft of the rice.

grilled 32oz rib-eye - aji amarillo
I typically prefer my steak prepared simply: salt, pepper, and maybe butter is all it takes. Picca takes things a step further, adding an extra layer of flavor with the tangy spice from the rub, but leaving the inherent flavor of the meat intact. As good as the steak is, the first time at Picca I'd recommend forgoing the rib-eye in favor of multiple smaller dishes unless you are in a large party.

seco de pato - duck leg confit, black beer sauce, cilantro rice
Our final savory was a duck leg smothered in a brightly herbaceous cauce with a slightly bitter beer sauce. The confit is expectedly tender and rich and I loved the interplay between it and the cilantro infused rice.

alfajores - dark chocolate, dulce de leche
It seems Picca found itself a new pastry chef in the three weeks since my last visit and the result is a completely revamped dessert menu. The most successful of the new desserts were the alfajores. Originally an Arabic confection that made its way to Spain and through there numerous Latin American countries, the dessert has undergone substantial change in the process. Here the crumbly biscuit-like cookies are sandwiched around a thick filling; simple, effective, and delicious. The girls in our party particularly enjoyed the aljajores, proceeding to ask for two extra orders. The men in the group then proceeded to enjoy the show as the women fed each other. Note to self, learn this recipe.

vanilla bean pisco flan
The nuance of the pisco is lost on me but this is still a superb flan thanks to its beautifully smooth and creamy consistency.

bonbon churros
This was probably the most complex of the desserts. The perfect crusty/spongy churro spheres are filled with a tangy passion fruit cream while the three dipping sauces add a more forceful sweetness to the mix.

quinoa pudding
This was the only real miss of the night for me. The caramelized top immediately drew comparisons to creme brulee, but I found the gritty quinoa pudding a bit disconcerting on the tongue.

As always the food at Picca is superb and it was especially fun sharing a meal with other bloggers and people equally passionate about food. Thanks again for the invite Steve, let me know when you are in town and I'll be looking forward to the 2012 edition of Opinionated about Dining.


Joanna P said...

I love Picca! Especially the Seco de Pato. It seems like there's several new additions to the menu since I last dined there. I'll have to go back soon :)

Epicuryan said...

Agreed, the food is just so simple and good. I know you are partial to pork but I highly recommend trying the steak.