Peruvian cantina 'Picca' has enough nibbles on the menu to excite and confuse even the most well-versed diners of eclectic cuisine. With around 50 dishes all listed on a single page in single-spaced type, novice eaters and seasoned connaisseurs alike can be found carefully studying the menu as they sip on sublime liquid creations by mixologist Julian Cox.
Julian Cox's hot streak began last year when he taught 22 new bartenders the art of complexity (better known as molecular gastronomy). The result? Absurdly sophisticated techniques, and incredible taste.
Cox trainees can be found scenting eggs with cinnamon essence for egg white-based drinks like the Pisco Sour, making strawberry foam from fresh strawberries and an immersion blender, or snapping at a tiny poche filled with bee pollen to get a finite dusting of the powder to float innocently in your glass.
Whether you can see it or not, every drink is stamped with Cox's personal commitment to genius.
Chef Ricardo Zarate won Food & Wine’s Best New Chef in America and has been generating lots of buzz with his Picca menu. Find below a collection of pictures and my impressions of his dishes:
The seabass tiradito, thinly sliced with lemon dressing, sesame oil and soy sauce and sweet potato puree. This dish was a divine harmony of flavor.
Yellowtail sushi with spicy mayo, green onions, and wasabi tobiko. The potato supposedly originated in Peru so there are lots of pleasant potato variations in Peruvian comida. A bed of sweet potato compliments the gently exploding tobiko eggs on this plate.
Marinated albacore with garlic chip and ceviche sauce, not very memorable.
Steamed mussels, with pancetta, and aji amarillo butter. These had a surprisingly citrus tang that our entire table approved of. I recommend this one.
Marinated crispy chicken, salsa criolla and rocoto (chili pepper hot sauce). LOVE this spicy sauce and the warm crispy chicken is a fantastic Peruvian take on this classic southern dish.
Glazed eggplant with tiny crouton pearls and bean sprouts. The croutons are a nice touch but the dish was rather ordinary.
Quinoa pumpkin stew, fried egg, choclo (Andean corn), parmesan cheese, and crispy tomato. A favorite among all of us. Comfort food at its best and healthiest. This hearty bowl of goodness warms you up and hits the spot.
Duck leg confit, black beer sauce, cilantro rice. Another favorite! Tender and juicy duck, served in a bowl of intricate flavors that transport you to that happy place.
grilled vegetable salad in a miso vinaigrette, couldn't be better.
Beef heart, rocoto walnut sauce. Just order it and eat your heart out!
Chicken dish with onion, tomatos and your classic Peruvian "papas fritas" (french fries). The waiter told us it was comfort food, but our table disagreed. The overwhelming amount of ginger infused in that one dish made it seem more like spicy thai food than comfort food.
Empanada trio of beef, chicken and eggplant with assorted dipping sauces, all mouth-wateringly good enough to make you swallow your pride, lose all sense of your manners and lick your fingers clean.
Don't be distracted by the delightful colors of the salsa, this pork dish has an alternate spelling: B-O-R-I-N-G.
cinnamon sugar doughnuts in an origami boat for dessert accompanied by caramel cream, chocolate sauce and orange marmalade. Can't really go wrong there.
Picca is a wonderful dining experience in an ambient setting with a pretty hip, young crowd. It's definitely more fun to come as a group so that you can order more dishes. The more to nibble on the better really. I have been here once before but only in a tête-à-tête setting, so I haven't even come close to trying everything Picca has to offer. But I gladly welcome the challenge.