Forget the standbys: the Italian cafés, the French bistros, the Japanese sushi bars. This year, nothing feels so essential in L.A. as Peruvian tapas. We have Ricardo Zarate to thank for that: First he brought the cuisine to our consciousness with his groundbreaking Mo-Chica, and then, last year, he opened Picca, an upscale Pico-Robertson spinoff with a long list of small, delightful plates. Even with Mo-Chica now in newer, hotter digs downtown, it's Picca that makes our heart sing. Stylish, noisy and energetic, it's consistently a grand time — no small thanks to the pisco sours served up by the bar. Pisco is basically the brandy of South America: a lightly grape-y liquor that's perfectly refreshing mixed with citrus and sugar, topped with frothy egg and given a dash of Angostura bitters. Both Chile and Peru claim the pisco sour as their national drink, but after a night at Picca and a few of its iteration, we're pretty sure Chile won't have a chance in hell of getting your vote. 9575 W. Pico Blvd., Pico-Robertson. (310) 277-0133,
—Sarah Fenske

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