UPDATE: added 2nd visit photos

Photo by: Paiche

13488 Maxella Ave
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
(310) 893-6100

Pre-Opening Lottery Dinner:

Tuna Tartar
Tuna Tartar ($16) – caviar, soy ceviche dressing, wonton chips

Rock Shrimp Tempura
Rock Shrimp Tempura ($10) – spicy chancaca soy dressing, rocoto aioli

Assorted Pickles
Assorted Pickled ($9) – mixed vegetables

Ceviches – halibut ($9), seabass ($8), yellowtail ($12)

Tiradito de Wagyu Beef
Tiradito de Wagyu Beef ($12) – seared wagyu, parmesan sauce, aji amarillo vinaigrette, black truffle

Tiradito de Paiche
Tiradito de Paiche ($10) – Amazonian fish, aji amarillo lemon vinaigrette, tamari, sweet potato mousse

Pacu Ribs
Pacu Ribs ($12) – Amazonian fish ribs, anticucho lime miso, zapallo puree

Saltado de Quail
Saltado de Quail ($19) – sauteed quail, five spice, rosemary rocoto dressing

Yuquitas ($8) – stuffed yuca beignets, manchego cheese, grated parmesan

Chicharron de Pescado
Chicharron de Pescado ($11) – crispy fish chicharron, lime yuzu sauce

Uni Shrimp Toast
Uni Shrimp Toast ($14) – sea urchin, shrimp paste toast, rocoto honey sauce

Amaebi ($12) – filo dough wrap, sweet shrimp, jalapeno ponzu dressing

Churros ($9)

Chicha RaspadillaChicha Raspadilla ($9)

2nd Visit:

Note – 20% all food & drink 2:30-5pm, all 7 days.

4/13/13 Happy Hour
Tiradito de Paiche ($10) – Amazonian fish, aji amarillo lemon vinaigrette, tamari, sweet potato mousse

4/13/13 Happy Hour
Paiche Wrap Lettuce ($12) – Grilled Amazonian fish, anticucho miso marinated

4/13/13 Happy Hour
Ceviches – sweet shrimp ($14), jumbo scallops ($12)

4/13/13 Happy Hour
Pacu Ribs ($12) – Amazonian fish ribs, anticucho lime miso, zapallo puree

4/13/13 Happy Hour
Calamari Relleno ($10) – stuffed baby squid, chorizo, aji pepian

4/13/13 Happy Hour
Arroz con Conchas Negras y Erizo ($18) – blood clams, sea urchin, risotto

4/13/13 Happy Hour
Tiradito de Kampachi ($12) – rocoto oil infused, yuzu onion garlic dressing, Himalayan block salt

4/13/13 Happy Hour
Chaufa de Langosta ($12) – lobster, mixed seafood, fried rice

4/13/13 Happy Hour
Pork Neck ($10) – grilled pork neck, gochujang, green onions

4/13/13 Happy Hour
Green Tea Coconut Cake ($12)

Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
Peruvian, Seafood Marina Del Rey $$$ N/A

Paiche on Urbanspoon


Lomo Arigato


Of all the food trucks that frequent the Bebe offices near work, I find myself ordering from Lomo Arigato the most by far. It’s far from the best Peruvian food I’ve had, but sure trumps all the other food trucks that visit us (well, Grilled Cheese Truck is good too, but they rarely visit), and definitely trumps the available lunch options within walking distance. My coworkers love the fried rice and the noodles, but I usually stick with the lomo saltado. Very ghetto in appearance and execution, but well-seasoned and more filling than meets the eye. Always a pleasure to get the email re: them coming (although I did skip their visit last week).



Chris Hei grade: B

Lomo Arigato

Lomo Arigato (food truck) on Urbanspoon

Pollo a la Brasa


I woke up Sunday morning a few weeks ago, eager to watch March Madness – I think it was the round of 32. Went to the fridge to see if there was anything for me to grub on while watching the games, but it was empty (Linh-Nam and I are pretty useless without Eugenia, as you all know). What to do? Order pizza at 10am? No delivery service is open at that time, and the options all suck anyways. So I went to my trusty Excel spreadsheet of restaurants to try, and saw that Pollo a la Brasa opens at 10:30am on Sunday. Normally it wouldn’t be an option, since it’s not the closest (in Koreatown), but for some reason I was craving legit roasted chicken. Maybe it’s because I always talk shit about chicken served in restaurants, and wanted to be proved wrong. Or maybe “Pollo a la Brasa” just sounded sexy that gloomy Sunday morning. Anyways, I hopped into the Hei hooptie and jet.


Pollo a la Brasa is true to the hole-in-the-wall definition: tiny booths with faux wood tables straight outta’ a run-down diner, a light-up menu board with manually-arranged letters, and peeling walls of faded yellow. They apparently take credit cards, but it looked like the terminal was covered with dust – so pay in cash if you can (not that I don’t trust the restaurant, but rather I’m afraid that it’ll just confuse them). The first time I came a few months ago, also on a whim of sorts, the place was PACKED – the tables all filled up and with twenty-plus more waiting for to-go orders. They’re not the most organized of people in dealing with the orders, but the Spanish-speaking Japanese staff seems to handle the crowd fairly well (although I ended up not ordering since I was on my way elsewhere).


However, Sunday mornings are a different story. Only a couple of other customers waiting for their chicken, and I was in and out in a few minutes (I highly suggest going around this time if possible). Being a fatty, I ordered a whole chicken (which lasted me a couple of meals). The whole chicken comes with two sides. From what I saw while waiting for the food, the sides are very unspectacular. A generic garden salad being packed ahead of time, and rice and beans that look like they could’ve been made by Uncle Ben. So I ended up with a double side order of fries. Not that great either, so I ended up drenching them in the aji sauce that accompanied chicken – and proceeded to cough for a minute.


So far everything I’ve said sounds depressing, no? Shitty looking place, boring fries – a train wreck waiting to happen. But all of that went away once I had a taste of the chicken. The smokiness from the wood fire stings the nostrils right before the bite, then the nice seasoning from the skin masticates on the tongue upon the bite. As I bit through, the juices from the dark meat came bursting out. White meat was a little dry, but I find white meat EVERYWHERE dry, and it wasn’t that bad here. Skin wasn’t really rotisserie-crisp, but man, the seasoning was tasty. If I had to describe it to a normal person, I would compare this chicken to ones found a El Pollo Loco/Koo Koo Roo, if their chicken was fed with anabolic steroids, HGH, or whatever performance-enhancements there are. Or rather, if their chicken took ALL the drugs.


Bottom line: come early (parking is much easier then too), pay cash, take it to-go. While it won’t change my perception of ordering chicken when I dine out, I really enjoyed it here (although everything else is meh). Arguably the best roasted chicken in LA, no joke. And from a whole-in-the wall joint, no less. A whole chicken can provided at least two happy meals for less than $20. Now if they only served it with a side of chicken…

Chris Hei grade: B+

Pollo a la Brasa Western
764 S Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 387-1531

Pollo a la Brasa- Peruvian Wood Rotisserie Chicken on Urbanspoon

Picca (2)


To complete our 9575 Pico Blvd weekend, we came to Picca last Saturday night. It was the same six that went to Sotto the night before, plus William Long. After the good, but not great experience downstairs, it was time for us to move on up. Myself, Ben, Eugenia, and Linh-Nam first went to Picca within the first three weeks of its opening, and I really enjoyed my dinner there, although there wasn’t anything that took my breath away. I was hoping that, with some experience under its belt, the restaurant can be even better than I remembered. Plus, I wanted the Picca (and possible Peruvian) newbies (Danno, Paul, William) to be impressed at the variety of Peruvian small plates to share, and the chic and cool atmosphere that makes it a fun hangout place.


We had a reservation at 8:30pm, but our table wasn’t ready yet. So Stephane, co-owner and in charge of FOH, treated all of us to a free drink. I was hoping to have the Chilcano de Anis again, but they were out of the anise syrup. But Stephane highly recommended The Avocado Project (which Ben ordered last time), so I happily obliged. What a great drink. Creamy, sweet and tart all at the same time. And thanks Stephane for the generous offer. We really appreciated it!

The Avocado Project

The Avocado Project ($12) – 5 island white rum, fresh avocado, ascorbic acid, fresh lime juice, agave nectar, shaaaaaaaake it, double strain it, top w/ finishing salt

Jalea mixta

jalea mixta ($12) – crispy mixed seafood, tartare sauce

Had this last time. I wanted to have a mixture of favorites from our last visit and some new dishes to try this time around. I remembered this to be really good last time, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.


albacore ($5) – garlic chip, ceviche sauce

I ordered my two favorite causa from last time. The albacore is still my favorite one, though I really need to expand my causa horizons next time.


scallops ($7) – mentaiko

Paul noted that the scallops one was really mushy, and mushy on mushy wasn’t pleasant to him (he didn’t like the causa in general). While I don’t share his sentiments to that extent, the scallops do seem to be cut smaller this time around.

Ceviche mixto

ceviche mixta ($14) – mixed seafood, sweet potato, choclo

My first time trying this. All the ingredients came together well here. I still prefer the crocante, but this was a good ceviche as well.

Ceviche crocante

ceviche crocante ($16) – halibut, leche de tigre, crispy calamari

Still one of my favorite dishes at Picca. Halibut ceviche was great, and the crispy calamari provided a nice crunchy contrast.

Oysters a la chalaca

oysters a la chalaca ($9) – pan fried oysters, cherry tomatoes sarsa

The group wanted to try this. I liked the oysters from last time, but didn’t love them. Probably because I would’ve preferred them raw in this preparation.

Beef filet

beef filet ($9) – sea urchin butter, garlic chip

Juicy and tender. Eugenia did note that it was on the saltier side this time, but I felt that it was just as good this time around.


tomatoes ($7) – burrata, black mint pesto

Kind of like a caprese salad on a skewer. Tomatoes were nice, but I would’ve liked a little more char on them.

Black cod

black cod ($12) – miso antichuco, crispy sweet potato

How did I not order this last time? The cod was perfectly cooked, and tasted delicious. My favorite antichucho now, and arguably my favorite item altogether. This was so good, we ordered another round of this.


corazon ($6) – beef heart, rocoto sauce

Runner-up to the black cod for best antichucho of the night. The texture of the heart was so chewy and tender, you couldn’t tell that it wasn’t just a cut of beef. Ordered another round of these as well. Looks like I’ve found my mainstay dishes.

Chicharron de costillas

chicharron de costillas ($9) – crispy pork ribs crostini, sweet potato puree, feta cheese sauce, salsa criolla

One of those good, but not great dishes from last time. I enjoyed it much more on this visit. Just imagine a really awesome Peruvian bruschetta or French bread pizza.


chanfainita ($12) – braised oxtail, mote and potato stew

Was really looking forward to trying this. The oxtail was really well-cooked – the meat fell off the bone. And the stew was very hearty. A bit on the milder side in taste though.


carapulcra ($13) – roasted black cod, peruvian sun dried potato stew, chimichurri

The black cod was ridiculously soft, while maintaining a crispy skin. Pretty amazing. I found the stew here to be more flavorful than the oxtail one.

Lemon tart

lemon tart ($7)

We got three of the four desserts (no cheesecake this time around – not too crazy about it). There was a lemon-lime gelee instead of a spherification this time around. Still a good dessert.


churros ($7)

Custard-filled churros = creamy deliciousness. Enough said.

Tres leches caketres leches cake ($7)

I still consider this more of a parfait, but like the lemon tart, this was good once again.

As a whole, I found dinner this time around to be better across the board. And yes, some of the dishes on this visit really did amaze me. It’s time for a grade bump. And since I found out that it’s within walking distance from my work, I think it’s time I continue my quest to try all fifty-or-so dishes at the restaurant (I’m about halfway there). Maybe I can tackle the 32 oz. ribeye by myself? Thanks Chef Zarate for an even better dinner this time around, and thanks Stephane (and the servers) for the great service! Just remember to mix in the desserts with the other dishes next time to please Eugenia…

Chris Hei grade: A-

9575 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
(310) 277-0133

Picca Peru on Urbanspoon


I have to admit – despite my self-proclaimed knowledge about food and restaurants, I had never heard of the name Ricardo Zarate before the OAD dinner at Providence last month. And while I read about Mo-Chica briefly from Jonathan Gold’s 99 Essential Restaurants list, I didn’t know that it was Chef Zarate’s place, nor did I know about the chef’s acclaim (he was named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs earlier this year). He was also behind the Test Kitchen project that now houses Sotto (located directly below Picca). If I had knew all this before going into that dinner last month, I wouldn’t have been surprised that Chef Zarate’s food was on par with the three other chefs (Cimarusti, Urasawa, Lefebvre) that night. And when the chef came over to our table and told us about his upcoming restaurant Picca, I knew I had to go when it opened.

I had wanted to visit Picca before our dinner last Wednesday, but knew that the restaurant would be packed and wanted it to cool down a little (the restaurant is on Eater LA’s Heat Map as one of the hottest restaurants currently in L.A.). Well, judging by the scene at 8:30pm on a Wednesday night, it looks like there are no signs of the place cooling down. Luckily, myself, Ben, Eugenia, and Linh-Nam were seated promptly upon arriving at our exact reservation time.


Unlike the traditional Peruvian food that is served at Mo-Chica, the food at Picca is a little more upscale, with a Japanese influence (and in a much more chic and trendy setting). Kind of like a reversed Nobu. At first, the though of Japanese influence gave me goosebumps, since I despise fusion cuisine for the most part. But reading up on Peruvian cuisine, I learned that it was greatly influenced by the Japanese (and also other cultures like the Chinese). So my fears were quickly alleviated. It also helps that Chef Zarate has an extensive background in Japanese cuisine.

The extensive menu at Picca is essentially all tapas, divided into five sections: primeras (starters), segundos (causa sushi, ceviches and tiraditos), terceras (anticuchos), cuartas (entrees), and ultimos (desserts). Our waiter suggested that we order around four to five dishes per person. And while I had hoped to try all fifty dishes on the menu like KevinEats (in my wildest dreams!), the four of us “settled” on seventeen (or nineteen if you count the two that I had at the OAD dinner):

Papa Rellenapapa rellena – stuffed potato, slow cooked beef, boiled egg, rocoto aioli ($6)

Ben said that this tasted like chili cheese fries. While I wouldn’t agree with that, the dish did taste very homey. A good start to the meal.

Albacore, Spicy Yellow Tail(Left) albacore – garlic chip, ceviche sauce ($5), (Right) spicy yellow tail – spicy mayo, green onions, wasabi tobiko ($6)

These two dishes are causa, essentially Peruvian sushi. Instead of rice, there is a yellow mashed potato mixture. We got a couple orders (each order has two pieces) of the albacore and spicy yellow tail. The former was absolutely delicious. The latter was pretty good in its own right, but felt too much like a typical “spicy” sushi.

Jalea Mixtajalea mixta – crispy mixed seafood, tartare sauce ($11)

A mix of fried calamari, sea bass and shrimp accompanied by a tartar sauce. The calamari was perfectly fried, and overshadowed the other two seafood in my opinion. Simple, but solid dish.

Churroschurros ($5)

Because we have dessert extraordinaire Eugenia in our dining party, having dessert is essential in our meal.  Since they were going to bring out the dishes in random order anyways, Eugenia requested that they might as well mix in the desserts to that order as well. They happily obliged. These churros had a caramel-y custard filling, and there were chocolate, orange marmalade, and carob sauces on the side. My favorite dessert.

Pollo, Beef Filet(Left) pollo – chicken breast, rocoto pesto ($5), (Right) beef filet – sea urchin butter, garlic chip ($8)

The dishes I was looking forward to the most – the anticuchos. Imagine Peruvian yakitori, and you have the right picture. Since these were also two to an order, we got a couple orders of the pollo and beef filet. I hate ordering chicken in restaurants because I find it boring, but the pollo was arguably my favorite antichuco of the night. The beef filet was very good as well – tender filet which was accented by the delicious uni butter.

Cheese Cakecheese cake ($5)

We were warned that this cheesecake was nothing like a traditional one. While I knew that it wouldn’t be conventional, I was still caught off-guard upon first bite. It had a slight pepper-y taste (from the aji amarillo), and left a very cheese-y aftertaste. And I’m not talking about cream cheese taste either – it was more like Mexican cheese blend. Not too crazy about this dessert, but thought it was creative at least.

Tres Leches Caketres leches cake ($5)

Looked more like a parfait than a tres leches, with an abundance of fruit on top. I believe that this was Eugenia’s favorite dessert of the four. I liked it as well, but preferred the churros.

Seco de Patoseco de pato – duck leg confit, black beer sauce, cilantro rice ($12)

Duck leg confit? I love duck! And while the duck was very good by itself, I was surprised to find myself liking the rice underneath even more.

Ceviche Crocanteceviche crocante – halibut, leche de tigre, crispy calamari ($16)

A very interesting combination of raw and fried. The halibut ceviche was topped with fried calamari in a citrus marinate (the leche de tigre). I really liked this dish.

Chicharron de Costillaschicharron de costillas – crispy pork ribs crostini, sweet potato puree, feta cheese sauce, salsa criolla ($8)

Seeing the description, I was intrigued by how the combination could possibly come together harmoniously. It did, but I wasn’t exactly wowed by the dish.

Lemon Tartlemon tart ($5)

I liked this dessert as well. My second favorite behind the churros.

Oysters a la Chalacaoysters a la chalaca – pan fried oysters, cherry tomatoes sarsa ($9)

The oysters in this dish are actually fried instead of being raw. They tasted good, but I felt that I would’ve liked them even more raw, especially with the cherry tomato salsa.

Scallopsscallops – mentaiko ($7)

At this point of the dinner, we had ordered fourteen dishes, and everyone else was full. But I had starved myself during lunch, and was determined to make the most out of my first visit here. So I ordered three more things. The first was the scallops causa with mentaiko (marinated pollock roe). Another delicious causa. I’m surprised how much I was digging the causa dishes, since they seemed so fusion-esque. I would probably go to a causa sushi bar now if they had such a place.

Corazoncorazon – beef heart, rocoto sauce ($5)

Also got another order of anticucho, the beef heart this time (since I was feeling a little frisky from having a couple of drinks). Te amo mi corazon! They were really delicious. And I would go to a anticucho-a (play on yakitoria, obviously) place too!

Choritoschoritos – steamed mussels, pancetta, aji amarillo butter ($9)

Got this order per recommendation from our waiter (who said that the butter was sea urchin). While the lack of uni is a little disappointing, the aji amarillo butter was still great to dip the accompanying bread in. The mussels themselves were very good as well, and it was interesting to taste the bits of pancetta.

We also got five different drinks between the four of us (Chilcano de Anis, Martin Ricky, The Avocado Project, Pisco Sour, Chicha Morada). I was responsible for the Chilcano de Anis and Pisco Sour, and thought that the former (with lime juice, ginger syrup, anise syrup, pisco, soda, mint sprig, and pernod) was my favorite of all the drinks that night. Note that the Chicha Morada isn’t an alcoholic drink. It’s a Peruvian purple corn drink – tasted like grape juice with a slight horchada twist.

I came into this dinner at Picca with extremely high expectations, and luckily, most of those expectations were met. None of the dishes we had that night were subpar, but most of the dishes didn’t blow my mind either. Just a group of really good Peruvian dishes. Maybe after a couple of more visits and trying all the dishes on the menu, I can truly appreciate the mastery of Chef Zarate’s Peruvian-Japanese combinations. But for now, consider me impressed, but left wanting more.


Chris Hei grade: B+

9575 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
(310) 277-0133

Note: credit DarinDines for the first photo. Also, I would like to apologize (again) for the terrible photos via my iPhone. If there isn’t ample lighting, the photos usually suck. I am not a prominent or wealthy enough food blogger to invest in a DSLR camera. So live with it, my few readers.