This Thursday probably won’t be your last chance to try chef Ricardo Zarate’s renditions of Peruvian staples such as aji de gallina or lomo saltado. But it could be your final opportunity to eat them at Mercado la Paloma — the colorful warehouse-turned-marketplace just south of downtown. Zarate has just announced he’ll close Mo-chica on May 24. The space “will become an incubator for Ricardo’s future concepts,” says a press release. Just days later, on May 30, Zarate will debut a new version of Mo-Chica downtown.
We’ve known for some time that Zarate, whom we once called “King of Ceviche,” would reopen Mo-chica in a more sophisticated setting. But the chef hadn’t indicated he would close the original, which he opened in 2009 as a quick-serve counter among Mexican and Thai food stalls, crafts and basketball jersey vendors. It was the only location he could afford.
“I fell in love the first time I saw it,” Zarate said in a Squid Ink interview. “It was very hard to introduce Peruvian food to people. …The only way to do it would be to find a little corner in a market and try and do it from there.” The little spot made a big impression among L.A. foodists. And it caught national attention when Zarate won Food & Wine’s 2011 Best New Chef prize.
Cross your fingers for new foods and cuisines coming out of the small Mercado kitchen, but don’t miss the chance for a final ceviche or quinotto from the spot where it all started. And check back soon for more about Mo-Chica numero dos.