Top-tier Peruvian for the L.A. Times:
PHOTO by RICARDO DEARATANHA / L.A. TIMES
This is Los Angeles’ Peruvian moment, an embrace of Andean flavors prophesied long ago by food futurists who proclaimed the cuisine to be the next big thing. There have always been pockets of our sprawling geography where ceviche is scattered with giant kernels of corn and jugs of chicha morada stain teeth a pleasant purple. But this is a citywide shift in culinary consciousness.
It coalesced at Mo-Chica. Ricardo Zarate’s restaurant reshaped the notions of Peruvian food with sushi-grade fish mounded in a tart puddle of citrus, and quinoa cut with crème fraîche and stirred just until it resembled risotto. Now that mantle of invention is being carried forth by Chimú, a downtown walk-up where beef hearts share a salad with shaved apples and lamb belly bastes in a cilantro-black beer reduction.
Chimú operates from a takeout window in Grand Central Market’s outer courtyard, a lunchtime amphitheater where all the city’s social strata converge. It’s that centrality that landed Mario Alberto (formerly of Lazy Ox Canteen and Mo-Chica) and Jason Michaud (owner of Silver Lake’s Local) here in the shadow of the funicular Angels Flight.
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Drive-through Peruvian in North Long Beach for the L.A. Times:
PHOTO by GARY FRIEDMAN / L.A. TIMES
A voice crackles from the tinny speaker in the kitchen, and the staff at El Pollo Imperial listens closely to someone in a minivan at the drive-through window placing an order — not for pallid hamburgers stacked two patties high or limp fish encased in sheaths of greasy batter, but for stunningly fresh ceviche and impeccable lomo saltado, the Peruvian dish of stir-fried beef and French fries.
El Pollo Imperial inherited its fast-food trappings. Six months ago, partners Oscar Ramirez and Carlos and Alicia Cortez repurposed a shuttered KFC in North Long Beach, adapting even the drive-through to the restaurant’s new Peruvian flavors. It’s a significant transformation for this stretch of Atlantic Avenue, a neighborhood where ship supply companies occupy former Chinese restaurants and a striking Art Deco theater awaits demolition.
There are playful nods to El Pollo Imperial’s Kentucky Fried past: its avian name, its feathered mascot outfitted like Incan royalty. But the restaurant isn’t a mere paean to poultry. Though you certainly will order pollo a la brasa on your initial visit — juicy, well-seasoned rotisserie chicken that demands to be eaten with your hands — the impressive breadth of the restaurant’s menu will compel you to try any of the dozens of other dishes.
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Beef hearts and beyond from the District:
PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES
Peruvian food is one of the most coveted cuisines among culinary trendspotters, the supposedly eagle-eyed eaters who try and find the next big flavors before the apocalyptic onset of global blanding. More than anything else though, Peruvian plates always seem to be on the tips of tastemakers’ tongues—dishes born from a natural fusion of Andean elements and colonial and immigrant influences. So, it should come as no surprise that local favorites like Kotosh and El Rocoto traverse this cross-cultural territory, restaurants famous for their Asian-inspired interpretations of Peruvian cuisine. But Norwalk’s Anticucheria Danessi isn’t so global—Danessi is pure Peruvian.