13488 Maxella Ave
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
It's hard to believe that a mere 5 years ago Chef Ricardo Zarate was toiling away in relative obscurity at his original Mo-Chica located in the food court at Mercado La Paloma. Since then he has become the authority on contemporary Peruvian food in Los Angeles. Ricardo spent 12 years in London before opening Mo-Chica in 2009 which garnered immediate critical acclaim and introduced Zarate to his future partner Stephane Bombet.
The duo have been opening new restaurants at about the rate of one per year. Their first partnership, Picca opened in June of 2011 which was arguably the city's hottest restaurant for a number of months. About a year later, they gentrified Mo-Chica, added a cocktail program, and moved it from the Mercado to a new home on 7th street in Downtown. Now a little less than a year later the duo are ready to unveil their newest creation: Paiche, a Peruvian Izakaya.
PAPA HEMMINGWAY // MATUSALEM RUM (original Cuba formula) // LIME JUICE // GRAPEFRUIT JUICE // LUXARDO MARASCHINO
SIDECAR // PIERRE FERRAND COGNAC // MEYER LEMON JUICE // ROYAL COMBIER LIQUEUR // ORANGE ZEST SUGAR RIM
PISCO SOUR // PORTON PISCO // ORGANIC EGG WHITE // LIME JUICE // LEMON JUICE // EVAPORATE CANE SYRUP // CINNAMON TINCTURE ANGOSTURA BITTERS
The Papa Hemmingway was the most interesting of the three cocktails; a study of citrus coupled with elusive other flavors. Both the Sidecar and the Pisco sour were on the boozy side. The former had a strong floral and orange component that smelled like orange candy but wasn't overwhelmingly sweet on the palate. The Pisco Sour was pretty prototypical, lightly tangy with a thick frothy topping of egg white foam.
SHRIMP DUMPLINGS // SOY LIME DRESSING // SPICY ROCOTO INFUSED OIL
These dumplings had a very homey fried wonton character to them with a noticeably tender texture thanks to the inclusion of shrimp. The sauce is on the sour side but which acts as a break on the richness of the filling. I did find the dumpling skin a little dry at the edges but other than that a very tasty bite.
PAICHE WRAP LETTUCE // GRILLED AMAZONIAN FISH // ANTICUCHO MISO MARINATED
Fittingly, the restaurant's namesake fish appears frequently on the menu. The grilled fish is fairly subdued to start but picks up on the finish with a lingering char, a nice contrast to the sweet pickled tang on the attack.
The idea a sea urchin ceviche has appealed to me ever since I watched American Psycho and after all these years I finally got to try one. While I normally enjoy my uni with minimal accompaniments I was expecting a bit more here maybe some sort of relish or vegetable that typically comes in ceviche. On its own the uni has a faintly bitter finish though the flavor is effectively masked by the zest of the leche de tigre.
PINK PANTHER // PLATINO ATLANTICO RUM // MUDDLE MINT // STRAWBERY JUICE // GRAPEFRUIT JUICE // LEMON JUICE // ORGEAT SYRUP // TOPPED WITH CAVA
Stephane brought this to our table by mistake and when we told him he just smiled, shrugged, and gave it to us as a gift. Easily the most girly of the cocktails the aroma of fresh strawberries is almost overwhelming, though the citrus plays a bigger role on the palate, the result was reminiscent of a vinous sparkling strawberry limeade.
With Paiche, Ricardo has opted for a more minimalist approach to his ceviches that wouldn't have been out of place at a sushi restaurant. Instead of the typical accompaniments of corn and sweet potato they largely come with a bit of seaweed and onion and little else. The squid ceviche came rolled around a shiso leaf, a classic combination that didn't really benefit from the leche de tigre.
By far the heaviest of the ceviches we tried, the crab came covered in a thick blanket of melted cheese which provided a nice weighty counterpoint to the bracing marinade.
This was the one big let down of the night. The shrimp quality was seriously flawed with a mealy texture and brackish bitter aftertaste though the leche de tigre did help mask some of the latter issue.
The scallops were probably my favorite of the ceviches. Beautifully fleshy and sweet with a generous dusting of salt and a sharp acidic tang from the contact with the limes, very reminiscent of a sashimi.
TUNA TARTAR // CAVIAR // SOY CEVICHE DRESSING // WONTON CHIPS
There was some disagreement about ordering the tartare, but this proved to be a nice departure from the typical tired preparations. The fish has a pleasing oiliness while the dressing adds a forceful heat-laced acidity to the fish. The topping of caviar was quite generous but was best used sparingly as an compliment to the fish.
ASSORTED PICKLES // MIXED VEGETABLES
The pickles were quite tasty, cool and crisp with a sweet mustard verve, we probably should have paired them with some of the heavier courses later, but they were quite tasty on their own as well.
WAGYU BEEF // SEARED WAGYU // PARMESAN SAUCE // AJI AMARILLO VINAIGRETTE // BLACK TRUFFLE
Surprisingly this dish ended up being a bit too one dimensional. While the beef was quite tender and clearly heavily marbled, it simply lacked flavor. A bit of meaty savor or black truffle would have gone a long way towards balancing the creamy weight of the parmesan
MOJITO DE MARTINIQUE // NEISSON ÉLEVÉ SOUS BOIS RHUM AGRICOLE // PINCH OF FRESH MINT // MUDDLED LIME // MARTINIQUE CANE SYRUP // SELTZER WATER
OAXACALIFORNIA LOVE // EL JIMADOR TEQUILA OR ORGANIC VIDA MEZCAL (OPTIONAL) // PINEAPPLE JUICE // PINEAPPLE ROCOTO GOMME
THE LAST ICE AGE // PORTON PISCO // HAKUSHU WHISKEY 12YRS // ASIAN PEAR // SHISO // ORGANIC EGG WHITE // LIME JUICE // LEMON JUICE // EVAPORATED SIMPLE SYRUP // FERNET-BRANCA LIQUEUR DROPS
This was easily the strongest round of cocktails despite having a fairly typical mojito in the line up. The Oaxacalifornia Love was hands down the table favorite, with a lusty smoky flavor up front, a spicy kick to follow, and subtle tropical notes on the finish. The Last Ice Age was a close second, reminiscent of a sweet Pisco sour with floral nuances from the fruit and mint.
UNI SHRIMP TOAST // SEA URCHIN // SHRIMP PASTE TOAST // ROCOTO HONEY SAUCE
I don't think I've ever had a bad shrimp toast and adding uni to the mix just makes everything that much more delicious. The crisp toast point is covered with a shrimp paste that has a subtle umami funk similar to Vietnamese fish sauce that is augmented by the urchin roe. The drizzle of sauce adds a beautiful spicy sweetness that ties the dish together pefectly. The entire group liked this so much that we ended up getting a second order.
AMAEBI // FILO DOUGH WRAP // SWEET SHRIMP // JALAPEÑO PONZU DRESSING
This course brings back fond memories of a similar dish from Nobu Malibu I had back when I first started dining out. The shrimp itself is somewhat lost here under layers of crisp buttery filo though the spicy twang of the jalapeño ponzu had us licking our lips and looking for bread.
PAICHE // AMAZONIAN FISH // AJI AMARILLO LEMON VINAIGRETTE // TAMARI // SWEET POTATO MOUSSE
The paiche was beautifully cooked, flaky, moist and full of savor very reminiscent of the steamed fish found at a Chinese banquet. Personally I thought the fish had more than enough flavor and found the heavy dose of sweet potato a bit baffling and unnecessary.
PALMA FIZZ // QUINOA VODKA, LIME JUICE, GINGER SYRUP, POMEGRANATE REDUCTION, ROSE WATER, CLUB SODA
CUBA LIBRE // WHITE FLOR DE CANA RUM, SQUEEZED LIME, MEXICAN COKE
BERNARDO DEVOTO aka THE MASTER OF INTOXICATION // SINO TEQUILA REPOSADO, CHRISTIAN DROUIN CALVADOS, YELLOW CHARTREUSE, BENEDICTINE, ANGOSTURA BITTERS
The Palma Fizz offered a mouth-puckering acidity verging on bitterness coupled with gingery bite on the finish. I've never been a fan of Cuba Libres, basically a rum and coke with lime, the drink feels almost too simple to be part of the lineup at Paiche. The Devoto was indeed the master of intoxication with a firey boozy punch that burns all the way down, but despite the abundance of alcohol the cocktail actually has a fairly innocuous herb and caramel tinged flavor.
CALAMARI RELLENO // STUFFED BABY SQUID // CHORIZO // AJI PEPIAN
The squid and sausage was everything I had hoped for. The snappy squid acts as a casing for the ground chorizo and absorbs all the sausage's fatty runoff giving the entire dish a lovely meaty sapor. Personally I didn't need the aji pepian which I thought had a slight cloying sweetness to it.
SPATCHCOCKED // GRILLED CHICKEN // PANCA MORO MISO SAUCE
Humorous name aside, a spatchcock or spattlecock refers to a poultry or game that has had its sternum and backbone removed and "butterflied." Made from the tenderloin of the chicken, the meat was moist but I would have liked to see some more intrinsic flavor from the bird itself. Perhaps a drumstick or thigh would have been more effective instead of relying entirely on the sauce.
PACU RIBS // AMAZONIAN FISH RIBS // ANTICUCHO LIME MISO // ZAPALLO PUREE
Pacu is a cousin of the piranha that can grow up to 3 feet in length and 55 pounds in weight. The rib meat is laced with gooey collagen and fat giving it a much richer flavor and more complex feel than a filet would have. The spicy sweet sauce was nicely matched to the meaty rib, though the pumpkin was a bit heavy-handed but readers will know that I've never been a fan of sweet gourds.
CHAMPS ELYSEES // PIERRE FERRAND COGNAC // GREEN CHARTREUSE // LEMON JUICE // SIMPLE SYRUP // ANGOSTURA BITTERS // LEMON ESSENCE
CHILCANO DE CLOVOS // PISCO ORO QUEBRANTA // ORGANIC LIME JUICE // GINGER SYRUP // CLOVES SYRUP // SELTZER WATER // ANGOSTURA BITTERS
THE GEORGIA MINT JULEP // PIERRE FERRAND COGNAC // CRÈME DE PEACH DE VIGNE LIQUEUR // FRESH MINT // SELTZER WATER
The Champs Elysees was reminiscent of the Sidecar but with a grape juice like sweetness on the attack. The Chilcano was similar to the Palma Fizz but lighter on the acid and with a hint of herb-y verve from the cloves. The soft minty sweetness of the Julep was true to form but there was also a muscat grape like fruitiness that was a pleasant surprise.
GRILLED QUAIL // PISCO BASTED // UME PLUM WINE DRESSING
The grilled quail was one of the highlights of the night, immensely succulent and flavorful with a sweet dark savor and rich woody char. The potatoes while unnecessary were a nice touch, providing a starchy counterpoint and laden with heady butter and onion flavors.
CHAUFA DE LANGOSTA // LOBSTER // MIXED SEAFOOD // FRIED RICE
The fried rice was another highlight and arguably my favorite course of the night. The lobster doesn't stand out from the mixed seafood, but it doesn't need to. The sweet melange of seafood is deftly paired with intensely savory fried rice while the astringent tang of the pickled radish interjects some much needed levity
ARROZ CON CONCHAS NEGRAS Y ERIZO // BLOOD CLAMS // SEA URCHIN // RISOTTO
Given my penchant for risotto and uni this was a no brainer. The rice is a bit on the dry side for a risotto but the squid ink gives it an intense salinity heightened by the shellfish. A bit of heat finishes off the dish with the right amount of spicy kick.
SECO DE PAICHE // AMAZONIAN FISH STEW // CILANTRO ADEREZO SAUCE // PALLARES
Our final Paiche course was fittingly the heaviest of the bunch. The dark sauce gives the dish a meaty stew-like flavor embellished by the tender starchiness of the pallares.
QUINOA CON ALVERJITAS // ENGLISH PEAS // QUINOA // RISOTTO
Though done in a risotto style the quinoa just doesn't have the same appeal. The quinoa seeds have a nutty flavor complimented by the fresh herbaceous verve of the peas.
Having made a first pass thru the menu we decided to to go back and pick up some other dishes that caught our eye. First of was a duet of Kampachi and Octpus ceviches. The octopus was served similar to the scallop interleaved with thinly sliced lime. The Kanpachi was arguably the densest example of the fish that I've ever eaten, the dense muscular texture reminiscent of halibut adductor muscle.
The haricot vert was cooked to perfection snappy squeaky string beans, sweet and vegetal with a smoky salty twang from the shaved bonito topping.
The spinach was well cooked as well slighty bitter and nutty but the topping of toasted corn kernels was a bit too tough and didn't really bring much to the dish.
AMERICANO // CAMPARI // SWEET VERMOUTH // DASH OF ORANGE JUICE // SELTZER WATER // FLAMED ORANGE PEEL
MARACUYA CAIPIRINHA // LEBLON CACHACA // FRESH PASSION FRUIT // MUDDLE LIME // MARTINIQUE SUGAR CANE SYRUP
MARGARITA // JIMADOR TEQUILA // HOUSE MADE ORANGE BITTERS // LIME JUICE, AGAVE NECTAR // PINCH OF GUSANO SALT
Despite all being classic cocktails the final trio all had some surprises to them. The Americano had a nice balance of citrus and bitterness with a pleasing effervescence. The passion fruit in the Caipirinha was a pleasant surprise, intensely fruity with a nice crunch from the seeds. The margarita might be the best example of the drink that I've ever had; fresh and fruity, but overly syrupy and with a mezcal like smokiness.
PORK NECK // GRILLED PORK NECK // GOCHUJANG // GREEN ONIONS
The pork neck took an incredibly long time to arrive but it was well worth it. The caramelized charred exterior has a sweetness reminiscent of chashu complimented by heat from the gochujang.
CHICHARRON DE PESCADO // CRISPY FISH CHICHARRON // LIME YUZU SAUCE
Looks like Zarate is taking a page from McDonald's new Fish McBites with this course albeit with some gentrification involved. The fish bites were a touch overdone and with too much batter to fish but the flavor was spot on especially with the lime yuzu dipping sauce.
CRISPY TUNA TACU TACU // SPICY TUNA // CRISPY TACU TACU // ROCOTO AIOLI
This reminded me of the spicy tuna causa that Zarate serves at Picca, but instead of spicy mashed potato, the base is a paste of crispy lentils.
ROCK SHRIMP TEMPURA // SPICY CHANCACA SOY DRESSING // ROCOTO AIOLI
These reminded our entire party of Walnut Shrimp, the mayo slathered battered shrimp popular at Cantonese restaurants. Tasty but, like the chicharron de pescado, too much batter and not enough filling. The dish came on a bed of cabbage which helped counter the creamy heft of the tempura.
SALTADO DE QUAIL // SAUTEED QUAIL // FIVE SPICE // ROSEMARY ROCOTO DRESSING
The saltado de quail was one of the tenderest preparation of the bird that I've ever had. The drumstick was falling off the bone tender and the thigh was meaty and succulent with a gamy essence dressed with a awesome mix of Eastern and Western flavors.
SALTADO DE CAMARONES // SAUTEED SHRIMPS // TOMATO ONION STEW // HOME MADE PASTA
The saltado de camarones didn't quite measure up to the quail. The shrimp in particular didn't stand out texturally but the thick noodles had an enjoyable flavor, laden with chili and ginger with an herbaceous finish.
When Stephane brought the desserts around, he mentioned that Waylynn Lucas was responsible for all the desserts. First up was a chicha raspadilla shaved ice with tangerine sorbet and frozen apple and pineapple. Chicha is a fermented beverage in this case made from raspberry that I found a bit disconcerting though I enjoyed the fruits and the sorbet.
The chocolate torte was sinfully rich, creamy, and chocolatey. Straightforward and delicious on its own, the drizzle of passion fruit adds a bright fruity foil that appreciably lightens the dessert.
The churro bites came dusted with cinnamon sugar and had a crisp exterior wrapped around a slightly gooey core. The came with two dipping sauces but I preferred them on their own.
I had imagined Paiche would be a departure from Picca and despite the Japanese influences that are just as prominent here the restaurant does feel markedly different from its older sibling. On the whole, I prefer the food at Picca. The ceviches at Paiche were too similar to one another and the debacle with the sweet shrimp was especially disappointing; though the meal did pick up with the heavier dishes, particularly the rice dishes and the quail. Food aside there, between 7:45 and 9:45, the kitchen was slammed and we had multiple delays between courses one of which was almost 45 minutes long. Considering it was the first night of full dinner service and they did 306 covers I suppose the delays can be forgiven and to their credit the staff was attentive throughout the evening. While I did have some issues with Paiche, every restaurant goes through some growing pains; if Ricardo and Stephane can work out the kinks, I suspect they will have another winner on their hands.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
13488 Maxella Ave