Picca, Ricardo Zarate's west LA version of a Latin American cantina, opens June 25th. Where Mo-Chica is classic Peruvian food, Picca is decidedly modern, driven by small plates with a heavy Japanese influence. The menu is split into five sections, weighted toward causas shaped like sushi nigiri and ceviches presented as sashimi, along with a robust selection of innovative robata: grilled scallops topped with an aji amarillo aïoli so light it's almost foam and chewy chicken gizzards squirted with bright green jalapeno aïoli.

Zarate won't be doing the delicious picarones, blue corn fritters stuffed with salted caramel, he served during his Test Kitchen stint, but he may try blue corn churros and an aji amarillo cheesecake. The 83-seat restaurant features a large, mirrored main area, one communal table carved form a single plank of rippling wood and a sushi bar, where Zarate hopes to eventually start serving omakase meals.

“This is my version of a Peruvian cantina, which is a very Latin concept that's actually disappearing from a lot of Latin cultures,” Zarate says. “The idea is to get people to try lots of little plates and maybe learn something about Peruvian food.”

As for the bar menu, Julian Cox, who went wild downstairs at Sotto with a repertoire of Amaro, grappa and Campari, has free reign in the 20-seat bar and event space upstairs. The cocktail menu here is all pisco, cachaca, tequila, mescal and Latin American rums.

Look for seasonally-driven, housemade pisco infusions with cherry, pineapple, strawberry, coconut, cinnamon and more. The bar menu is divided into classics like the Pisco Sour, Pisco Punch and a Chilcano, which is drunk all over Peru but is here made with Pisco, fresh squeezed ginger juice and spices then served in a copper Moscow Mule mug.

Then there are Cox's innovations, like an as-yet-unnamed cocktail made with avocado, aged rum, honey and lime juice. “The ingredients are mainly indigenous Peruvian fruits like pomegranate, mango and passion fruit,” Cox says, “and definitely no vodka, bourbon, gin or Scotch.”

LA Weekly