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Amazonian Proportions

Chef Ricardo Zarate expands his reach with Paiche, a memorable new Peruvian-Japanese restaurant on the Westside.

Paiche tiradito, served raw with aji amarillo vinaigrette and potato mousse

 

Chef Ricardo Zarate

 

The flavors of the Amazon rainforest in Marina del Rey? It’s not necessarily what you would expect, but it’s exactly what’s happening at Paiche (13488 Maxella Ave., Marina del Rey, 310.893.6100, paichela.com), the third outpost of Peruvian chef Ricardo Zarate’s empire (Picca, Mo-chica). Along with partner Stephane Bombet, Zarate is serving food at Paich˜e you won’t find anywhere else in L.A. The softly lit Peruvian-Japanese hybrid serves small plates that focus on Amazonian ingredients. “Amazonian food is something to be discovered,” the chef says. “It’s very virgin. It’s very wild. There are things in there that people don’t understand.”

The best example is the namesake paiche, a massive sustainable fish that was recently brought back from the brink of extinction in his native Peru. Flown in directly from the Amazon, Zarate makes good use of the oversized gray fish covered in red scales with three separate preparations: grilled in lettuce wraps, raw as a tiradito (Peruvian carpaccio) and in a fish stew. You’ll also find pacu ribs here, accented with an anticucho lime miso sauce. More obscure ingredients from the Amazonian pantry sneak into other dishes, including the nutty omega-3-rich sacha inchi oil found on the sea bass tiradito.

Zarate’s training in Japanese restaurants serves him well at Paiche with plenty of intriguing options that don’t feature the bounty of the Amazon. The sashimi-style ceviches take thick slices of beautiful fish and dress them up in a tangy Peruvian leche de tigre (“tiger’s milk”) sauce. Yuzu—the Japanese citrus fruit—makes a few appearances on the menu, as do soy sauce, ponzu and lots of miso.

In the future, Zarate plans to offer even more Amazonian dishes, such as tacacho con cecina, a plantain fritter made with smoked bacon. Eventually, he wants to open a marketplace and sell indigenous produce from the region. “The most important part for people to understand is the biodiversity of our world,” Zarate says. “We only know a few vegetables right now from the Amazon; we are not using it right.” If the chef gets his way, the entirety of the Amazon will soon be at our doorstep. It’s globalization served one small plate at a time.