A chef’s impressive comeback


Peruvian chef Ricardo Zarate was riding high in the Los Angeles dining scene. His last few years, though, have been rocky and mysterious. Zarate, 43, started out strong with the wildly popular Mo-Chica, originally a stall inside Mercado La Paloma, before getting its own space downtown. He expanded with Paiche in Marina del Ray and Picca near Beverly Hills, and he was named a best new chef by Food & Wine magazine in 2011.

But at the top of this mini-empire, things were not what they seemed. “Despite all of the accolades and success,” Zarate wrote in an essay for Vice, “something didn’t feel right.” He left all four restaurants and disappeared.

Of course, he didn’t, really: He wrote a cookbook (“The Fire of Peru”) and traveled extensively in Asia and South America, collecting inspiration.

The result is Rosaliné, his West Hollywood restaurant that opened in June. “With Rosaliné, I thought, this one is going to be about me,” he said, “food that represents, obviously, my roots in Peruvian cuisine, but that has the elements of what I’ve learned traveling around, of my journey.”

During a late summer dinner, it was clear that his new approach has put him solidly back on the Los Angeles dining map. We were seated in the enclosed patio dining room, which Zarate describes as a “floating garden”: Light streams in through a greenhouse-style roof and the dozens of plants hanging from it. We started with a few cocktails, all of which in some way drew inspiration from his native Peru; a highlight was the El Capitán, a Manhattan riff made with pisco, as well as sweet vermouth and Peruvian bitters.

The restaurant is named for Zarate’s mother, and the dishes have a satisfyingly homey quality (everything is meant to be shared). From the “small plates” section of the menu, we tried the pan andino, delicious quinoa bread served with rocoto pepper butter, jam and olive spread; chicharrón de paiche (made not with pork or chicken, but paiche, a huge Amazonian fish, encrusted with popped kiwacha, a Peruvian grain); and earthy, deeply flavorful beef hearts paired with more rocoto pepper, feta and a walnut sauce.

The rest of the menu is divided into four sections: family-style dishes, and sections labeled “from the sea,” “from the soil” and “from the land.” The blue prawns with yuzu kosho (a chili paste flavored with yuzu zest, one of a number of Asian ingredients Zarate sprinkles throughout the menu) and charred lime were fiery and tangy. Two salads — one, a vivid green, featuring the Peruvian staple of quinoa, the other beets done three ways — were both go-back-for-thirds tasty.

But the two standouts were also arguably the most simple: the arroz con pollo, offered with beer-flavored rice and a creamy, spicy sauce; and the whole grilled branzino, accompanied by huacatay (a sauce made with black mint and aji peppers) and a purée of canario beans. Each was like a refined version of a dish you might prepare over an open fire in an Amazonian camp.

Desserts were also sophisticated takes on classics, including alfajores, a sandwich-style Latin American cookie, and chancay con leche, a Peruvian cake flavored with a goat’s milk custard and guava frozen yogurt.

Fans of Zarate will note that we didn’t sample any ceviches, for which he is well known. Frankly, we had already ordered our food before noticing them on the back of the menu. Consider it a reason to return. 

——

Additional Information:

Rosaliné, 8479 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; 323-297-9500; rosalinela.com. An average meal for two, without drinks, is about $110. (A 20 percent service charge is added to all checks.)


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Austin360 Eats

Looking to keep busy this weekend? Here’s a sampling of fun events
Looking to keep busy this weekend? Here’s a sampling of fun events

Art “In Depth” at Davis Gallery. The gallery’s annual winter group show aims to study the fifth element of art — space. In “In Depth,” artists will demonstrate how positive and negative space interacts and how specific techniques can produce the illusion of depth. Each artist, in a group that includes Laurel Daniel...
Six movies to get you into the Winter Olympics spirit
Six movies to get you into the Winter Olympics spirit

It’s Winter Olympics time, which means the enormous height of the ski jumps, the enormous spins of the free skate and the enormous thighs of the speed skate. Also biathlon and curling, the official sports of “wait, this is a sport? How is this a sport? Might as well watch it. THIS IS FANTASTIC. GO, GO, GO!!!!” Ahem. Here are six movies...
Weekend festivities continue with “Paddington 2” party, more events
Weekend festivities continue with “Paddington 2” party, more events

Film “Paddington 2” Family Party. The Lakeline location of the Alamo Drafthouse is celebrating the return of Dark Peru’s lovable export, Paddington Bear. Your ticket includes a lobby party with themed crafts and activities starting at 9:30 a.m. and the film itself screening at 10:15 a.m. Two years after the commercial and critical...
Rapper Kodak Black arrested in South Florida
Rapper Kodak Black arrested in South Florida

Rapper Kodak Black was arrested Thursday in South Florida, accused of grand theft of a firearm, possession of marijuana and child neglect, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said. Black, 20, whose legal name is Dieuson Octave, also faces two counts of possession of a weapon by a felon and two counts of probation violation, the Sheriff&rsquo...
How to survive a break up with your best friend
How to survive a break up with your best friend

When the Four Seasons sang that bit about "breaking up is hard to do," they clearly meant romantic relationships. Breaking up with a best friend might be even harder. "Friends aren't just icing on the cake of life – they're the cake," psychologist Thelma Duffey stated in Psychology Today. "Our friends are the people...
More Stories