Monday, August 15, 2011

Picca Review: Artful Peruvian in a Beautiful Room

The dancing bull makes me smile, he's just so happy!
After hearing many raves from trusted bloggers and websites about Picca, which opened in June, I made a reservation for last Friday night for my family with my brother in town. I've heard a lot about Chef Ricardo Zarate; he was one of the Top New Chefs in 2011 by Food and Wine Magazine and was one of the co-owners of Test Kitchen which we visited twice, once for the now infamous Red Medicine and the other for Marcel Vigneron's pop-up. The restaurant is located right upstairs from the former Test Kitchen in a much nicer space. The space is gorgeous: light and airy feeling with lots of raw wood, soaring ceilings with a warm rustic modern feel. The open kitchen behind glass and lovely bar all contribute to a cohesive, fun and inviting room buzzing with energy.
The menu is a bit overwhelming; with so many choices and unfamiliar items, I just requested to have the chef select our dishes for us. It was a good way to try a balance of dishes from all parts of the menu. Next visit (and I definitely hope there will be a next time), I will actually be able to order for myself, but this was a good introduction to the menu. Every dish was carefully conceived, bursting with flavors (lots of new flavors to us) with interesting use of spices, sauces, garnishes and acids, and very pretty. The cocktails were also excellent, not too sweet with lots of fresh juices and ingredients. Service was very friendly and knowledgeable. The meal was a little expensive at about $75 per person before tip including 1-2 drinks; most of the items were around $10-15, but there were a couple of clear outliers including the special 32 oz ribeye at $72 and the uni and scallop tiradito at $32. They were both really good (uni scallop was my fave of the night) but I think next time we wouldn't order such expensive items ourselves and maybe wine instead of cocktails (as good as they were) and it will be much more reasonable. There's still plenty on the menu that I want to try.
Tuna Tartare with lemon soy dressing and wonton chips: fairly standard dish but all the ingredients were really fresh and the lemon really brightened this dish
Conchas a la parmesana: scallops, parmesan cheese, spinach, lemon sauce. A little rich, the cheese and sauce overwhelmed the scallops a bit
Steamed artichokes: fairly straightforward with a rich and spicy dipping sauce
Uni and scallop tiradito: my favorite dish of the day with the soft tender sweet scallops and the briny creamy sea urchin
Causa Sushi: snow crab with cucumber, avocado, huacaina sauce; shrimp with pickled cucumbers, yuzu kosho guacamole; albacore with garlic chip, ceviche sauce; spicy yellow tail with spicy mayo, green onions, wasabi tobiko. Perfect little bites; I liked the use of the finely mashed potato base in lieu of rice. I couldn't really discern the flavors of the fish with all the sauces and garnishes, but it was still good.
Ceviche crocante: halibut, leche de tigre, crispy calamari. The calamari was perfectly fried and a nice contrast to the cool, raw halibut
Ceviche mixto: mixed seafood, sweet potato, choclo. Loved the shrimp on this dish although I prefered the first ceviche overall for the fried calamari. I liked the use of these slightly spicy microgreens in many of the dishes.
Several skewers of anticuchos
L-R: Papa a la huancain: potato, quail egg, pancetta, chives; portobello mushrooms with mustard sauce, micro green salad; salmon with miso and pickled cucumbers. I really liked the mushrooms and the tender salmon, the potato was only ok
Black cod with miso anticucho, crispy sweet potato and corazon: beef heart with rocoto sauce. Black cod was pretty similar to the salmon, nice and tender. Beef heart was good although didn't really taste like heart
Arroz chaufa de mariscos: mixed seafood, peruvian fried rice, pickled radish. Delicious fried rice made different with Peruvian flavorings
32 oz ribeye: delicious dry rub with interesting chili spices cooked to a perfect medium rare with nice char and spices on the crust. Expensive at $72, but really good
Churros filled with custard and three dipping sauces: chocolate, orange and carob. My favorite was the chocolate, so delicious with the warm crunchy but soft churro oozing with cool custard!
Everything Nice: cachaca, fresh muddled strawberries, fresh lime juice, honey, cinnamon sugar, peach bitters. Delicious cocktail, like a strawberry caipairinha
Sabertooth: cachaca, muddled blueberries, apricot liquor, fresh lime juice and simple syrup. A little stronger than the "Everything Nice" which I preferred
Pisco Sour
9575 West Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035

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