The thing about high hopes is they inevitably come crashing down. The Monster was in second grade. Laces Rollerskating Rink. He had in his hand a “diamond” ring (his parents bought an encyclopedia Britannica set and this was an included gift with purchase). A girl had caught The Monster’s eye and he was getting up the nerve to give her the ring during the slow skate. She was beautiful and The Monster had visions in his head of a happy future together (which at the time probably meant a week or so of pre-pubescent bliss). When the song finally came on, meaning boys and girls would skate around the rink holding hands, The Monster spied she’d already taken up with a third grader and his dreams were dashed.
That’s Picca Restaurant in a nutshell.
The highly anticipated new venture from Ricardo Zarate is a restaurant that The Monster had unbelievably high hopes for given his love of Mo-Chica where Zarate is chef and owner. With all the trappings of a great new venue – hip space, cool cocktails, inventive menu – on the night The Monster and friends tried it out Picca forgot two most important facets of a restaurant, great food and service.
In the upstairs of the former Test Kitchen space (previously reviewed Sotto occupies the downstairs), this is a small but jam-packed room that portends for great things to come. The cocktail list is inventive and fun. The crowd is hyped for a wonderful meal. The menu is divided into six sections, Primeras (appetizers); Causa Sushi (second courses and sushi served on potato) along with Ceviches and Tiraditos; Anticuchos (skewered dishes); Cuartas (main courses); Ultimas (Desserts); and at first glance there is a bounty of fantastic nibbles to pour over.
And there ends the good news.
What we got: tuna tartare (tuna, lemon soy dressing, wonton chips), jalea mixta (crispy mixed seafood, tartar sauce), chicharron de pollo (marinated crispy chicken, salsa criolla, rocoto sauce), conchas a la parmesana (scallops, parmesan cheese, spinach, lemon sauce dressing), spicy tuna (tobiko, cucumbers), albacore (garlic chip, ceviche sauce), spicy yellowtail (spicy mayo, green onions, wasabi tobiko), ceviche criolli (seabass, rocoto de leche tigre, choclo, sweet potato), ceviche crocante (halibut, leche de tigre, crispy calamari), scallops anticuchos (aji Amarillo aioli, wasabi peas) black cod (miso anticucho, crispy sweet potato), Santa Barbara prawns (lemon grass yuzu kosho pesto), alitas de pollo (chicken wings, lime), camote (sweet potato, honey, Serrano chili sauce), arroz con erizo (Peruvian paella, mixed seafood, sea urchin sauce), seco de pato (duck leg confit, black beer sauce, cilantro rice), lemon tart, cheese cake, churros with three dipping sauces and tres leche cake.
That’s a lot of food. The Monster very much liked the jalea mixta, the chicarron de pollo, the ceviche criolli and the churros.
So don’t order anything else described above.
Too many dishes were swimming in cream (even for the people who like cream), undercooked, overcooked, fatty, bizarrely put together or otherwise severely lacking in taste (or making up for it with a lot of taste that was just foul).
Perhaps, given Picca is a new restaurant it is still finding its sea legs. Perhaps there are kitchen issues still to be worked out. Perhaps. But Picca was a main component of the Test Kitchen whose very existence was to help chefs and restauranteurs experience those growing pains in a more accepting environment. The Monster doesn’t think it is right for this place to charge what it does and then provide subpar service (long waits between courses, a disinterested waitress) and food that still has kinks.
Will The Monster be back? Probably. Six months down the line The Monster is sure his curiosity will get the best of him and he’ll try again.
Just like he did with the girl from Laces. What happened with that? We’ll save it for another day…
Why go? Your parents just bought you a new set of encyclopedias.
Monster rating: 2 ½/5 Monsters
9575 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90035