Picca Serves Innovative Family-Style Peruvian
(Credit: Ryan Tanaka)

Take your taste buds on a trip to South America with a visit to Picca, the recently opened Peruvian cantina that serves up traditional fare with a Japanese twist.

Upon first impression the eatery seems unassuming, located in a largely residential area (which makes parking refreshingly easy to find), but once you step inside it becomes apparent that you are in for a real treat. An open kitchen faces wooden dining tables and a sleek bar that mixes some truly unique cocktails, from the Pisco Sour to the ginger-heavy Boots with the Fur.

The second floor houses lounge-style seating, as well as a somewhat secluded dining area perfect for a large party.

While the ambiance is enough reason to pay Picca a visit, it’s the food that makes it a must-try for any Angeleno epicure. After dining here it becomes clear why Food & Wine Magazine named chef/owner Ricardo Zarate 2011’s Best New Chef in America.

Zarate, a Peruvian native, decided on the name Picca because it means “to nibble,” and that’s precisely what you should do at this swanky West L.A restaurant. To fully experience the cuisine, it’s best to order a bunch of different small plates to share --though the portions are minimal, the flavors are enormous.

To those unfamiliar with Peruvian cuisine, the extensive menu filled with anticuchos (skewers) and ceviche (raw fish) may seem daunting, but it’s very hard to choose wrong here; each plate I sampled was more delicious than the last.

The seabass tiradito (thinly sliced sea bass, soy sauce, lemon dressing, sesame oil and sweet potato puree) is a must. Even those who are not the biggest fans of fish (myself included) will appreciate the blend of flavors and melt-in-your mouth texture.

The chicharron de costillas (crispy pork ribs crostini, sweet potato puree, feta cheese sauce and salsa criolla) is the pork-enthusiast’s answer to bruscetta, while the chicharron de pollo (marinated crispy chicken, salsa criolla and rocoto sauce) is akin to gourmet chicken nuggets.

The most filling plate on the menu is perhaps the arroz con erizo (Peruvian paella, mixed seafood and sea urchin sauce), which is a tasty cross between paella and risotto.

Meat-lovers must order the anticucho beef filet (served in sea urchin butter with a garlic chip) and, of course, no Peruvian dining experience is complete without ceviche, so don’t neglect to try the ceviche criollo (seabass, rocoto leche de tigre, choclo and sweet potato).

Skip the grilled vegetables salad –it’s just as run-of-the-mill as it sounds—and opt for a more adventurous vegetable option such as the anticucho tomatoes, which are grilled to perfection and topped with burrata cheese and black mint pesto.

If you have room for dessert, satisfy your sweet tooth with the vanilla bean pisco flan, but pass on the underwhelming alfajores cookies.

With over 50 menu items, Picca is the type of restaurant you can visit again and again without having to order the same thing twice, which is a good thing because it’s also the type of restaurant you will definitely want to make a return visit to.

Note: Reservations are highly recommended! Call (310) 277-0133 to reserve.

Picca is located at 9575 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA. Dishes range from $5-$16. For more information, visit piccaperu.com.

Photos in slideshow courtesy of Sean Bello.