South American Japan

Ricardo Zarate's revisionist Peruvian cuisine

If Peru were 50 percent Japanese, the restaurants of Lima and Cuzco might look something like chef Ricardo Zarate's newly opened Picca in West L.A.

Here, the potato base of the classic causa is shaped to resemble nigiri, and skewers grilled on a robata-style grill drift between yakitori and anticucho territory.

Regardless of which hemisphere's influence guides you through Picca's menu, you'll struggle to find dishes that aren't imbued with Zarate's signature ping-ponging flavors, each plate vaulting from earth-rooted umami lows to bracingly tart highs.

This roller coaster runs through the conchas a la parmesana ($9), which finds scallops draped in a salty crust of melted Parmesan and splashed with lemon dressing.

Slabs of beef heart ($5), the most traditional anticucho cut, are simultaneously tender and snappy after a turn on the grill, their iron-rich flavor well matched to the punchy rocoto chile sauce.

Miso-glazed salmon ($8) and a skewered version of the potato salad papas a la huancaina ($6) were two other robata highlights, but it was the Santa Barbara prawn (pictured; $12) that we'd gladly eat by the dozen. Served in its char-pocked shell, the sea-sweet crustacean is smeared with a slow-burning yuzu kosho-lemongrass pesto; we only left a few stray bits of shell behind.

Picca, 9575 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A.; 310-277-0133 or piccaperu.com