I first heard about Picca from a Tasting Table review which painted a delectable-sounding picture of Japanese meets Peruvian cuisine. I immediately added it to my LA list of restaurants to try, but it wasn’t until my sister suggested it that I finally ended up visiting this hip establishment with Pdho, Smooth Obturator and Triple T. We arrived a little early for our 8pm reservation, and it was still pretty bustling for a Thursday evening.
The high ceilings of the restaurant made the restaurant feel larger, although with two fairly sized dining areas and two bars, there was already a decent amount of space. In fact, there was even an elevated area with some seating which provided those diners a bird’s eye view of the entire restaurant. There was a surprising mix of diners that included the young and hip as well as the older and not so hip.
I felt a little googley-eyed while perusing the menu. There were so many interesting sounding dishes across the 6 sections of the menu, so ended up ordering a few from each to share amongst the four of us.
The Empanada Trio included three empanadas, each made with chicken, beef, and eggplant. Although they were pretty small, they were stuffed with some tasty filling. All three were pretty good although the chicken one was probably a little dry and the least flavorful of the three. I thought that at least one of the three dipping sauces would add a bit more dimension to the empanadas, but although I can’t remember the difference between the aji amarillo, cilantro sauce and roasted pepper sauce, I do remember that they all were a little too subtle on flavor.
A tiradito is essentially a Peruvian version of a carpaccio, so in this case, the thinly sliced halibut was prepared sashimi-style and drizzled with a leche de tigre. It was essentially like a deconstructed ceviche. The fish tasted fresh with the right bit of acidity, but it wasn’t particularly interesting as I felt like I had eaten something similar before.
I really thought these Causas were a creative translation of traditional Japanese nigiri. Instead of rice, a potato-like mixture is shaped into little rectangles which are topped with a variety of different sushi-like ingredients. We ordered one with snow crab, avocado, cucumber and huancaina sauce, one with yellowtail spicy mayo, green onions, wasabi and tobiko, and one with scallop and mentaiko.
Smooth Obturator seemed to share my appreciation of these little Peruvian bites, but everyone else wasn’t as impressed. I have to admit that the potato cake (for lack of a better description) did kind of have a citrus-like essence which was my least favorite part, but I still liked the different toppings. In spite of the slightly diluted flavors particularly in the spicy yellowtail, I still thought all three were quite delicious.
The tomatoes were roasted, maybe a little too long, because they ended up being a little too soft and soggy. Although the flavor combination with the burrata was a familiar one, it didn’t seem as satisfying, because the burrata was practically liquefied. The attempt to heat this dish resulted in a melted mess that tasted as unappetizing as it looked.
The skewer of black cod was rather small, but it was nicely seasoned with a miso anticucho and topped with crispy sweet potato chips. The black cod was moist and unctuous with the typical butteriness that I absolutely adore. It was no doubt delicious, but maybe not as daring in the flavor combinations.
The beef hearts sounded a little bold, but it pretty much tasted like really tender beef. It was topped with a rocoto sauce and chopped green onions. I can’t recall exactly how the sauce tasted, but the beef heart with its smokey charred flavor was quite nice.
The Peruvian Paella was made with mixed seafood and a sea urchin sauce. The consistency was creamier and heavier than the Spanish version so it tasted more like a risotto. I really wanted to love this dish especially when I saw the large but few pieces of seafood throughout the paella, but it was just okay. It tasted good, but it was difficult to discern any unique twist, not even the uni which was supposedly in the sauce.
The Chicharron de Costillas reminded me of a Peruvian take on a Philly cheese steak sandwich. Crispy pork rib meat with sweet potato puree and feta cheese sauce was served on some freshly toasted crostini bread. It was a big mess to eat, but like a cheese steak sandwich, it tasted like a mix of saucy and indistinguishable but solid flavors. It wasn’t bad though.
I think this was probably the only dish that I really didn’t like. At $72, it was severely overpriced considering the size of the serving. However, it was the marinade of the steak that was too overpowering. It was like a concentrated BBQ sauce with a little too much vinegar or something. I don’t know what it was, but I really didn’t enjoy it.
The churros, unfortunately, were really disappointing. First and foremost, they tasted stale and the cream filling couldn’t save theses cinnamon-dusted bread bites from tasting very dry. We ended up waiting quite a while for the dessert to come, so it only built our expectations that these churros would be coming right out of the fryer. We couldn’t be more wrong.
Overall, most of the food was pretty solid and tasted perfectly fine, but I guess given the reviews and the intriguing concept of melding Japanese and Latin flavors, the food wasn’t able to meet my lofty expectations. It’s unfortunate, but I don’t want to sell the food completely short. It really was good, and I have to compliment their causas for creativity. I guess in the end, it just felt like the food looked like it would be much better than it actually was…. and as Pdho often says, “It’s good, but not great.”
9575 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035
PAFO Ratings for Picca:
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 3½ stars
Overall rating 3 stars