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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mochica: Disappointing Food and Drinks, No Go

I was fortunate enough to go to the "Friends and Family" pre-opening event at Mochica a few weeks ago and had mixed feelings about it. I wanted to like it because I love Peruvian food but the verdict was promising but not quite there. I mostly had seafood and veggie dishes because of my party so I also wanted to try the meat dishes. So I returned.

Confession: I've been to its former Mercado La Paloma location and didn't like them then either. 

I recall the highlight of my last visit during Friends and Family being the octopus, so got that. It's grilled octopus with potatoes and jalapeno sauce. It was a bit heavy on the sauce but the octopus was cooked right and the sauce gave it a nice kick. It was solid this time around as well.

I can't say the same for the alpaca stew that seems to be one of its signature dishes. Loved the idea of slow cooked alpaca, paired with some noodles and topped with a fried egg. What's not to like, right?

The alpaca meat didn't have too much flavor. It was soft and tender but tasted bland. Don't get me started on the noodles. They were totally overdone and that alone ruined the dish. It held so much promise -- slow cooked meat + noodles + fried egg whose yolk is oozing and blends into the sauce. Alas, it didn't deliver. Extremely disappointing. It didn't matter the egg was "organic fertile."

The so-called quinotto was interesting. I love risotto so this was a nice variation using quinoa that actually worked. The wild mushrooms emanated a strong mushroom-y flavor and aroma. It was drizzled with some parsley-infused oil that I didn't think was necessary but it wasn't bad either.

The lomo saltado was extremely forgettable. I mean, using top quality meat is key here and the meat was overly tough and chewy. Not to mention the fries, of which there were only like five. Skimpy.

The fried chicken pieces weren't bad but not nearly as good as the fried chicken sandwich at Son of a Gun.

The ceviches were unimpressive. They were nothing like the ones at La Mar Cebicheria in SF.  The food was better executed there. I haven't been to Picca in LA yet but I wonder if it's just the sad reality of the state of Peruvian in LA...

I tried the Spanish Mackerel tiradito and I didn't get the feeling that the fish was super fresh.

One of my eating partners said the lamb and alpaca burger was dry. I agreed.

The cooked fish dishes were nothing special. One of the things I love about Peruvian food is the sauce. I remember my dear friend and master chef MO made some amazing chili-based sauces, yellow, green and red. We had them with tiradito and causas.

I hate to be so down on this place but the cocktails were left wanting too. I'm a huge fan of Pisco Sour and I didn't think they did a good job of the drink. It didn't have the foam from the egg white. Just didn't taste authentic. It was just uber strong.

The food was also overall over salted. Yes, I'm crying wolf again about the salt.

One big no-no: What's up with the servers so eagerly wanting to take our plates like every five seconds? That's extremely annoying so please don't do it again. Although to be honest, I'm not planning on returning.

For dessert, we had the alfajores, which I usually love but they looked so dry and unappetizing that my mouth just dried up by looking at them.

In contrast, the picarones -- a Peruvian version of the donut -- I had at La Mar were amazing. Ok, I'll stop comparing. Just won't be going here again.

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