So much of what we eat hinges on the weather. There are days where we seriously consider surrendering to a diet of popsicles , and other times where anything sounds good as long as it's covered in gravy. However there are dishes, such as the uniquely Peruvian causas served at Pollo el Brasero #3, Mo-Chica and El Hatuchay, that despite being served cold -- with layers of mashed potato and rich fillings -- provide a satisfying mix of flavors suitable for any weather.
Although causas are found throughout Peru, they are most identified with Lima, where Rosario Hokama, the owner of Pollo el Brasero #3, and her family are from. An offshoot of the chicken-centric original on Pico Boulevard, Hokama opened this branch specifically to provide a wider selection of Peruvian dishes, including their version of the Causa Limeña.
Using the chicken from their wood-fired rotisserie, Hokama makes a finely minced chicken salad and sandwiches it in between two layers of mashed potatoes so smooth that they give the initial appearance of a yellow buttercream frosting. Pollo el Brasero #3's causas are prepared right before serving and are garnished with a red aji flecked spicy mayonnaise that bridges the flavors of the pâté like chicken salad and the potatoes that Hakama seasons with: "salt, pepper and a little lime, para darle gusto" which is Spanish for "to make it really good."
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Mo-Chica has embraced the idea of the causa as a canvas, and the ingredients they use in the dish can change daily. On our most recent visit, the filling in their Causa del Dia was composed of chunks raw scallop folded in a cream sauce studded with tiny roe. Mo-Chica's causas are centered around their fillings, and in this case, the slightly crumbly top layer of purple potato seemed to be used more for structure and texture than for flavor. Bits of potato collapsed into the filling, adding substance to the creamy flavor of the scallop as it played with the bottom layer of buttery avocado and the dollop of pungent huancaína sauce on top
Due to their delicate fillings and careful composition, causas can be refined. However, El Hatuchay demonstrates their casual nature by including one whenever you order one of their All Day Specials of typical Peruvian entrees, like saltados and chaufas. The causa here are dense and made in the shape of a loaf, with three thick layers of potato and two different layers of fillings: a mix of vegetables including corn and peas and a lemony tuna salad. On the side of the causa, El Hatuchay provides a pile of pickled red onions that adds refreshing bursts of brightness to the dish, and can be adjusted by including a few slices it each bite on very warm days.
Pollo el Brasero #3: 5163 Venice Boulevard, Los Angeles, (323) 936-4444. Mo-Chica: 3655 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, (213) 747-2141. El Hatuchay: 12853 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, (818) 982-9811.