I’m a lover of ceviche, and while you can always count on Los Balcones del Peru and various Mexican stands around town, I wanted to see what other versions I could stuff in my mouth. I had heard about some Guatemalan ceviche at La Cevicheria, so I dragged my mom and girlfriend with me along for the ride. Coincidentally, as I was getting ready, J-Gold released his epic review of Mo-Chica, and it immediately made my list. I ate there a few days later with a couple of friends. So here, in no particular format, is my breakdown of those two meals.
First up, the people at both places were extremely nice. La Cevicheria also had a surprisingly bright and inviting interior. The kindness, in both cases, was genuine, however it also struck me very quickly (also in both cases) as business people looking for more business. But that’s all right too.
At La Cevicheria, we tried three types: Guatemalan, Peruvian and bloody clam (which I can only assume is the akagai clam). Meanwhile, at Mo-Chica, we had their daily ceviche, the Peruvian potato salad of the day, the quinotto (a risotto-style quinoa), the lamb shank with chickpeas and the lomo saltado.
Now, if it were a Peruvian ceviche contest, Mo-Chica would have absolutely destroyed. The La Cevicheria version was absurdly and aggressively acidic, to a degree that was borderline inedible. I have (and would like) to think it was an aberration. Meanwhile, the Peruvian ceviche at Mo-Chica was stellar. Flavorful, and almost with the consistency of room temperature butter, then when you throw in the textures from the boiled Peruvian corn and the crispy version, it knocked it out of the park. I’m a believer.
The other ceviches, however, were quite interesting. The owner of La Cevicheria was very vocal with his passions for his homeland. The Guatemalan ceviche was somewhat similar to a lot of Mexican seafood cocktails I’ve had. The seafood was finely chopped, and served with avocado, cilantro, tomatoes, onions and the sauce has a dash of Worcestershire. Guatemalan ceviches are also, traditionally, served with saltines, which was a nice change from the tostada.
The most intriguing, though, was the bloody clam. This is a fairly typical Guatemalan ceviche, but I got the impression that he chops up the bloody clams a lot to make them look more palatable to the average consumer in the US. Regardless, the ceviche had a powerful, dark appearance and really earthy, primal flavors. Eating it made me feel like I could summon the powers of wild animals.
Back at Mo-Chica, the dishes ranged in success. The seco de cordero (lamb shank with chickpeas, salsa criolla and cilantoro beer sauce)) was good, but not excellent. While the meat was quite tender, and came off the bone easily, the flavors were a tad flat (though they did say that the shank usually comes with canario beans instead of chickpeas, which I would have liked to try).
The quinotto, meanwhile, was interesting, but in the end, it really just tasted like watery health food, but with some cheese and mushrooms thrown in. I tend to think quinoa works much better in salads, and nothing here changed my opinion.
The causa del dia was not what we were expecting, and was a pleasant surprise. The yellow potato tower with crab meat, avocado, tomatoes and a nutty green sauce was a real treat.
Lastly, though, was a dish that I’ve been wanting to like for a long time, but have always been disappointed by the versions. But at Mo-Chica, the lomo saltado (beef filet with salsa criolla and french fries) was a real delight. The sauce, the crispy log-cabin-stack of fries on top, the tomatoes, the onions and the beef were all excellent. I actually look back and crave that dish more than I do the ceviche, which is pretty impressive, considering.
There were also interesting beverage choices at both places. La Cevicheria had an extremely pleasant lime-ade, and Mo-Chica had a refreshing passion fruit juice. We also tried Mo-Chica’s chicha morada and liked it fine, but had a hard time with the mucusy consistency of the cebada (barley ice tea with herbs and ginger root). The cebada is worth trying, but I won’t exactly be reaching for it after playing a game of basketball.
All in all, I’d say that Mo-Chica is a great place to have lunch and should be visited by anybody who, in any way, likes food. I also recommend La Cevicheria, even if just to pop in with a friend for a snack— to drink some lime-ade and enjoy the interesting and very different ceviche that is bloody clam.
(Also more pictures)
3809 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019
3655 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007