Chef Ricardo Zarate returns to the LA cuisine scene with a taste of Peru that delightfully combines authenticity and refinement.
Not so long ago, chef Ricardo Zarate seemed unstoppable. The Lima-born chef won acclaim with Mo-Chica, his food stall at downtown’s Mercado La Paloma, which opened in 2009. He followed that up with the highly anticipated contemporary Peruvian eatery Picca in West LA, and then Paiche in Marina del Rey, whose menu was inspired by Peru’s Japanese-skewing culinary traditions. In the process, he won Food & Wine’s prestigious Best New Chef award in 2011 — before walking away from it all in 2014.
That’s not to say the chef has been laying low. He kept his skills sharp with occasional pop-ups around town and released a cookbook called The Fire of Peru in 2015. However now, with the opening of Rosaliné, Zarate is back in full force on the LA dining scene, and he has been greeted with the affection and acclaim of a prodigal son returning to his rightful place.
Rosaliné takes over the former space of long-running French bistro Comme Ça, but the restaurant is almost unrecognizable thanks to a striking overhaul by Kevin Tsai Architecture. The two small front rooms have been combined into one flowing space anchored by the bustling bar. The main dining area in back has also been opened up — literally. This greenhouse-like enclosure, complete with huge planters hanging overhead, has a glass ceiling that can be opened to the elements.
The rest of the décor is sparse but spot on. Lightly finished wooden tables and chairs — reminiscent of old growth timber from the Amazon — set the tone for a meal that’s an exploration of Peru’s various foodstuffs and culinary cultures.
First comes a slender scrap of paper with crudo galore from La Cevicheria. The Baja amberjack with punchy aji pesto, charcoal-roasted sweet potato and lime dressing is light and tart while the tiradito of sea bass from Ensenada is drizzled with Amazonian charapita chili and tamari-yuzu walnut dressing for a more mouthwatering and meaty texture.
The main menu is split into five sections: Abrecocos (small plates), La Familia (family-style dishes), Mamaqucha (seafood and fish), Allpa (vegetables) and Pachamama (meat).
Start with the pan andino, a dense quinoa bread with slightly spicy rocoto red pepper butter, aguaymanto jam and olive spread; or the causa jar, a terrine-style layering of fluffy potato mousse, mashed avocado, olive aioli and eggplant. The beef heart anticuchos (skewers), are a traditional Limeño street food — their meat practically popping with flavor thanks to a rocoto pepper, feta and walnut sauce.
The sudado de choritos fish dish, brimming with black mussels in aji amarillo (yellow chili) and lime broth is a taste of Peru’s long Pacific coast in one succinct stew. The so-called “Soil” section of the menu contains three salads including one with lettuce, quinoa, roasted beets and goat cheese tossed in a puckery yellow miso dressing. This Andean detour provides a nice, palate-cleansing interlude to the meatier menu items below.
A nod to Peru’s historic Asian immigrant communities, the lomo saltado receives gourmet treatment. Tender hunks of beef come tossed in salty-sweet Kimlan soy sauce and topped with roasted tomato, fresh green herbs, braised cipollini and a fried egg for good measure.
The family-style chaufa is a cross between fried rice and paella. It comes in an enormous, sizzling skillet and is packed to the edges with savory sausage, pancetta, crispy bagoong and succulent prawns, all given a last-minute crisp in Zarate’s charcoal-fired Josper oven.
Among the dessert items are a sour plum crostata with purple corn spread, and coffee flan served with a pisco dressing and banana crème fraiche. But if you have to choose just one, the Bon Bon Bons! are a sweet and crispy mix of waffle crunch, popped quinoa and lucuma (a creamy jungle fruit) ice cream — all dipped in dark Illanka chocolate.
Like the food menu, the cocktails are intoxicatingly imbibable iterations of traditional Peruvian libations. The Quebranta pisco sour with a cinnamon dusting is something you might find in any upscale Peruvian bar. But for something a little more unique, try the tropical Quita Calzon with smoky El Silencio mezcal, gooseberry, coconut water and lime. It’s full of strong flavors, but also refreshing, sort of like this latest, most welcome return to the LA restaurant scene by chef Zarate himself.
8479 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, CA 90069, 323-297-9500; rosalinela.com
Last modified: June 14, 2018