Oh, Old Pasadena, dasher of hopes and destroyer of restaurants, a hostile, traffic-choked terrordome where only the strongest survive, where rents are breathtaking, where even the best-financed enterprises founder on the rocks. But out of the ashes of Hooters, within the very walls once saturated with testosterone and stale tap beer, comes Choza Mama, scion of the well-loved Burbank Peruvian restaurant, introducing Cusqueña and tallarines where once were Miller Lite and hot wings, and soft Latin American music where the likes of Hootie and the Blowfish once brayed. The servings are enormous here, bowls of chicharrones de calamares the size of hubcaps; plates of bland tiradito the size of truck tires; mounds of pollo saltado, the emblematic Peruvian-Chinese dish of chicken stir-fried with French fries and onions, rising halfway to the ceiling. Is the cooking perhaps indifferent in its first weeks, the sauce on the tallarin verde closer to Italian pesto than to its Peruvian analogue, the ceviche a bit flabby? Alas. The restaurant was plopped down here to compete with the Cheesecake Factory, not with Mo-Chica. And I wish it the best of luck.
CHOZA MAMA: 96 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. (626) 432-4692.
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