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Peruvian Cuisine Takes on Downtown LA

Peruvian Cuisine Takes on Downtown LA


Chef Ricardo Zarate has opened Rosaliné on Melrose Avenue. Located in the old Comme Ca space, the new restaurant is long and narrow, with a main bar and ceviche area in the front room, intimate two- and four-top tables in the second room, and a beautiful atrium dining area at the back.

Skylights and a back open ceiling bring in tons of light. Rustic flooring, colorful tiles and pendant lighting add life to the space.

The Peruvian food is influenced by Southern California produce. The traditional Josper oven infuses dishes with smoky earthy flavors, and the ceviche bar offers daily fresh local fish.

The menu is split into small plates, family-style dishes, main dishes, and desserts. Appetizer highlights include spicy olives, eggplant puree and corn with turmeric flatbread; popped kiwicha, fried paiche and yuzu aioli sauce; crispy potatoes with salted cod; beef heart skewers with feta cheese; and an eggplant terrine with potato mousse

Family-style dishes include a Peruvian paella with sausage, bagoong and prawns; a grilled branzino with black mint sauce and a bean puree; and a dry-aged wood-grilled ribeye with sesame huacatay sauce. Seafood items include sea urchin, scallops, prawns and clams with rice; black mussels and fish stew in a chili lime broth and blue prawns with yuzu kosho and charred lime. Great vegetarian dishes include a lima bean, avocado, and tomato salad; a roasted beet and goat cheese quinoa salad; and beets three ways with burrata, ricotta, and candied pecans. Heartier dishes include a sautéed filet with roasted tomatoes and a sunny side egg; organic chicken with cilantro beer rice; and pork ossobuco in a banana leaf.

Peruvian-inspired drinks are the highlights of the cocktail menu. Choose from a Mean Monsoon with gin, fino sherry, blood orange, and lemon; the Chilcano with vodka, ginger kombucha, Peruvian aperitif; Jab to the Jaw with cactus pear, strawberry brandy, orgeat, and Chinese five spice; and P.C.C. with quebranta pisco, ramazzotti, Mexican coke, jarabe de ciruela, and lime.

Desserts are equally impressive with Pie de Cirula, a sour plum crostata with purple corn spread and fermented umeboshi plums served with chancaca ice cream and Chancay con Leche, a Peruvian cake with goat’s milk manjar blanco, coconut milk and maracuya guava frozen yogurt.

Those not familiar with Peruvian cuisine will find this to the perfect spot to learn.


15 Great Peruvian Restaurants in Los Angeles

You won't find “Perutown” or “Little Lima” in Los Angeles. The Peruvian and Peruvian-American population is spread out around Greater L.A., and so are our Peruvian restaurants. So maybe you haven't noticed these eateries — often small and unassuming spots, tucked in strip malls far from trendy restaurant rows. But you probably have been hearing about Peruvian food lately — some say it may be our next major food trend, becoming as popular as sushi and as widespread as Mexican cuisine. To learn more, turn the page for a list of 15 of the best Peruvian restaurants in L.A. and nearby. And keep reading.

Could Peruvian food be “the next big thing?” A Wall Street Journal article in September said yes, citing the interest of chefs such as mega-famous Ferran Adrià of Spain's El Bulli. Indeed, Adrià is featured in a new documentary about Peruvian food along with Gastón Acurio, Peru's celeb chef extraordinaire. The film, Perú Sabe (Peru Knows), made its U.S. debut last week at the United Nations. In Peru, the film proposes, gastronomy is not only gaining momentum in kitchens but also propelling social change.

Time magazine has declared Acurio responsible for “Peru's Plans for Global (Foodie) Conquest.” He opened the upscale La Mar Cebichería Peruana in Manhattan last fall, and has another branch in San Francisco. L.A. and San Diego could be next. Until then, Acurio's busy running more than two dozen Peruvian-inspired restaurants in South America, Spain and the United States, in settings ranging from fast food to fine dining.

Lomo saltado at Chimu Credit: Anne Fishbein

Here in L.A., when Lima-born chef Ricardo Zarate opened Picca last year with a Japanese-inspired Peruvian menu, Jonathan Gold said that it signaled the cuisine's move “from folk fusion to full-bore world cuisine.” Two other L.A. restaurants seemed poised to help fulfill that forecast but had disappointingly short runs.

Osaka, a chic spot on Hollywood's Walk of Fame that took five years to open, shuttered after five months. (The disarming water pool entrance, perhaps?) It was an offshoot of a Peruvian chain with branches in Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. Chimú, a takeout counter at downtown's Grand Central Market, closed within half a year despite positive reviews. Its chef, L.A. native Mario Alberto, had chosen to cook Peruvian because he valued the different influences in the cuisine, including Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and indigenous. “There's room to stretch it out and play with it,” he told us.

So don't be surprised if your chaufa resembles Chinese fried rice, or tallarin noodles, chow mein. Or that anticuchos could seem at home in a Japanese yakitori joint, and tiradito is essentially sashimi drizzled with sauce. Thanks to the Spanish, Peruvians learned how to make cheese, resulting in papas a la huancaína, boiled potatoes in a sauce of cheese, chile and herbs. Then there are the native foods, derived from the country's four distinct regions: desert, the Amazon, the Cordillera of the Andes, and 1,500 miles of coastline. Plenty of potatoes, since the country is home to more than 100 varieties (and scientists are still discovering new ones). Corn is common, too, whether toasted for cancha (not to be confused with chancho, pork), boiled to make purple chicha morada punch, or used in myriad other ways. Another native staple is aji, a chile that is called aji amarillo (yellow chile) in its young and fresh form, and aji panca (red chile) when ripe and dried. You can count on nearly every Peruvian dish to begin as a saute of aji, onions and garlic.

The U.S. is home to 557,000 people of Peruvian descent — 1.2% of the country's Latinos, according to 2009 Census data. In L.A. County, Peruvians comprise 0.7% of the Latino population, says the 2010 Census, and 0.3% of the total population. Among them, Zarate remains our city's most prominent Peruvian chef, acclaimed for his modern and polished technique. Several weeks ago, he opened Mo-Chica downtown, replacing an earlier version with the same name. The original was a quick-serve spot in Mercado La Paloma, a warehouse-turned-marketplace south of downtown. The new Mo-Chica has an expanded menu, full bar and hip vibe. Food-savvy Angelenos are already praising the alpaca burger on blogs and Twitter. Zarate has joked that guinea pig could be next. Or maybe he wasn't joking — it's a common enough meal in Peru. With Peruvian food again in the local spotlight, here are 15 ideas for exploring the cuisine around L.A.

Why do we live in L.A.? So we can go to a bare-bones restaurant in a Hollywood-adjacent strip mall surrounded by traffic for what Don Felix calls “Fine Peruvian Food.” The Silver Lake location is roomier, with virtually the same menu. 305 N. Virgil Ave., L.A. (323) 663-1088 and 4435 Fountain Ave., L.A. (323) 669-7575.

At El Misti, take a break from Lima cooking to try the distinct cuisine of Arequipa, a city high in the Andes of southern Peru. Also check out the vegetarian items — noodles or soy “meat.” The colorful murals depict typical picanterías where farm workers enjoy a home-style meal. 3070 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim (714) 995-5944

Anticuchos at a Peruvian festival in L.A. Credit: L.A. Weekly Flickr pool/ricardodiaz11

With several locations, El Pollo Inka is L.A.'s biggest (only?) Peruvian chain. (There's a spot in Miami, too!) The restaurant touts its rotisserie chicken, but the large menu offers a variety of staples including anticuchos, meat skewers such as beef heart. On weekends, you'll often find live music and a dance floor. 1425 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 516-7378 1100 Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach, (310) 372-1433 15400 Hawthorne Blvd., Lawndale, (310) 676-6665 and 23705 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance, (310) 373-0062.

El Rocoto in Cerritos Credit: El Rocoto

El Rocoto is named for a Peruvian pepper so hot that it has been dubbed “the gringo killer.” The restaurant's website says: “if you like to try a tiny piece of Rocoto, don't hesitate to ask your friendly server, but please also ask for a glass of water.” 1356 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 768-8768 and 11433 South St., Cerritos.

Rotisserie chicken at Takatis Credit: Anne Fishbein

If you are craving excellent rotisserie chicken (served with some nice condiments including mayonnaise-heavy potato salad, or beans made with chiles, bacon and onions), go to Lola's in Van Nuys, where they reportedly cook about 100 a day over flames fueled by oak wood. Don't confuse this Lola's with Lola's Peruvian Restaurant in Glendale, which has a different owner and menu. 14851 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys (818) 988-2181.

Lomo Arigato, a truck, serves just three dishes: lomo saltado (sautéed beef, chicken, shrimp or tofu), tallarin (spaghetti), and chaufa (fried rice). Chef-owner-driver Eric Nakata learned his craft working at Kotosh, a Japanese-Peruvian sushi bar in Lomita. The name is a play on the Japanese expression domo arigato, meaning “thank you.” Follow Lomo Arigato on Twitter for location updates.

Remodeled interior of Los Balcones del Peru Credit: Barbara Hansen

Los Balcones got a makeover in 2010, and now a supersized photo along one wall makes you feel as if you're visiting Lima's central square with its ornate balconies. Jonathan Gold's favorite camarones a la piedra (a spicy shrimp ceviche served warm) is no longer on the menu, but try the tiradito instead, similar to sashimi in taste and presentation. As Gold has reminded us, Balcones “is a lot cheaper than Nobu.” 1360 N. Vine St., Hlywd. (323) 871-9600.

A wall at Mamita Credit: D. Solomon

Mamita is a homey spot in a row of car dealers. If the 100-plus menu options aren't enough, ask for the “platos criollos” — arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a yellow chile sauce made with bread and walnuts) or seco de cordero (braised lamb cooked in a cilantro sauce). 714 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale (818) 243-5121.


15 Great Peruvian Restaurants in Los Angeles

You won't find “Perutown” or “Little Lima” in Los Angeles. The Peruvian and Peruvian-American population is spread out around Greater L.A., and so are our Peruvian restaurants. So maybe you haven't noticed these eateries — often small and unassuming spots, tucked in strip malls far from trendy restaurant rows. But you probably have been hearing about Peruvian food lately — some say it may be our next major food trend, becoming as popular as sushi and as widespread as Mexican cuisine. To learn more, turn the page for a list of 15 of the best Peruvian restaurants in L.A. and nearby. And keep reading.

Could Peruvian food be “the next big thing?” A Wall Street Journal article in September said yes, citing the interest of chefs such as mega-famous Ferran Adrià of Spain's El Bulli. Indeed, Adrià is featured in a new documentary about Peruvian food along with Gastón Acurio, Peru's celeb chef extraordinaire. The film, Perú Sabe (Peru Knows), made its U.S. debut last week at the United Nations. In Peru, the film proposes, gastronomy is not only gaining momentum in kitchens but also propelling social change.

Time magazine has declared Acurio responsible for “Peru's Plans for Global (Foodie) Conquest.” He opened the upscale La Mar Cebichería Peruana in Manhattan last fall, and has another branch in San Francisco. L.A. and San Diego could be next. Until then, Acurio's busy running more than two dozen Peruvian-inspired restaurants in South America, Spain and the United States, in settings ranging from fast food to fine dining.

Lomo saltado at Chimu Credit: Anne Fishbein

Here in L.A., when Lima-born chef Ricardo Zarate opened Picca last year with a Japanese-inspired Peruvian menu, Jonathan Gold said that it signaled the cuisine's move “from folk fusion to full-bore world cuisine.” Two other L.A. restaurants seemed poised to help fulfill that forecast but had disappointingly short runs.

Osaka, a chic spot on Hollywood's Walk of Fame that took five years to open, shuttered after five months. (The disarming water pool entrance, perhaps?) It was an offshoot of a Peruvian chain with branches in Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. Chimú, a takeout counter at downtown's Grand Central Market, closed within half a year despite positive reviews. Its chef, L.A. native Mario Alberto, had chosen to cook Peruvian because he valued the different influences in the cuisine, including Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and indigenous. “There's room to stretch it out and play with it,” he told us.

So don't be surprised if your chaufa resembles Chinese fried rice, or tallarin noodles, chow mein. Or that anticuchos could seem at home in a Japanese yakitori joint, and tiradito is essentially sashimi drizzled with sauce. Thanks to the Spanish, Peruvians learned how to make cheese, resulting in papas a la huancaína, boiled potatoes in a sauce of cheese, chile and herbs. Then there are the native foods, derived from the country's four distinct regions: desert, the Amazon, the Cordillera of the Andes, and 1,500 miles of coastline. Plenty of potatoes, since the country is home to more than 100 varieties (and scientists are still discovering new ones). Corn is common, too, whether toasted for cancha (not to be confused with chancho, pork), boiled to make purple chicha morada punch, or used in myriad other ways. Another native staple is aji, a chile that is called aji amarillo (yellow chile) in its young and fresh form, and aji panca (red chile) when ripe and dried. You can count on nearly every Peruvian dish to begin as a saute of aji, onions and garlic.

The U.S. is home to 557,000 people of Peruvian descent — 1.2% of the country's Latinos, according to 2009 Census data. In L.A. County, Peruvians comprise 0.7% of the Latino population, says the 2010 Census, and 0.3% of the total population. Among them, Zarate remains our city's most prominent Peruvian chef, acclaimed for his modern and polished technique. Several weeks ago, he opened Mo-Chica downtown, replacing an earlier version with the same name. The original was a quick-serve spot in Mercado La Paloma, a warehouse-turned-marketplace south of downtown. The new Mo-Chica has an expanded menu, full bar and hip vibe. Food-savvy Angelenos are already praising the alpaca burger on blogs and Twitter. Zarate has joked that guinea pig could be next. Or maybe he wasn't joking — it's a common enough meal in Peru. With Peruvian food again in the local spotlight, here are 15 ideas for exploring the cuisine around L.A.

Why do we live in L.A.? So we can go to a bare-bones restaurant in a Hollywood-adjacent strip mall surrounded by traffic for what Don Felix calls “Fine Peruvian Food.” The Silver Lake location is roomier, with virtually the same menu. 305 N. Virgil Ave., L.A. (323) 663-1088 and 4435 Fountain Ave., L.A. (323) 669-7575.

At El Misti, take a break from Lima cooking to try the distinct cuisine of Arequipa, a city high in the Andes of southern Peru. Also check out the vegetarian items — noodles or soy “meat.” The colorful murals depict typical picanterías where farm workers enjoy a home-style meal. 3070 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim (714) 995-5944

Anticuchos at a Peruvian festival in L.A. Credit: L.A. Weekly Flickr pool/ricardodiaz11

With several locations, El Pollo Inka is L.A.'s biggest (only?) Peruvian chain. (There's a spot in Miami, too!) The restaurant touts its rotisserie chicken, but the large menu offers a variety of staples including anticuchos, meat skewers such as beef heart. On weekends, you'll often find live music and a dance floor. 1425 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 516-7378 1100 Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach, (310) 372-1433 15400 Hawthorne Blvd., Lawndale, (310) 676-6665 and 23705 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance, (310) 373-0062.

El Rocoto in Cerritos Credit: El Rocoto

El Rocoto is named for a Peruvian pepper so hot that it has been dubbed “the gringo killer.” The restaurant's website says: “if you like to try a tiny piece of Rocoto, don't hesitate to ask your friendly server, but please also ask for a glass of water.” 1356 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 768-8768 and 11433 South St., Cerritos.

Rotisserie chicken at Takatis Credit: Anne Fishbein

If you are craving excellent rotisserie chicken (served with some nice condiments including mayonnaise-heavy potato salad, or beans made with chiles, bacon and onions), go to Lola's in Van Nuys, where they reportedly cook about 100 a day over flames fueled by oak wood. Don't confuse this Lola's with Lola's Peruvian Restaurant in Glendale, which has a different owner and menu. 14851 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys (818) 988-2181.

Lomo Arigato, a truck, serves just three dishes: lomo saltado (sautéed beef, chicken, shrimp or tofu), tallarin (spaghetti), and chaufa (fried rice). Chef-owner-driver Eric Nakata learned his craft working at Kotosh, a Japanese-Peruvian sushi bar in Lomita. The name is a play on the Japanese expression domo arigato, meaning “thank you.” Follow Lomo Arigato on Twitter for location updates.

Remodeled interior of Los Balcones del Peru Credit: Barbara Hansen

Los Balcones got a makeover in 2010, and now a supersized photo along one wall makes you feel as if you're visiting Lima's central square with its ornate balconies. Jonathan Gold's favorite camarones a la piedra (a spicy shrimp ceviche served warm) is no longer on the menu, but try the tiradito instead, similar to sashimi in taste and presentation. As Gold has reminded us, Balcones “is a lot cheaper than Nobu.” 1360 N. Vine St., Hlywd. (323) 871-9600.

A wall at Mamita Credit: D. Solomon

Mamita is a homey spot in a row of car dealers. If the 100-plus menu options aren't enough, ask for the “platos criollos” — arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a yellow chile sauce made with bread and walnuts) or seco de cordero (braised lamb cooked in a cilantro sauce). 714 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale (818) 243-5121.


15 Great Peruvian Restaurants in Los Angeles

You won't find “Perutown” or “Little Lima” in Los Angeles. The Peruvian and Peruvian-American population is spread out around Greater L.A., and so are our Peruvian restaurants. So maybe you haven't noticed these eateries — often small and unassuming spots, tucked in strip malls far from trendy restaurant rows. But you probably have been hearing about Peruvian food lately — some say it may be our next major food trend, becoming as popular as sushi and as widespread as Mexican cuisine. To learn more, turn the page for a list of 15 of the best Peruvian restaurants in L.A. and nearby. And keep reading.

Could Peruvian food be “the next big thing?” A Wall Street Journal article in September said yes, citing the interest of chefs such as mega-famous Ferran Adrià of Spain's El Bulli. Indeed, Adrià is featured in a new documentary about Peruvian food along with Gastón Acurio, Peru's celeb chef extraordinaire. The film, Perú Sabe (Peru Knows), made its U.S. debut last week at the United Nations. In Peru, the film proposes, gastronomy is not only gaining momentum in kitchens but also propelling social change.

Time magazine has declared Acurio responsible for “Peru's Plans for Global (Foodie) Conquest.” He opened the upscale La Mar Cebichería Peruana in Manhattan last fall, and has another branch in San Francisco. L.A. and San Diego could be next. Until then, Acurio's busy running more than two dozen Peruvian-inspired restaurants in South America, Spain and the United States, in settings ranging from fast food to fine dining.

Lomo saltado at Chimu Credit: Anne Fishbein

Here in L.A., when Lima-born chef Ricardo Zarate opened Picca last year with a Japanese-inspired Peruvian menu, Jonathan Gold said that it signaled the cuisine's move “from folk fusion to full-bore world cuisine.” Two other L.A. restaurants seemed poised to help fulfill that forecast but had disappointingly short runs.

Osaka, a chic spot on Hollywood's Walk of Fame that took five years to open, shuttered after five months. (The disarming water pool entrance, perhaps?) It was an offshoot of a Peruvian chain with branches in Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. Chimú, a takeout counter at downtown's Grand Central Market, closed within half a year despite positive reviews. Its chef, L.A. native Mario Alberto, had chosen to cook Peruvian because he valued the different influences in the cuisine, including Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and indigenous. “There's room to stretch it out and play with it,” he told us.

So don't be surprised if your chaufa resembles Chinese fried rice, or tallarin noodles, chow mein. Or that anticuchos could seem at home in a Japanese yakitori joint, and tiradito is essentially sashimi drizzled with sauce. Thanks to the Spanish, Peruvians learned how to make cheese, resulting in papas a la huancaína, boiled potatoes in a sauce of cheese, chile and herbs. Then there are the native foods, derived from the country's four distinct regions: desert, the Amazon, the Cordillera of the Andes, and 1,500 miles of coastline. Plenty of potatoes, since the country is home to more than 100 varieties (and scientists are still discovering new ones). Corn is common, too, whether toasted for cancha (not to be confused with chancho, pork), boiled to make purple chicha morada punch, or used in myriad other ways. Another native staple is aji, a chile that is called aji amarillo (yellow chile) in its young and fresh form, and aji panca (red chile) when ripe and dried. You can count on nearly every Peruvian dish to begin as a saute of aji, onions and garlic.

The U.S. is home to 557,000 people of Peruvian descent — 1.2% of the country's Latinos, according to 2009 Census data. In L.A. County, Peruvians comprise 0.7% of the Latino population, says the 2010 Census, and 0.3% of the total population. Among them, Zarate remains our city's most prominent Peruvian chef, acclaimed for his modern and polished technique. Several weeks ago, he opened Mo-Chica downtown, replacing an earlier version with the same name. The original was a quick-serve spot in Mercado La Paloma, a warehouse-turned-marketplace south of downtown. The new Mo-Chica has an expanded menu, full bar and hip vibe. Food-savvy Angelenos are already praising the alpaca burger on blogs and Twitter. Zarate has joked that guinea pig could be next. Or maybe he wasn't joking — it's a common enough meal in Peru. With Peruvian food again in the local spotlight, here are 15 ideas for exploring the cuisine around L.A.

Why do we live in L.A.? So we can go to a bare-bones restaurant in a Hollywood-adjacent strip mall surrounded by traffic for what Don Felix calls “Fine Peruvian Food.” The Silver Lake location is roomier, with virtually the same menu. 305 N. Virgil Ave., L.A. (323) 663-1088 and 4435 Fountain Ave., L.A. (323) 669-7575.

At El Misti, take a break from Lima cooking to try the distinct cuisine of Arequipa, a city high in the Andes of southern Peru. Also check out the vegetarian items — noodles or soy “meat.” The colorful murals depict typical picanterías where farm workers enjoy a home-style meal. 3070 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim (714) 995-5944

Anticuchos at a Peruvian festival in L.A. Credit: L.A. Weekly Flickr pool/ricardodiaz11

With several locations, El Pollo Inka is L.A.'s biggest (only?) Peruvian chain. (There's a spot in Miami, too!) The restaurant touts its rotisserie chicken, but the large menu offers a variety of staples including anticuchos, meat skewers such as beef heart. On weekends, you'll often find live music and a dance floor. 1425 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 516-7378 1100 Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach, (310) 372-1433 15400 Hawthorne Blvd., Lawndale, (310) 676-6665 and 23705 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance, (310) 373-0062.

El Rocoto in Cerritos Credit: El Rocoto

El Rocoto is named for a Peruvian pepper so hot that it has been dubbed “the gringo killer.” The restaurant's website says: “if you like to try a tiny piece of Rocoto, don't hesitate to ask your friendly server, but please also ask for a glass of water.” 1356 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 768-8768 and 11433 South St., Cerritos.

Rotisserie chicken at Takatis Credit: Anne Fishbein

If you are craving excellent rotisserie chicken (served with some nice condiments including mayonnaise-heavy potato salad, or beans made with chiles, bacon and onions), go to Lola's in Van Nuys, where they reportedly cook about 100 a day over flames fueled by oak wood. Don't confuse this Lola's with Lola's Peruvian Restaurant in Glendale, which has a different owner and menu. 14851 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys (818) 988-2181.

Lomo Arigato, a truck, serves just three dishes: lomo saltado (sautéed beef, chicken, shrimp or tofu), tallarin (spaghetti), and chaufa (fried rice). Chef-owner-driver Eric Nakata learned his craft working at Kotosh, a Japanese-Peruvian sushi bar in Lomita. The name is a play on the Japanese expression domo arigato, meaning “thank you.” Follow Lomo Arigato on Twitter for location updates.

Remodeled interior of Los Balcones del Peru Credit: Barbara Hansen

Los Balcones got a makeover in 2010, and now a supersized photo along one wall makes you feel as if you're visiting Lima's central square with its ornate balconies. Jonathan Gold's favorite camarones a la piedra (a spicy shrimp ceviche served warm) is no longer on the menu, but try the tiradito instead, similar to sashimi in taste and presentation. As Gold has reminded us, Balcones “is a lot cheaper than Nobu.” 1360 N. Vine St., Hlywd. (323) 871-9600.

A wall at Mamita Credit: D. Solomon

Mamita is a homey spot in a row of car dealers. If the 100-plus menu options aren't enough, ask for the “platos criollos” — arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a yellow chile sauce made with bread and walnuts) or seco de cordero (braised lamb cooked in a cilantro sauce). 714 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale (818) 243-5121.


15 Great Peruvian Restaurants in Los Angeles

You won't find “Perutown” or “Little Lima” in Los Angeles. The Peruvian and Peruvian-American population is spread out around Greater L.A., and so are our Peruvian restaurants. So maybe you haven't noticed these eateries — often small and unassuming spots, tucked in strip malls far from trendy restaurant rows. But you probably have been hearing about Peruvian food lately — some say it may be our next major food trend, becoming as popular as sushi and as widespread as Mexican cuisine. To learn more, turn the page for a list of 15 of the best Peruvian restaurants in L.A. and nearby. And keep reading.

Could Peruvian food be “the next big thing?” A Wall Street Journal article in September said yes, citing the interest of chefs such as mega-famous Ferran Adrià of Spain's El Bulli. Indeed, Adrià is featured in a new documentary about Peruvian food along with Gastón Acurio, Peru's celeb chef extraordinaire. The film, Perú Sabe (Peru Knows), made its U.S. debut last week at the United Nations. In Peru, the film proposes, gastronomy is not only gaining momentum in kitchens but also propelling social change.

Time magazine has declared Acurio responsible for “Peru's Plans for Global (Foodie) Conquest.” He opened the upscale La Mar Cebichería Peruana in Manhattan last fall, and has another branch in San Francisco. L.A. and San Diego could be next. Until then, Acurio's busy running more than two dozen Peruvian-inspired restaurants in South America, Spain and the United States, in settings ranging from fast food to fine dining.

Lomo saltado at Chimu Credit: Anne Fishbein

Here in L.A., when Lima-born chef Ricardo Zarate opened Picca last year with a Japanese-inspired Peruvian menu, Jonathan Gold said that it signaled the cuisine's move “from folk fusion to full-bore world cuisine.” Two other L.A. restaurants seemed poised to help fulfill that forecast but had disappointingly short runs.

Osaka, a chic spot on Hollywood's Walk of Fame that took five years to open, shuttered after five months. (The disarming water pool entrance, perhaps?) It was an offshoot of a Peruvian chain with branches in Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. Chimú, a takeout counter at downtown's Grand Central Market, closed within half a year despite positive reviews. Its chef, L.A. native Mario Alberto, had chosen to cook Peruvian because he valued the different influences in the cuisine, including Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and indigenous. “There's room to stretch it out and play with it,” he told us.

So don't be surprised if your chaufa resembles Chinese fried rice, or tallarin noodles, chow mein. Or that anticuchos could seem at home in a Japanese yakitori joint, and tiradito is essentially sashimi drizzled with sauce. Thanks to the Spanish, Peruvians learned how to make cheese, resulting in papas a la huancaína, boiled potatoes in a sauce of cheese, chile and herbs. Then there are the native foods, derived from the country's four distinct regions: desert, the Amazon, the Cordillera of the Andes, and 1,500 miles of coastline. Plenty of potatoes, since the country is home to more than 100 varieties (and scientists are still discovering new ones). Corn is common, too, whether toasted for cancha (not to be confused with chancho, pork), boiled to make purple chicha morada punch, or used in myriad other ways. Another native staple is aji, a chile that is called aji amarillo (yellow chile) in its young and fresh form, and aji panca (red chile) when ripe and dried. You can count on nearly every Peruvian dish to begin as a saute of aji, onions and garlic.

The U.S. is home to 557,000 people of Peruvian descent — 1.2% of the country's Latinos, according to 2009 Census data. In L.A. County, Peruvians comprise 0.7% of the Latino population, says the 2010 Census, and 0.3% of the total population. Among them, Zarate remains our city's most prominent Peruvian chef, acclaimed for his modern and polished technique. Several weeks ago, he opened Mo-Chica downtown, replacing an earlier version with the same name. The original was a quick-serve spot in Mercado La Paloma, a warehouse-turned-marketplace south of downtown. The new Mo-Chica has an expanded menu, full bar and hip vibe. Food-savvy Angelenos are already praising the alpaca burger on blogs and Twitter. Zarate has joked that guinea pig could be next. Or maybe he wasn't joking — it's a common enough meal in Peru. With Peruvian food again in the local spotlight, here are 15 ideas for exploring the cuisine around L.A.

Why do we live in L.A.? So we can go to a bare-bones restaurant in a Hollywood-adjacent strip mall surrounded by traffic for what Don Felix calls “Fine Peruvian Food.” The Silver Lake location is roomier, with virtually the same menu. 305 N. Virgil Ave., L.A. (323) 663-1088 and 4435 Fountain Ave., L.A. (323) 669-7575.

At El Misti, take a break from Lima cooking to try the distinct cuisine of Arequipa, a city high in the Andes of southern Peru. Also check out the vegetarian items — noodles or soy “meat.” The colorful murals depict typical picanterías where farm workers enjoy a home-style meal. 3070 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim (714) 995-5944

Anticuchos at a Peruvian festival in L.A. Credit: L.A. Weekly Flickr pool/ricardodiaz11

With several locations, El Pollo Inka is L.A.'s biggest (only?) Peruvian chain. (There's a spot in Miami, too!) The restaurant touts its rotisserie chicken, but the large menu offers a variety of staples including anticuchos, meat skewers such as beef heart. On weekends, you'll often find live music and a dance floor. 1425 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 516-7378 1100 Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach, (310) 372-1433 15400 Hawthorne Blvd., Lawndale, (310) 676-6665 and 23705 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance, (310) 373-0062.

El Rocoto in Cerritos Credit: El Rocoto

El Rocoto is named for a Peruvian pepper so hot that it has been dubbed “the gringo killer.” The restaurant's website says: “if you like to try a tiny piece of Rocoto, don't hesitate to ask your friendly server, but please also ask for a glass of water.” 1356 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 768-8768 and 11433 South St., Cerritos.

Rotisserie chicken at Takatis Credit: Anne Fishbein

If you are craving excellent rotisserie chicken (served with some nice condiments including mayonnaise-heavy potato salad, or beans made with chiles, bacon and onions), go to Lola's in Van Nuys, where they reportedly cook about 100 a day over flames fueled by oak wood. Don't confuse this Lola's with Lola's Peruvian Restaurant in Glendale, which has a different owner and menu. 14851 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys (818) 988-2181.

Lomo Arigato, a truck, serves just three dishes: lomo saltado (sautéed beef, chicken, shrimp or tofu), tallarin (spaghetti), and chaufa (fried rice). Chef-owner-driver Eric Nakata learned his craft working at Kotosh, a Japanese-Peruvian sushi bar in Lomita. The name is a play on the Japanese expression domo arigato, meaning “thank you.” Follow Lomo Arigato on Twitter for location updates.

Remodeled interior of Los Balcones del Peru Credit: Barbara Hansen

Los Balcones got a makeover in 2010, and now a supersized photo along one wall makes you feel as if you're visiting Lima's central square with its ornate balconies. Jonathan Gold's favorite camarones a la piedra (a spicy shrimp ceviche served warm) is no longer on the menu, but try the tiradito instead, similar to sashimi in taste and presentation. As Gold has reminded us, Balcones “is a lot cheaper than Nobu.” 1360 N. Vine St., Hlywd. (323) 871-9600.

A wall at Mamita Credit: D. Solomon

Mamita is a homey spot in a row of car dealers. If the 100-plus menu options aren't enough, ask for the “platos criollos” — arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a yellow chile sauce made with bread and walnuts) or seco de cordero (braised lamb cooked in a cilantro sauce). 714 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale (818) 243-5121.


15 Great Peruvian Restaurants in Los Angeles

You won't find “Perutown” or “Little Lima” in Los Angeles. The Peruvian and Peruvian-American population is spread out around Greater L.A., and so are our Peruvian restaurants. So maybe you haven't noticed these eateries — often small and unassuming spots, tucked in strip malls far from trendy restaurant rows. But you probably have been hearing about Peruvian food lately — some say it may be our next major food trend, becoming as popular as sushi and as widespread as Mexican cuisine. To learn more, turn the page for a list of 15 of the best Peruvian restaurants in L.A. and nearby. And keep reading.

Could Peruvian food be “the next big thing?” A Wall Street Journal article in September said yes, citing the interest of chefs such as mega-famous Ferran Adrià of Spain's El Bulli. Indeed, Adrià is featured in a new documentary about Peruvian food along with Gastón Acurio, Peru's celeb chef extraordinaire. The film, Perú Sabe (Peru Knows), made its U.S. debut last week at the United Nations. In Peru, the film proposes, gastronomy is not only gaining momentum in kitchens but also propelling social change.

Time magazine has declared Acurio responsible for “Peru's Plans for Global (Foodie) Conquest.” He opened the upscale La Mar Cebichería Peruana in Manhattan last fall, and has another branch in San Francisco. L.A. and San Diego could be next. Until then, Acurio's busy running more than two dozen Peruvian-inspired restaurants in South America, Spain and the United States, in settings ranging from fast food to fine dining.

Lomo saltado at Chimu Credit: Anne Fishbein

Here in L.A., when Lima-born chef Ricardo Zarate opened Picca last year with a Japanese-inspired Peruvian menu, Jonathan Gold said that it signaled the cuisine's move “from folk fusion to full-bore world cuisine.” Two other L.A. restaurants seemed poised to help fulfill that forecast but had disappointingly short runs.

Osaka, a chic spot on Hollywood's Walk of Fame that took five years to open, shuttered after five months. (The disarming water pool entrance, perhaps?) It was an offshoot of a Peruvian chain with branches in Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. Chimú, a takeout counter at downtown's Grand Central Market, closed within half a year despite positive reviews. Its chef, L.A. native Mario Alberto, had chosen to cook Peruvian because he valued the different influences in the cuisine, including Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and indigenous. “There's room to stretch it out and play with it,” he told us.

So don't be surprised if your chaufa resembles Chinese fried rice, or tallarin noodles, chow mein. Or that anticuchos could seem at home in a Japanese yakitori joint, and tiradito is essentially sashimi drizzled with sauce. Thanks to the Spanish, Peruvians learned how to make cheese, resulting in papas a la huancaína, boiled potatoes in a sauce of cheese, chile and herbs. Then there are the native foods, derived from the country's four distinct regions: desert, the Amazon, the Cordillera of the Andes, and 1,500 miles of coastline. Plenty of potatoes, since the country is home to more than 100 varieties (and scientists are still discovering new ones). Corn is common, too, whether toasted for cancha (not to be confused with chancho, pork), boiled to make purple chicha morada punch, or used in myriad other ways. Another native staple is aji, a chile that is called aji amarillo (yellow chile) in its young and fresh form, and aji panca (red chile) when ripe and dried. You can count on nearly every Peruvian dish to begin as a saute of aji, onions and garlic.

The U.S. is home to 557,000 people of Peruvian descent — 1.2% of the country's Latinos, according to 2009 Census data. In L.A. County, Peruvians comprise 0.7% of the Latino population, says the 2010 Census, and 0.3% of the total population. Among them, Zarate remains our city's most prominent Peruvian chef, acclaimed for his modern and polished technique. Several weeks ago, he opened Mo-Chica downtown, replacing an earlier version with the same name. The original was a quick-serve spot in Mercado La Paloma, a warehouse-turned-marketplace south of downtown. The new Mo-Chica has an expanded menu, full bar and hip vibe. Food-savvy Angelenos are already praising the alpaca burger on blogs and Twitter. Zarate has joked that guinea pig could be next. Or maybe he wasn't joking — it's a common enough meal in Peru. With Peruvian food again in the local spotlight, here are 15 ideas for exploring the cuisine around L.A.

Why do we live in L.A.? So we can go to a bare-bones restaurant in a Hollywood-adjacent strip mall surrounded by traffic for what Don Felix calls “Fine Peruvian Food.” The Silver Lake location is roomier, with virtually the same menu. 305 N. Virgil Ave., L.A. (323) 663-1088 and 4435 Fountain Ave., L.A. (323) 669-7575.

At El Misti, take a break from Lima cooking to try the distinct cuisine of Arequipa, a city high in the Andes of southern Peru. Also check out the vegetarian items — noodles or soy “meat.” The colorful murals depict typical picanterías where farm workers enjoy a home-style meal. 3070 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim (714) 995-5944

Anticuchos at a Peruvian festival in L.A. Credit: L.A. Weekly Flickr pool/ricardodiaz11

With several locations, El Pollo Inka is L.A.'s biggest (only?) Peruvian chain. (There's a spot in Miami, too!) The restaurant touts its rotisserie chicken, but the large menu offers a variety of staples including anticuchos, meat skewers such as beef heart. On weekends, you'll often find live music and a dance floor. 1425 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 516-7378 1100 Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach, (310) 372-1433 15400 Hawthorne Blvd., Lawndale, (310) 676-6665 and 23705 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance, (310) 373-0062.

El Rocoto in Cerritos Credit: El Rocoto

El Rocoto is named for a Peruvian pepper so hot that it has been dubbed “the gringo killer.” The restaurant's website says: “if you like to try a tiny piece of Rocoto, don't hesitate to ask your friendly server, but please also ask for a glass of water.” 1356 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 768-8768 and 11433 South St., Cerritos.

Rotisserie chicken at Takatis Credit: Anne Fishbein

If you are craving excellent rotisserie chicken (served with some nice condiments including mayonnaise-heavy potato salad, or beans made with chiles, bacon and onions), go to Lola's in Van Nuys, where they reportedly cook about 100 a day over flames fueled by oak wood. Don't confuse this Lola's with Lola's Peruvian Restaurant in Glendale, which has a different owner and menu. 14851 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys (818) 988-2181.

Lomo Arigato, a truck, serves just three dishes: lomo saltado (sautéed beef, chicken, shrimp or tofu), tallarin (spaghetti), and chaufa (fried rice). Chef-owner-driver Eric Nakata learned his craft working at Kotosh, a Japanese-Peruvian sushi bar in Lomita. The name is a play on the Japanese expression domo arigato, meaning “thank you.” Follow Lomo Arigato on Twitter for location updates.

Remodeled interior of Los Balcones del Peru Credit: Barbara Hansen

Los Balcones got a makeover in 2010, and now a supersized photo along one wall makes you feel as if you're visiting Lima's central square with its ornate balconies. Jonathan Gold's favorite camarones a la piedra (a spicy shrimp ceviche served warm) is no longer on the menu, but try the tiradito instead, similar to sashimi in taste and presentation. As Gold has reminded us, Balcones “is a lot cheaper than Nobu.” 1360 N. Vine St., Hlywd. (323) 871-9600.

A wall at Mamita Credit: D. Solomon

Mamita is a homey spot in a row of car dealers. If the 100-plus menu options aren't enough, ask for the “platos criollos” — arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a yellow chile sauce made with bread and walnuts) or seco de cordero (braised lamb cooked in a cilantro sauce). 714 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale (818) 243-5121.


15 Great Peruvian Restaurants in Los Angeles

You won't find “Perutown” or “Little Lima” in Los Angeles. The Peruvian and Peruvian-American population is spread out around Greater L.A., and so are our Peruvian restaurants. So maybe you haven't noticed these eateries — often small and unassuming spots, tucked in strip malls far from trendy restaurant rows. But you probably have been hearing about Peruvian food lately — some say it may be our next major food trend, becoming as popular as sushi and as widespread as Mexican cuisine. To learn more, turn the page for a list of 15 of the best Peruvian restaurants in L.A. and nearby. And keep reading.

Could Peruvian food be “the next big thing?” A Wall Street Journal article in September said yes, citing the interest of chefs such as mega-famous Ferran Adrià of Spain's El Bulli. Indeed, Adrià is featured in a new documentary about Peruvian food along with Gastón Acurio, Peru's celeb chef extraordinaire. The film, Perú Sabe (Peru Knows), made its U.S. debut last week at the United Nations. In Peru, the film proposes, gastronomy is not only gaining momentum in kitchens but also propelling social change.

Time magazine has declared Acurio responsible for “Peru's Plans for Global (Foodie) Conquest.” He opened the upscale La Mar Cebichería Peruana in Manhattan last fall, and has another branch in San Francisco. L.A. and San Diego could be next. Until then, Acurio's busy running more than two dozen Peruvian-inspired restaurants in South America, Spain and the United States, in settings ranging from fast food to fine dining.

Lomo saltado at Chimu Credit: Anne Fishbein

Here in L.A., when Lima-born chef Ricardo Zarate opened Picca last year with a Japanese-inspired Peruvian menu, Jonathan Gold said that it signaled the cuisine's move “from folk fusion to full-bore world cuisine.” Two other L.A. restaurants seemed poised to help fulfill that forecast but had disappointingly short runs.

Osaka, a chic spot on Hollywood's Walk of Fame that took five years to open, shuttered after five months. (The disarming water pool entrance, perhaps?) It was an offshoot of a Peruvian chain with branches in Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. Chimú, a takeout counter at downtown's Grand Central Market, closed within half a year despite positive reviews. Its chef, L.A. native Mario Alberto, had chosen to cook Peruvian because he valued the different influences in the cuisine, including Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and indigenous. “There's room to stretch it out and play with it,” he told us.

So don't be surprised if your chaufa resembles Chinese fried rice, or tallarin noodles, chow mein. Or that anticuchos could seem at home in a Japanese yakitori joint, and tiradito is essentially sashimi drizzled with sauce. Thanks to the Spanish, Peruvians learned how to make cheese, resulting in papas a la huancaína, boiled potatoes in a sauce of cheese, chile and herbs. Then there are the native foods, derived from the country's four distinct regions: desert, the Amazon, the Cordillera of the Andes, and 1,500 miles of coastline. Plenty of potatoes, since the country is home to more than 100 varieties (and scientists are still discovering new ones). Corn is common, too, whether toasted for cancha (not to be confused with chancho, pork), boiled to make purple chicha morada punch, or used in myriad other ways. Another native staple is aji, a chile that is called aji amarillo (yellow chile) in its young and fresh form, and aji panca (red chile) when ripe and dried. You can count on nearly every Peruvian dish to begin as a saute of aji, onions and garlic.

The U.S. is home to 557,000 people of Peruvian descent — 1.2% of the country's Latinos, according to 2009 Census data. In L.A. County, Peruvians comprise 0.7% of the Latino population, says the 2010 Census, and 0.3% of the total population. Among them, Zarate remains our city's most prominent Peruvian chef, acclaimed for his modern and polished technique. Several weeks ago, he opened Mo-Chica downtown, replacing an earlier version with the same name. The original was a quick-serve spot in Mercado La Paloma, a warehouse-turned-marketplace south of downtown. The new Mo-Chica has an expanded menu, full bar and hip vibe. Food-savvy Angelenos are already praising the alpaca burger on blogs and Twitter. Zarate has joked that guinea pig could be next. Or maybe he wasn't joking — it's a common enough meal in Peru. With Peruvian food again in the local spotlight, here are 15 ideas for exploring the cuisine around L.A.

Why do we live in L.A.? So we can go to a bare-bones restaurant in a Hollywood-adjacent strip mall surrounded by traffic for what Don Felix calls “Fine Peruvian Food.” The Silver Lake location is roomier, with virtually the same menu. 305 N. Virgil Ave., L.A. (323) 663-1088 and 4435 Fountain Ave., L.A. (323) 669-7575.

At El Misti, take a break from Lima cooking to try the distinct cuisine of Arequipa, a city high in the Andes of southern Peru. Also check out the vegetarian items — noodles or soy “meat.” The colorful murals depict typical picanterías where farm workers enjoy a home-style meal. 3070 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim (714) 995-5944

Anticuchos at a Peruvian festival in L.A. Credit: L.A. Weekly Flickr pool/ricardodiaz11

With several locations, El Pollo Inka is L.A.'s biggest (only?) Peruvian chain. (There's a spot in Miami, too!) The restaurant touts its rotisserie chicken, but the large menu offers a variety of staples including anticuchos, meat skewers such as beef heart. On weekends, you'll often find live music and a dance floor. 1425 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 516-7378 1100 Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach, (310) 372-1433 15400 Hawthorne Blvd., Lawndale, (310) 676-6665 and 23705 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance, (310) 373-0062.

El Rocoto in Cerritos Credit: El Rocoto

El Rocoto is named for a Peruvian pepper so hot that it has been dubbed “the gringo killer.” The restaurant's website says: “if you like to try a tiny piece of Rocoto, don't hesitate to ask your friendly server, but please also ask for a glass of water.” 1356 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 768-8768 and 11433 South St., Cerritos.

Rotisserie chicken at Takatis Credit: Anne Fishbein

If you are craving excellent rotisserie chicken (served with some nice condiments including mayonnaise-heavy potato salad, or beans made with chiles, bacon and onions), go to Lola's in Van Nuys, where they reportedly cook about 100 a day over flames fueled by oak wood. Don't confuse this Lola's with Lola's Peruvian Restaurant in Glendale, which has a different owner and menu. 14851 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys (818) 988-2181.

Lomo Arigato, a truck, serves just three dishes: lomo saltado (sautéed beef, chicken, shrimp or tofu), tallarin (spaghetti), and chaufa (fried rice). Chef-owner-driver Eric Nakata learned his craft working at Kotosh, a Japanese-Peruvian sushi bar in Lomita. The name is a play on the Japanese expression domo arigato, meaning “thank you.” Follow Lomo Arigato on Twitter for location updates.

Remodeled interior of Los Balcones del Peru Credit: Barbara Hansen

Los Balcones got a makeover in 2010, and now a supersized photo along one wall makes you feel as if you're visiting Lima's central square with its ornate balconies. Jonathan Gold's favorite camarones a la piedra (a spicy shrimp ceviche served warm) is no longer on the menu, but try the tiradito instead, similar to sashimi in taste and presentation. As Gold has reminded us, Balcones “is a lot cheaper than Nobu.” 1360 N. Vine St., Hlywd. (323) 871-9600.

A wall at Mamita Credit: D. Solomon

Mamita is a homey spot in a row of car dealers. If the 100-plus menu options aren't enough, ask for the “platos criollos” — arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a yellow chile sauce made with bread and walnuts) or seco de cordero (braised lamb cooked in a cilantro sauce). 714 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale (818) 243-5121.


15 Great Peruvian Restaurants in Los Angeles

You won't find “Perutown” or “Little Lima” in Los Angeles. The Peruvian and Peruvian-American population is spread out around Greater L.A., and so are our Peruvian restaurants. So maybe you haven't noticed these eateries — often small and unassuming spots, tucked in strip malls far from trendy restaurant rows. But you probably have been hearing about Peruvian food lately — some say it may be our next major food trend, becoming as popular as sushi and as widespread as Mexican cuisine. To learn more, turn the page for a list of 15 of the best Peruvian restaurants in L.A. and nearby. And keep reading.

Could Peruvian food be “the next big thing?” A Wall Street Journal article in September said yes, citing the interest of chefs such as mega-famous Ferran Adrià of Spain's El Bulli. Indeed, Adrià is featured in a new documentary about Peruvian food along with Gastón Acurio, Peru's celeb chef extraordinaire. The film, Perú Sabe (Peru Knows), made its U.S. debut last week at the United Nations. In Peru, the film proposes, gastronomy is not only gaining momentum in kitchens but also propelling social change.

Time magazine has declared Acurio responsible for “Peru's Plans for Global (Foodie) Conquest.” He opened the upscale La Mar Cebichería Peruana in Manhattan last fall, and has another branch in San Francisco. L.A. and San Diego could be next. Until then, Acurio's busy running more than two dozen Peruvian-inspired restaurants in South America, Spain and the United States, in settings ranging from fast food to fine dining.

Lomo saltado at Chimu Credit: Anne Fishbein

Here in L.A., when Lima-born chef Ricardo Zarate opened Picca last year with a Japanese-inspired Peruvian menu, Jonathan Gold said that it signaled the cuisine's move “from folk fusion to full-bore world cuisine.” Two other L.A. restaurants seemed poised to help fulfill that forecast but had disappointingly short runs.

Osaka, a chic spot on Hollywood's Walk of Fame that took five years to open, shuttered after five months. (The disarming water pool entrance, perhaps?) It was an offshoot of a Peruvian chain with branches in Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. Chimú, a takeout counter at downtown's Grand Central Market, closed within half a year despite positive reviews. Its chef, L.A. native Mario Alberto, had chosen to cook Peruvian because he valued the different influences in the cuisine, including Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and indigenous. “There's room to stretch it out and play with it,” he told us.

So don't be surprised if your chaufa resembles Chinese fried rice, or tallarin noodles, chow mein. Or that anticuchos could seem at home in a Japanese yakitori joint, and tiradito is essentially sashimi drizzled with sauce. Thanks to the Spanish, Peruvians learned how to make cheese, resulting in papas a la huancaína, boiled potatoes in a sauce of cheese, chile and herbs. Then there are the native foods, derived from the country's four distinct regions: desert, the Amazon, the Cordillera of the Andes, and 1,500 miles of coastline. Plenty of potatoes, since the country is home to more than 100 varieties (and scientists are still discovering new ones). Corn is common, too, whether toasted for cancha (not to be confused with chancho, pork), boiled to make purple chicha morada punch, or used in myriad other ways. Another native staple is aji, a chile that is called aji amarillo (yellow chile) in its young and fresh form, and aji panca (red chile) when ripe and dried. You can count on nearly every Peruvian dish to begin as a saute of aji, onions and garlic.

The U.S. is home to 557,000 people of Peruvian descent — 1.2% of the country's Latinos, according to 2009 Census data. In L.A. County, Peruvians comprise 0.7% of the Latino population, says the 2010 Census, and 0.3% of the total population. Among them, Zarate remains our city's most prominent Peruvian chef, acclaimed for his modern and polished technique. Several weeks ago, he opened Mo-Chica downtown, replacing an earlier version with the same name. The original was a quick-serve spot in Mercado La Paloma, a warehouse-turned-marketplace south of downtown. The new Mo-Chica has an expanded menu, full bar and hip vibe. Food-savvy Angelenos are already praising the alpaca burger on blogs and Twitter. Zarate has joked that guinea pig could be next. Or maybe he wasn't joking — it's a common enough meal in Peru. With Peruvian food again in the local spotlight, here are 15 ideas for exploring the cuisine around L.A.

Why do we live in L.A.? So we can go to a bare-bones restaurant in a Hollywood-adjacent strip mall surrounded by traffic for what Don Felix calls “Fine Peruvian Food.” The Silver Lake location is roomier, with virtually the same menu. 305 N. Virgil Ave., L.A. (323) 663-1088 and 4435 Fountain Ave., L.A. (323) 669-7575.

At El Misti, take a break from Lima cooking to try the distinct cuisine of Arequipa, a city high in the Andes of southern Peru. Also check out the vegetarian items — noodles or soy “meat.” The colorful murals depict typical picanterías where farm workers enjoy a home-style meal. 3070 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim (714) 995-5944

Anticuchos at a Peruvian festival in L.A. Credit: L.A. Weekly Flickr pool/ricardodiaz11

With several locations, El Pollo Inka is L.A.'s biggest (only?) Peruvian chain. (There's a spot in Miami, too!) The restaurant touts its rotisserie chicken, but the large menu offers a variety of staples including anticuchos, meat skewers such as beef heart. On weekends, you'll often find live music and a dance floor. 1425 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 516-7378 1100 Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach, (310) 372-1433 15400 Hawthorne Blvd., Lawndale, (310) 676-6665 and 23705 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance, (310) 373-0062.

El Rocoto in Cerritos Credit: El Rocoto

El Rocoto is named for a Peruvian pepper so hot that it has been dubbed “the gringo killer.” The restaurant's website says: “if you like to try a tiny piece of Rocoto, don't hesitate to ask your friendly server, but please also ask for a glass of water.” 1356 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 768-8768 and 11433 South St., Cerritos.

Rotisserie chicken at Takatis Credit: Anne Fishbein

If you are craving excellent rotisserie chicken (served with some nice condiments including mayonnaise-heavy potato salad, or beans made with chiles, bacon and onions), go to Lola's in Van Nuys, where they reportedly cook about 100 a day over flames fueled by oak wood. Don't confuse this Lola's with Lola's Peruvian Restaurant in Glendale, which has a different owner and menu. 14851 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys (818) 988-2181.

Lomo Arigato, a truck, serves just three dishes: lomo saltado (sautéed beef, chicken, shrimp or tofu), tallarin (spaghetti), and chaufa (fried rice). Chef-owner-driver Eric Nakata learned his craft working at Kotosh, a Japanese-Peruvian sushi bar in Lomita. The name is a play on the Japanese expression domo arigato, meaning “thank you.” Follow Lomo Arigato on Twitter for location updates.

Remodeled interior of Los Balcones del Peru Credit: Barbara Hansen

Los Balcones got a makeover in 2010, and now a supersized photo along one wall makes you feel as if you're visiting Lima's central square with its ornate balconies. Jonathan Gold's favorite camarones a la piedra (a spicy shrimp ceviche served warm) is no longer on the menu, but try the tiradito instead, similar to sashimi in taste and presentation. As Gold has reminded us, Balcones “is a lot cheaper than Nobu.” 1360 N. Vine St., Hlywd. (323) 871-9600.

A wall at Mamita Credit: D. Solomon

Mamita is a homey spot in a row of car dealers. If the 100-plus menu options aren't enough, ask for the “platos criollos” — arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a yellow chile sauce made with bread and walnuts) or seco de cordero (braised lamb cooked in a cilantro sauce). 714 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale (818) 243-5121.


15 Great Peruvian Restaurants in Los Angeles

You won't find “Perutown” or “Little Lima” in Los Angeles. The Peruvian and Peruvian-American population is spread out around Greater L.A., and so are our Peruvian restaurants. So maybe you haven't noticed these eateries — often small and unassuming spots, tucked in strip malls far from trendy restaurant rows. But you probably have been hearing about Peruvian food lately — some say it may be our next major food trend, becoming as popular as sushi and as widespread as Mexican cuisine. To learn more, turn the page for a list of 15 of the best Peruvian restaurants in L.A. and nearby. And keep reading.

Could Peruvian food be “the next big thing?” A Wall Street Journal article in September said yes, citing the interest of chefs such as mega-famous Ferran Adrià of Spain's El Bulli. Indeed, Adrià is featured in a new documentary about Peruvian food along with Gastón Acurio, Peru's celeb chef extraordinaire. The film, Perú Sabe (Peru Knows), made its U.S. debut last week at the United Nations. In Peru, the film proposes, gastronomy is not only gaining momentum in kitchens but also propelling social change.

Time magazine has declared Acurio responsible for “Peru's Plans for Global (Foodie) Conquest.” He opened the upscale La Mar Cebichería Peruana in Manhattan last fall, and has another branch in San Francisco. L.A. and San Diego could be next. Until then, Acurio's busy running more than two dozen Peruvian-inspired restaurants in South America, Spain and the United States, in settings ranging from fast food to fine dining.

Lomo saltado at Chimu Credit: Anne Fishbein

Here in L.A., when Lima-born chef Ricardo Zarate opened Picca last year with a Japanese-inspired Peruvian menu, Jonathan Gold said that it signaled the cuisine's move “from folk fusion to full-bore world cuisine.” Two other L.A. restaurants seemed poised to help fulfill that forecast but had disappointingly short runs.

Osaka, a chic spot on Hollywood's Walk of Fame that took five years to open, shuttered after five months. (The disarming water pool entrance, perhaps?) It was an offshoot of a Peruvian chain with branches in Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. Chimú, a takeout counter at downtown's Grand Central Market, closed within half a year despite positive reviews. Its chef, L.A. native Mario Alberto, had chosen to cook Peruvian because he valued the different influences in the cuisine, including Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and indigenous. “There's room to stretch it out and play with it,” he told us.

So don't be surprised if your chaufa resembles Chinese fried rice, or tallarin noodles, chow mein. Or that anticuchos could seem at home in a Japanese yakitori joint, and tiradito is essentially sashimi drizzled with sauce. Thanks to the Spanish, Peruvians learned how to make cheese, resulting in papas a la huancaína, boiled potatoes in a sauce of cheese, chile and herbs. Then there are the native foods, derived from the country's four distinct regions: desert, the Amazon, the Cordillera of the Andes, and 1,500 miles of coastline. Plenty of potatoes, since the country is home to more than 100 varieties (and scientists are still discovering new ones). Corn is common, too, whether toasted for cancha (not to be confused with chancho, pork), boiled to make purple chicha morada punch, or used in myriad other ways. Another native staple is aji, a chile that is called aji amarillo (yellow chile) in its young and fresh form, and aji panca (red chile) when ripe and dried. You can count on nearly every Peruvian dish to begin as a saute of aji, onions and garlic.

The U.S. is home to 557,000 people of Peruvian descent — 1.2% of the country's Latinos, according to 2009 Census data. In L.A. County, Peruvians comprise 0.7% of the Latino population, says the 2010 Census, and 0.3% of the total population. Among them, Zarate remains our city's most prominent Peruvian chef, acclaimed for his modern and polished technique. Several weeks ago, he opened Mo-Chica downtown, replacing an earlier version with the same name. The original was a quick-serve spot in Mercado La Paloma, a warehouse-turned-marketplace south of downtown. The new Mo-Chica has an expanded menu, full bar and hip vibe. Food-savvy Angelenos are already praising the alpaca burger on blogs and Twitter. Zarate has joked that guinea pig could be next. Or maybe he wasn't joking — it's a common enough meal in Peru. With Peruvian food again in the local spotlight, here are 15 ideas for exploring the cuisine around L.A.

Why do we live in L.A.? So we can go to a bare-bones restaurant in a Hollywood-adjacent strip mall surrounded by traffic for what Don Felix calls “Fine Peruvian Food.” The Silver Lake location is roomier, with virtually the same menu. 305 N. Virgil Ave., L.A. (323) 663-1088 and 4435 Fountain Ave., L.A. (323) 669-7575.

At El Misti, take a break from Lima cooking to try the distinct cuisine of Arequipa, a city high in the Andes of southern Peru. Also check out the vegetarian items — noodles or soy “meat.” The colorful murals depict typical picanterías where farm workers enjoy a home-style meal. 3070 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim (714) 995-5944

Anticuchos at a Peruvian festival in L.A. Credit: L.A. Weekly Flickr pool/ricardodiaz11

With several locations, El Pollo Inka is L.A.'s biggest (only?) Peruvian chain. (There's a spot in Miami, too!) The restaurant touts its rotisserie chicken, but the large menu offers a variety of staples including anticuchos, meat skewers such as beef heart. On weekends, you'll often find live music and a dance floor. 1425 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 516-7378 1100 Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach, (310) 372-1433 15400 Hawthorne Blvd., Lawndale, (310) 676-6665 and 23705 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance, (310) 373-0062.

El Rocoto in Cerritos Credit: El Rocoto

El Rocoto is named for a Peruvian pepper so hot that it has been dubbed “the gringo killer.” The restaurant's website says: “if you like to try a tiny piece of Rocoto, don't hesitate to ask your friendly server, but please also ask for a glass of water.” 1356 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 768-8768 and 11433 South St., Cerritos.

Rotisserie chicken at Takatis Credit: Anne Fishbein

If you are craving excellent rotisserie chicken (served with some nice condiments including mayonnaise-heavy potato salad, or beans made with chiles, bacon and onions), go to Lola's in Van Nuys, where they reportedly cook about 100 a day over flames fueled by oak wood. Don't confuse this Lola's with Lola's Peruvian Restaurant in Glendale, which has a different owner and menu. 14851 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys (818) 988-2181.

Lomo Arigato, a truck, serves just three dishes: lomo saltado (sautéed beef, chicken, shrimp or tofu), tallarin (spaghetti), and chaufa (fried rice). Chef-owner-driver Eric Nakata learned his craft working at Kotosh, a Japanese-Peruvian sushi bar in Lomita. The name is a play on the Japanese expression domo arigato, meaning “thank you.” Follow Lomo Arigato on Twitter for location updates.

Remodeled interior of Los Balcones del Peru Credit: Barbara Hansen

Los Balcones got a makeover in 2010, and now a supersized photo along one wall makes you feel as if you're visiting Lima's central square with its ornate balconies. Jonathan Gold's favorite camarones a la piedra (a spicy shrimp ceviche served warm) is no longer on the menu, but try the tiradito instead, similar to sashimi in taste and presentation. As Gold has reminded us, Balcones “is a lot cheaper than Nobu.” 1360 N. Vine St., Hlywd. (323) 871-9600.

A wall at Mamita Credit: D. Solomon

Mamita is a homey spot in a row of car dealers. If the 100-plus menu options aren't enough, ask for the “platos criollos” — arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a yellow chile sauce made with bread and walnuts) or seco de cordero (braised lamb cooked in a cilantro sauce). 714 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale (818) 243-5121.


15 Great Peruvian Restaurants in Los Angeles

You won't find “Perutown” or “Little Lima” in Los Angeles. The Peruvian and Peruvian-American population is spread out around Greater L.A., and so are our Peruvian restaurants. So maybe you haven't noticed these eateries — often small and unassuming spots, tucked in strip malls far from trendy restaurant rows. But you probably have been hearing about Peruvian food lately — some say it may be our next major food trend, becoming as popular as sushi and as widespread as Mexican cuisine. To learn more, turn the page for a list of 15 of the best Peruvian restaurants in L.A. and nearby. And keep reading.

Could Peruvian food be “the next big thing?” A Wall Street Journal article in September said yes, citing the interest of chefs such as mega-famous Ferran Adrià of Spain's El Bulli. Indeed, Adrià is featured in a new documentary about Peruvian food along with Gastón Acurio, Peru's celeb chef extraordinaire. The film, Perú Sabe (Peru Knows), made its U.S. debut last week at the United Nations. In Peru, the film proposes, gastronomy is not only gaining momentum in kitchens but also propelling social change.

Time magazine has declared Acurio responsible for “Peru's Plans for Global (Foodie) Conquest.” He opened the upscale La Mar Cebichería Peruana in Manhattan last fall, and has another branch in San Francisco. L.A. and San Diego could be next. Until then, Acurio's busy running more than two dozen Peruvian-inspired restaurants in South America, Spain and the United States, in settings ranging from fast food to fine dining.

Lomo saltado at Chimu Credit: Anne Fishbein

Here in L.A., when Lima-born chef Ricardo Zarate opened Picca last year with a Japanese-inspired Peruvian menu, Jonathan Gold said that it signaled the cuisine's move “from folk fusion to full-bore world cuisine.” Two other L.A. restaurants seemed poised to help fulfill that forecast but had disappointingly short runs.

Osaka, a chic spot on Hollywood's Walk of Fame that took five years to open, shuttered after five months. (The disarming water pool entrance, perhaps?) It was an offshoot of a Peruvian chain with branches in Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. Chimú, a takeout counter at downtown's Grand Central Market, closed within half a year despite positive reviews. Its chef, L.A. native Mario Alberto, had chosen to cook Peruvian because he valued the different influences in the cuisine, including Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and indigenous. “There's room to stretch it out and play with it,” he told us.

So don't be surprised if your chaufa resembles Chinese fried rice, or tallarin noodles, chow mein. Or that anticuchos could seem at home in a Japanese yakitori joint, and tiradito is essentially sashimi drizzled with sauce. Thanks to the Spanish, Peruvians learned how to make cheese, resulting in papas a la huancaína, boiled potatoes in a sauce of cheese, chile and herbs. Then there are the native foods, derived from the country's four distinct regions: desert, the Amazon, the Cordillera of the Andes, and 1,500 miles of coastline. Plenty of potatoes, since the country is home to more than 100 varieties (and scientists are still discovering new ones). Corn is common, too, whether toasted for cancha (not to be confused with chancho, pork), boiled to make purple chicha morada punch, or used in myriad other ways. Another native staple is aji, a chile that is called aji amarillo (yellow chile) in its young and fresh form, and aji panca (red chile) when ripe and dried. You can count on nearly every Peruvian dish to begin as a saute of aji, onions and garlic.

The U.S. is home to 557,000 people of Peruvian descent — 1.2% of the country's Latinos, according to 2009 Census data. In L.A. County, Peruvians comprise 0.7% of the Latino population, says the 2010 Census, and 0.3% of the total population. Among them, Zarate remains our city's most prominent Peruvian chef, acclaimed for his modern and polished technique. Several weeks ago, he opened Mo-Chica downtown, replacing an earlier version with the same name. The original was a quick-serve spot in Mercado La Paloma, a warehouse-turned-marketplace south of downtown. The new Mo-Chica has an expanded menu, full bar and hip vibe. Food-savvy Angelenos are already praising the alpaca burger on blogs and Twitter. Zarate has joked that guinea pig could be next. Or maybe he wasn't joking — it's a common enough meal in Peru. With Peruvian food again in the local spotlight, here are 15 ideas for exploring the cuisine around L.A.

Why do we live in L.A.? So we can go to a bare-bones restaurant in a Hollywood-adjacent strip mall surrounded by traffic for what Don Felix calls “Fine Peruvian Food.” The Silver Lake location is roomier, with virtually the same menu. 305 N. Virgil Ave., L.A. (323) 663-1088 and 4435 Fountain Ave., L.A. (323) 669-7575.

At El Misti, take a break from Lima cooking to try the distinct cuisine of Arequipa, a city high in the Andes of southern Peru. Also check out the vegetarian items — noodles or soy “meat.” The colorful murals depict typical picanterías where farm workers enjoy a home-style meal. 3070 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim (714) 995-5944

Anticuchos at a Peruvian festival in L.A. Credit: L.A. Weekly Flickr pool/ricardodiaz11

With several locations, El Pollo Inka is L.A.'s biggest (only?) Peruvian chain. (There's a spot in Miami, too!) The restaurant touts its rotisserie chicken, but the large menu offers a variety of staples including anticuchos, meat skewers such as beef heart. On weekends, you'll often find live music and a dance floor. 1425 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 516-7378 1100 Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach, (310) 372-1433 15400 Hawthorne Blvd., Lawndale, (310) 676-6665 and 23705 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance, (310) 373-0062.

El Rocoto in Cerritos Credit: El Rocoto

El Rocoto is named for a Peruvian pepper so hot that it has been dubbed “the gringo killer.” The restaurant's website says: “if you like to try a tiny piece of Rocoto, don't hesitate to ask your friendly server, but please also ask for a glass of water.” 1356 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 768-8768 and 11433 South St., Cerritos.

Rotisserie chicken at Takatis Credit: Anne Fishbein

If you are craving excellent rotisserie chicken (served with some nice condiments including mayonnaise-heavy potato salad, or beans made with chiles, bacon and onions), go to Lola's in Van Nuys, where they reportedly cook about 100 a day over flames fueled by oak wood. Don't confuse this Lola's with Lola's Peruvian Restaurant in Glendale, which has a different owner and menu. 14851 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys (818) 988-2181.

Lomo Arigato, a truck, serves just three dishes: lomo saltado (sautéed beef, chicken, shrimp or tofu), tallarin (spaghetti), and chaufa (fried rice). Chef-owner-driver Eric Nakata learned his craft working at Kotosh, a Japanese-Peruvian sushi bar in Lomita. The name is a play on the Japanese expression domo arigato, meaning “thank you.” Follow Lomo Arigato on Twitter for location updates.

Remodeled interior of Los Balcones del Peru Credit: Barbara Hansen

Los Balcones got a makeover in 2010, and now a supersized photo along one wall makes you feel as if you're visiting Lima's central square with its ornate balconies. Jonathan Gold's favorite camarones a la piedra (a spicy shrimp ceviche served warm) is no longer on the menu, but try the tiradito instead, similar to sashimi in taste and presentation. As Gold has reminded us, Balcones “is a lot cheaper than Nobu.” 1360 N. Vine St., Hlywd. (323) 871-9600.

A wall at Mamita Credit: D. Solomon

Mamita is a homey spot in a row of car dealers. If the 100-plus menu options aren't enough, ask for the “platos criollos” — arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a yellow chile sauce made with bread and walnuts) or seco de cordero (braised lamb cooked in a cilantro sauce). 714 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale (818) 243-5121.


15 Great Peruvian Restaurants in Los Angeles

You won't find “Perutown” or “Little Lima” in Los Angeles. The Peruvian and Peruvian-American population is spread out around Greater L.A., and so are our Peruvian restaurants. So maybe you haven't noticed these eateries — often small and unassuming spots, tucked in strip malls far from trendy restaurant rows. But you probably have been hearing about Peruvian food lately — some say it may be our next major food trend, becoming as popular as sushi and as widespread as Mexican cuisine. To learn more, turn the page for a list of 15 of the best Peruvian restaurants in L.A. and nearby. And keep reading.

Could Peruvian food be “the next big thing?” A Wall Street Journal article in September said yes, citing the interest of chefs such as mega-famous Ferran Adrià of Spain's El Bulli. Indeed, Adrià is featured in a new documentary about Peruvian food along with Gastón Acurio, Peru's celeb chef extraordinaire. The film, Perú Sabe (Peru Knows), made its U.S. debut last week at the United Nations. In Peru, the film proposes, gastronomy is not only gaining momentum in kitchens but also propelling social change.

Time magazine has declared Acurio responsible for “Peru's Plans for Global (Foodie) Conquest.” He opened the upscale La Mar Cebichería Peruana in Manhattan last fall, and has another branch in San Francisco. L.A. and San Diego could be next. Until then, Acurio's busy running more than two dozen Peruvian-inspired restaurants in South America, Spain and the United States, in settings ranging from fast food to fine dining.

Lomo saltado at Chimu Credit: Anne Fishbein

Here in L.A., when Lima-born chef Ricardo Zarate opened Picca last year with a Japanese-inspired Peruvian menu, Jonathan Gold said that it signaled the cuisine's move “from folk fusion to full-bore world cuisine.” Two other L.A. restaurants seemed poised to help fulfill that forecast but had disappointingly short runs.

Osaka, a chic spot on Hollywood's Walk of Fame that took five years to open, shuttered after five months. (The disarming water pool entrance, perhaps?) It was an offshoot of a Peruvian chain with branches in Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. Chimú, a takeout counter at downtown's Grand Central Market, closed within half a year despite positive reviews. Its chef, L.A. native Mario Alberto, had chosen to cook Peruvian because he valued the different influences in the cuisine, including Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and indigenous. “There's room to stretch it out and play with it,” he told us.

So don't be surprised if your chaufa resembles Chinese fried rice, or tallarin noodles, chow mein. Or that anticuchos could seem at home in a Japanese yakitori joint, and tiradito is essentially sashimi drizzled with sauce. Thanks to the Spanish, Peruvians learned how to make cheese, resulting in papas a la huancaína, boiled potatoes in a sauce of cheese, chile and herbs. Then there are the native foods, derived from the country's four distinct regions: desert, the Amazon, the Cordillera of the Andes, and 1,500 miles of coastline. Plenty of potatoes, since the country is home to more than 100 varieties (and scientists are still discovering new ones). Corn is common, too, whether toasted for cancha (not to be confused with chancho, pork), boiled to make purple chicha morada punch, or used in myriad other ways. Another native staple is aji, a chile that is called aji amarillo (yellow chile) in its young and fresh form, and aji panca (red chile) when ripe and dried. You can count on nearly every Peruvian dish to begin as a saute of aji, onions and garlic.

The U.S. is home to 557,000 people of Peruvian descent — 1.2% of the country's Latinos, according to 2009 Census data. In L.A. County, Peruvians comprise 0.7% of the Latino population, says the 2010 Census, and 0.3% of the total population. Among them, Zarate remains our city's most prominent Peruvian chef, acclaimed for his modern and polished technique. Several weeks ago, he opened Mo-Chica downtown, replacing an earlier version with the same name. The original was a quick-serve spot in Mercado La Paloma, a warehouse-turned-marketplace south of downtown. The new Mo-Chica has an expanded menu, full bar and hip vibe. Food-savvy Angelenos are already praising the alpaca burger on blogs and Twitter. Zarate has joked that guinea pig could be next. Or maybe he wasn't joking — it's a common enough meal in Peru. With Peruvian food again in the local spotlight, here are 15 ideas for exploring the cuisine around L.A.

Why do we live in L.A.? So we can go to a bare-bones restaurant in a Hollywood-adjacent strip mall surrounded by traffic for what Don Felix calls “Fine Peruvian Food.” The Silver Lake location is roomier, with virtually the same menu. 305 N. Virgil Ave., L.A. (323) 663-1088 and 4435 Fountain Ave., L.A. (323) 669-7575.

At El Misti, take a break from Lima cooking to try the distinct cuisine of Arequipa, a city high in the Andes of southern Peru. Also check out the vegetarian items — noodles or soy “meat.” The colorful murals depict typical picanterías where farm workers enjoy a home-style meal. 3070 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim (714) 995-5944

Anticuchos at a Peruvian festival in L.A. Credit: L.A. Weekly Flickr pool/ricardodiaz11

With several locations, El Pollo Inka is L.A.'s biggest (only?) Peruvian chain. (There's a spot in Miami, too!) The restaurant touts its rotisserie chicken, but the large menu offers a variety of staples including anticuchos, meat skewers such as beef heart. On weekends, you'll often find live music and a dance floor. 1425 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 516-7378 1100 Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach, (310) 372-1433 15400 Hawthorne Blvd., Lawndale, (310) 676-6665 and 23705 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance, (310) 373-0062.

El Rocoto in Cerritos Credit: El Rocoto

El Rocoto is named for a Peruvian pepper so hot that it has been dubbed “the gringo killer.” The restaurant's website says: “if you like to try a tiny piece of Rocoto, don't hesitate to ask your friendly server, but please also ask for a glass of water.” 1356 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena, (310) 768-8768 and 11433 South St., Cerritos.

Rotisserie chicken at Takatis Credit: Anne Fishbein

If you are craving excellent rotisserie chicken (served with some nice condiments including mayonnaise-heavy potato salad, or beans made with chiles, bacon and onions), go to Lola's in Van Nuys, where they reportedly cook about 100 a day over flames fueled by oak wood. Don't confuse this Lola's with Lola's Peruvian Restaurant in Glendale, which has a different owner and menu. 14851 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys (818) 988-2181.

Lomo Arigato, a truck, serves just three dishes: lomo saltado (sautéed beef, chicken, shrimp or tofu), tallarin (spaghetti), and chaufa (fried rice). Chef-owner-driver Eric Nakata learned his craft working at Kotosh, a Japanese-Peruvian sushi bar in Lomita. The name is a play on the Japanese expression domo arigato, meaning “thank you.” Follow Lomo Arigato on Twitter for location updates.

Remodeled interior of Los Balcones del Peru Credit: Barbara Hansen

Los Balcones got a makeover in 2010, and now a supersized photo along one wall makes you feel as if you're visiting Lima's central square with its ornate balconies. Jonathan Gold's favorite camarones a la piedra (a spicy shrimp ceviche served warm) is no longer on the menu, but try the tiradito instead, similar to sashimi in taste and presentation. As Gold has reminded us, Balcones “is a lot cheaper than Nobu.” 1360 N. Vine St., Hlywd. (323) 871-9600.

A wall at Mamita Credit: D. Solomon

Mamita is a homey spot in a row of car dealers. If the 100-plus menu options aren't enough, ask for the “platos criollos” — arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a yellow chile sauce made with bread and walnuts) or seco de cordero (braised lamb cooked in a cilantro sauce). 714 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale (818) 243-5121.