Have you ever heard of Mercado La Paloma? It’s hidden behind the University of Southern California and Exposition Park. Many years I have visited the museums at Exposition Park when my boys were younger; never did I know about this community treasure. It’s set up similarly to the mercado’s found in Mexico. They have various restaurants and shops for locals to choose from. Among them, is the savory Mo-Chica Contemporary Peruvian Restaurant owned by Executive Chef Ricardo Zárate. Chef Zárate, native to Peru, was inspired at young age to cook. Soon after his training he worked in Europe for a number of years including Zuma, a top Japanese restaurant in London. His experiences abroad has influenced his unique style of cuisine as is evident with the savory meal I had the pleasure of sampling.
We began the tasting with the Uni Crostini made with sea urchin and tomato compote, dressed with a honey based vinaigrette. I thought the honey would be obtrusive but the manner in which Chef Zárate incorporated the sweet nectar, complimented the freshness of the sea urchin. It was a tasty introduction of what was to come.
When I think of ceviche, honey is far from my mind. Typically ceviche is made of raw fish marinated and “cooked” by the juice of many limes. As you can imagine I was thrown back whenI heard Chef Ricardo Zárate announce that we were about to eat a sea bass ceviche with honey! Although the origin of the ceviche is arguable, it can be traced back several centuries to Peru. Chef Zárate explained that the original ceviche was marinated over a 24 hour period to help extend the storage time of the fish. Nowadays, the acids from limes help speed the process. Chef Zárate’s ceviche includes coconut and honey which reduces the acidity of the lime juice. The crunchy kernels and soft hominy balances the smooth texture of the ceviche. *drools* His strict policy of using fresh organic ingredients when possible including organic fresh fish was evident in the full flavor of this dish.
The course that followed was one of my favorite dishes of the evening. We were served grilled organic chicken breast with a honey blue cheese sauce. Yes, I said honey. The sauce was what won me over! The honey blended nicely with the blue cheese. The sweetness honey was offset by the apple vinegar. I’m not a big fan of miso but the second sauce was very smooth and tasty. I had to restrain myself from licking the plate.
The final dish was lamb ribs on a bed of quinoa risotto. The lamb had a smoky flavor glazed with a semi-sweet sauce. The risotto was very unusual in that, Chef Zárate used quinoa and not the typical arborio rice one would expect. Unfortunately I did not photograph the drinks that was served with the tasting. We had the Bee’s Knees Cocktail which had lemon, orange juice, gin, and honey. The cocktail paired nicely with all the dishes.
We were treated to a sweet ending of Picarones. It is a red yam and kabocha squash dough that is deep fried. The picarones are plated with a side of honey fig compote and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
The best part of the evening was being able to share this meal with my blog friends. It was my first time meeting Annette from Getting Inside My Head. We were to busy eating and tweeting but I hope we’ll get a chance to chat at another event. My friend Marcela from Culture Mami was there too! 😀 Love you chicas!!
On this evening I learned how honey was used to balance and compliment the many dishes we had the pleasure of eating. Below are a couple of the things I learned about honey. For more information, visit the National Honey Board website.
- A perfect complement. Honey blends perfectly with the rest of the ingredients without becoming the dominant flavor in any drink or dish.
- Dimishes strong flavors. Honey acts as a harmonizer with other flavors. It unifies the different components in a coktail or dish to offer an exquisite and unique taste.
*Special thanks to Chef Zárate for the savory cuisine. It was scrumptious!!
*Thank you National Honey Board for inviting me to be part of this tasty evening!!
*The above review on this post is unbiased. I have not received monetary compensation to write this review, although I may have received a party favor that may or may not have been part of this review.