Peruvian Mingle

Waves of immigrants added spice and sophistication

Perhaps the most unique Peruvian foodstuff is papa seca, potatoes preserved by freeze-drying them outoors in the thin, dry, cold air of the high Andes. For millennia these have been used to make carapulcra, a thick stew of pork, papa seca, and onions flavored with cilantro, hot aji panco chili paste, and spices. Given all that potato, the rice that comes with this dish at first seems overkill, but I was glad to have it to sop up the last drop of delicious sauce.

Be sure to try some of the more traditional desserts, particularly the suspiro ala Limena ("sigh of a lady of Lima"). Soft cajeta (milk caramel) custard is topped with a layer of whipped cream, which in turn is topped with a winey zabaglione: The cajeta custard alone would be great, but the triple play is transcendent. If there were any of the promised sweet potato in the flan de camote, it wasn't noticeable, but just as well — the flavor and texture were perfect, and the passion fruit sauce and crunchy seeds made the dish. Most unusual is the sol y sombra: A dense, not very sweet, dark purple pudding made from a special variety of corn used only for desserts and drinks is topped with an unsweetened, cinnamony rice pudding.

The wine list is fairly short, but thoughtfully selected, with some good South American and Spanish bottles in the $6-8/glass or $20-25/bottle range. There are also some nice beers, including a good Peruvian pilsner that goes well with the picadito. Sorry, no hard liquor, so no Pisco sours.

Mochica's long menu gives a good flavor of Peru's many culinary influences.
Angela Poole
Mochica's long menu gives a good flavor of Peru's many culinary influences.

Location Info

Map

Mochica

937 Harrison
San Francisco, CA 94107

Category: Restaurant > Latin American

Region: South of Market

Details

278-0480, fax 278-0418, www.mochicasf.com. Open Wednesday through Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: easy on street in evenings. Muni: 12, 27, 47. Noise level: low.

Tiradito $17

Ceviche Mochica $21

Causita de pollo $11

Papas a la huancaina $9

Chupe de camarones $20

Carpulcra with pork $8

Suspiro ala Limena $9

Mochica, 937 Harrison (between Fifth and Sixth)

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Service was warm and friendly, though occasionally slow. This definitely isn't the place for a quick meal before a show.

Peruvian food has gotten pretty trendy here in recent years, but most of the better-known places either shy away from the more exotic dishes and ingredients, or adapt them to American tastes. Kudos to Mochica's chef Carlos Altamirano for bringing San Franciscans something closer to the flavors of his home.

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