Since MrPottsy was in town for a fellowship interview, Pdho and I wanted to take him out to dinner somewhere interesting. I wasn’t quite sure where at first, because I remember when we were back in Michigan, MrsPottsy used to describe MrPottsy as a “meat and potatoes” guy. Granted, I do remember that he’d always be a good sport and give everything a try, but I still wanted to make sure he had a good meal. So when I suggested Public House which served sports bar type fare, he replied, “Aw, we can try something more interesting than that!” So I perused my list and decided on Mochica which is a Peruvian restaurant in SOMA. I happened to have a BBE code that was about to expire, and once I saw the 4 stars off of 200+ Yelp reviews, I was sold on giving the place a try.
The location is probably not the most ideal given it is on a quiet, kind of remote block of Harrison. There really aren’t any other restaurants or bars on the block, so the reality is there isn’t a lot of foot traffic and mostly likely, people come because they know the restaurant is there, but not just because they happen to be walking by However, when you walk in, it’s a nice, dimly lit restaurant, not like what you would really expect given its surrounding location, but I guess that is SOMA for you.
We proceeded to order a couple different tapas and entrees to share, and unfortunately, since Pdho forgot his camera, we’re going to have to make do with pictures from my iPhone. Apologies in advance for the quality of the photos, but I thought the retaurant was worth a blog entry.
They brought out a pre-appetizer snack which was very good. They took chickpeas, covered them in a light flour batter and fried them up. This provided a more interesting texture to chickpeas which I normally find to be grainy, but the most flavorful part of the dish was the mix of queso fresco, tomatoes and onions. It was delicious.
The Mochico Cebiche was a trio of cebiches where similar slices of fish were marinaded and served in three different sauces. The different sauces were supposed to be varying levels of spiciness, but even the spiciest (the one on the left) wasn’t that bad. I’ve definitely had worse. Even though I could barely taste the differences in the three different cebiches, I thought they were all very solid.
The Papita Rellena was essentially a croquette, a batter-coated potato ball filled with chicken and deep-fried. It tasted pretty good, but I don’t think it was necessarily all that special. I was also quite disappointed by the size. Considering how small it was, the $10 price tag did not seem quite fair.
The Pulpito a la Parilla was a dish of grilled baby octopus served with a side of purple mashed potatoes. The octopuses were prepared quite nicely, not chewy in the slightest, and the sauce was flavorful. Aside from the lemon-esque taste, the mashed potatoes pretty much tasted like normal mashed potatoes.
Lomo Saltado is a traditional Peruvian dish which is quite similar to a dish my Mom used to make as a child. It’s a mix of stir-fried beef, onions, tomatoes and french fried potatoes. I loved the dish as a child, but somehow I have not found the Peruvian version as good the last couple of times I’ve ordered it. I think it has a lot to do with the beef being well-done which is probably one of the worst culinary sins. The toughness of the beef makes the rest of the dish less appetizing which is too bad, because the french fries were quite delicious.
Arroz con Mariscos was one of the specialties of the house, and it was probably one of the better dishes. There was a pretty hefty amount of seafood including shrimps (of decent size), calamari, mussels, clams, and fish. It was all very well-seasoned and well cooked. Surprisingly enough, I found it pretty light on the rice, but I can’t really complain because the dish overall was solid.
The empanada carne was probably the single best item of the meal, albeit was definitely the most expensive. At $8, it was ONE empanada filled with raisins and chicken. It was a little bit oily, but it was good! The sauce was a huacatay sauce which was also very tasty. I have no idea what was in it, but of all the sauces that were served or used on the dishes, this was by far, the most flavorful.
All in all, it was a pretty good meal. I was thoroughly satisfied, and I felt we ordered just the right amount. Truth be told, the prices are probably on the high side and I actually wonder how they have survived this long considering it’s been open since 2004 and they really don’t have the best location. Nevertheless, the food had some rich distinctly Latin flavors, and compared to the meal we had the other day at La Mar Cebicheria, I actually think this one tasted more authentic. Not that La Mar had bad food or anything. It was good as well, but I think that it seems to cater to a more chi chi crowd, so the food is refined and the flavors seem a little more washed out.
937 Harrison Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
PAFO Ratings for Mochica:
Price 3 stars
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 3½ stars
Overall rating 3 stars