With both time and hunger to kill, I ordered a cebiche at Mo-chica. I hadn't heard of the place before and wasn't expecting anything incredible. El Mercado La Paloma is a neat place but not where you'd expect to find a multi-star meal: it's an indoor stall-market of artisan knick-knacks plus a food court tucked away on the shadow of the Harbor Freeway a few blocks east of USC.
Pero les digo mijos y mijas, was I pleasantly surprised. The cebiche was delicioso and innovative with a unique nouvelle cuisine twist to it. I barely finished it before running to my meeting, leaving me with an acute anticipation to return for a full meal.
I finally went back today. I'd promised a New Year's lunch to my friend AnaMar?¡a Ruiz, el Centro Latino's executive director, and Mo-chica was it.
The menu is short: three appetizers, and six regular and 3-4 daily special entrees, all classics -- cebiche, papa a la huancaina, aj?¡ de gallina, arroz con pollo, arroz con mariscos, lomo saltado, seco de cordero -- all with their unique personality, all matched with top-of-the line dish presentations and service.
Curious note: Everyone in the front-end staff is Japanese who barely speak English or Spanish. For all I know, the chef is also Japanese, but it wouldn't matter one bit because the food is as authentic Peruvian as can be.
AnaMar?¡a and I both opened with a cebiche, followed with un aj?¡ de gallina y un arroz con mariscos, which we shared. ?íTodo delicioso! Cebiche: Five stars. Aj?¡ de gallina: My mother prepares a mean version, but not as good as Mo-chica's (?ídisculpa, mam?í!). Arroz con mariscos: Off the chart.
And so here you have it. Mo-chica has displaced Mario's (Melrose @ Vine) as my most favorite Peruvian place in LatinoLA. Mario's is excellent and authentic and enjoyable, but Mo-chica's combination of funky venue, authenticity and nouvelle cuisine twist makes it unique.