Mo-Chica, a hip, vibrant restaurant in downtown Los Angeles, which serves some of L.A.'s best Peruvian cuisine, began life as a small counter in Mercado la Paloma, a warehouse-turned-marketplace near USC. The menu — traditional dishes with modern touches and quality ingredients — garnered critical acclaim for chef Ricardo Zarate, a Lima native. Zarate went on to open Picca in West L.A., which focuses on Japanese-inspired Peruvian cuisine (think tiny tapas and raw fish). Now, Zarate has opened a bigger, snazzier Mo-Chica to replace the old restaurant, complete with a full bar, open kitchen, graffiti mural and communal tables. The expanded menu emphasizes what Zarate describes as Peruvian comfort food. In addition to staples such as aji de gallina, seco de cordero and ceviche, you'll find less familiar items, including paiche (an Amazonian fish), sangrecita (blood sausage made in-house), papa rellena (potato stuffed with eggplant stew) and even alpaca, which is served in a burger or with noodles. 514 W. Seventh St., dwntwn. (213) 622-3744, mo-chica.com.
—Daina Beth Solomon