Peruvian Chef Ricardo Zarate and His Mouth-Watering Llama Liver Menu
It is not every day that you bump into a chef who knows his way around Peruvian culinary artistry. Other than Italian, Peruvian is the other foreign dish served in the US that I feel is subject to a lot of misconception and bravado. Lately, it is as if every chef who happens to visit Peru for a week comes back brandishing the name Peruvian, and after a while all of town is claiming that he is a tried and tested South American dish guru.
Anyways, about a year ago I visited Peru and was treated to the usual sight of Llamas dotting the landscape grazing peacefully. So, being the foodie I am, my first question to my guide was, "How does a Llama taste, er…I mean when cooked?"
Unfortunately, however, I didn't stick around long enough to try my hand and tongue on one of these camelid delicacies, and I promised to do that as soon as I got back to the States. But, of course, in between my other commitments I forgot all about it until last summer when I was exploring West L.A.
You see, downtown Los Angeles is known for a lot of things but certainly not good food. So, when I saw the neon-lit Picca Restaurant sign, right at the heart of this part of the city, I was more than tempted to have a bite. Besides, I was famished, and the last thing on my mind was a half-cooked burger. As usual, as soon as I pop in a new eatery I always try to initiate a small talk with the chef just to draw them out and have them whip their best masterpieces on their menu for me. And it wasn't any different with Chef Ricardo Zarate who was more than eager to present his finest Llama dish to me- the liver this time around.
I'm not the biggest fan of animal liver (especially the gaudy aftertaste) but I can't place a finger on what Chef Ricardo did to his piece. Maybe it is the Vidalia onions or the chilies but the final dressing had only a subtle organ taste. Well, I can't deny that the pepper sauce helped mask the characteristic raw taste that accompanies most liver delicacies. When I probed further, Ricardo maintained that his mastery of Peruvian food is all he needed to make his Llama liver dish that presentable.
Well, I can already see myself driving all the way from
Seattle to sit down to this delicacy any day. And, although,
Chef Ricardo might have left Picca, his legend through a
perfectly-crafted menu lives on.