Mo-Chica Restaurant Highlights The Casual | LA

Ricardo Zarate's new Downtown digs

What we noticed first at the new Mo-Chica was the flatware. Heavy and stylishly angular, it's more than utilitarian.

Then the ceviche (pictured; $18) arrived, a dish that Ricardo Zarate somehow manages to own in a city rife with citrus-marinated raw fish preparations. This ceviche resembled the version we loved at his Mercado La Paloma lunch counter, but was packed with even more sea creatures: halibut, prawns, scallops and squid.

The bracing, burning flavors we love were all there, but our attention was again drawn to the inedible: The enameled tin plate said, "Hey, we're casual!," but having plates that say anything other than "plate" puts the new Mo-Chica in a different strata of L.A. restaurant than its previous incarnation.

It would appear that the quirk and funk of the original restaurant was a product of its location. Zarate has brought Picca Peru's practiced, polished sheen to what he's billing as the fully realized vision of the restaurant.

The menu has expanded hugely, and there are cocktails now, too. So you can follow a frothy pisco sour ($11) with a plate of Spanish mackerel tiradito ($18) or chunks of pork belly ($12) served over an earthy stew of sun-dried potatoes lashed with chimichurri sauce.

Mo-Chica, 514 W. 7th St., Downtown; 213-622-3744 or