So they’re remaking The A-Team… I hope that doesn’t suck. The least they can do is keep the line, “I love it when a plan comes together.” The Ceviche Food Marathon was just such a plan. Back at the Pal Cabron opening (in July ’09) Fernando, Javier/Teenage Glutster and I discussed running a ceviche marathon- simply because Fernando had ceviche the night before. Nine months later we managed to find a date that worked and headed all around town for citrus-y seafood, Peruvian and otherwise.
When Cork & Rind and I picked up Javier he told us his neighbors had been up since 5am making mole and tamales from scratch, and that upon our return we needed to try them. I can’t think of a better way to start a marathon then knowing a piping hot cauldron of mole and fresh tamales are waiting at the finish line. It’s like in a movie when the first scene is a glimpse of the big finale, then the rest of the movie details the build-up to that finale, only to show it again in the end in full detail.
We headed out to Mo-Chica to start the ceviche portion of the day. Mo-Chica is in a food court near USC that deserves its own one-stop marathon.
The ceviche is a modern representation, an Asian-Peruvian fusion version that features all the ingredients but in a sophisticated, refined form. The ingredients are top notch, with large sashimi-style pieces of fish. Mo-Chica’s sauce is thick, in direct opposition to traditional ceviche’s thin, juice coating.
Next we hit a dive called La Cevicheria that Eater recently featured in their “Dining on a Dime” section (which is where I stole the exterior/interior pictures from).
We opted for the Gautemalan mixed ceviche and the bloody clam ceviche. The Guatemalan was the polar opposite of Mo-Chica’s ceviche. It had shrimp, octopus and crab finely chopped in a broth of onions, cilantro, mint, avocado and Worcestershire sauce.
The bloody clam cocktail was quite different. Not as much citrus, not very fishy- bold and refreshing, but not overpowering.
Third we settled into a booth at Los Balcones del Peru. This Jonathan Gold-approved Peruvian restaurant is a go-to for pre-Arclight dining.
Their version is the closest to what I think of as ceviche- bite-sized chunks of fish, shrimp, squid, two types of potato, acidic juice that requires sopping up and huge corn kernels. Their aji sauce should be bottled and served in cans in 7-11’s next to the Red Bull and Diet Coke.
Inca Kola, on the other hand, should not. Bubble gum-flavored soda? That’s as bad a combination as Mr T in pink zebra print tank top.
For the fourth stop we chose Natalie Peruvian because it was close by. The restaurant is an example of the most touristy restaurants in Peru, with Machu Picchu murals on the sign, wall, menus and chairs.
The restaurant was empty and dead silent- no music, no A-Team reruns on TV, nothing. Their thick aji was full of all the wrong flavor- the feta dominated the battle over the peppers. The fishy flavor of the ceviche was unappealing and was likely a sign of poor quality ingredients. It was like a bad film remake of an 80’s TV series (yes, I’m talking about you, GI Joe).
Instead of venturing further to Puro Sabor, we turned back for Javier’s neighbor’s mole poblano. This enormous turkey leg lay lathered in a dark, work-intensive mole. Most of the ingredients are fried before stewing for hours. The pasta was even fried, because why wouldn’t you fry pasta.
The black bean tamales were small and light. I used them to sop up every drip of mole.
Unlike the horrible endings to most episodes of The A-Team, the ceviche marathon ended splendidly.
It got us thinking about a raw marathon- sashimi, live uni, live sweet shrimp, raw lamb paste… So stay tuned for that.