Mochikas Peruvian Cafe – Review 2

Restaurant: Mochikas Peruvian Cafe – Review 2
Cuisine: Peruvian/Latin American/South American/Spanish
Last visited: March 7, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Fairview)
Address: 1696 West 5th Avenue (& Pine, inside a car wash)
Price Range: $10 or less, $10-20

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 5 (based on what I tried)
Service: 5
Ambiance: 3 (for what it is)
Overall: 4.5
Additional comments:

  • Specializes in Peruvian cuisine
  • Locally owned
  • Authentic
  • Hidden gem
  • Home cooked/Home made
  • Quick/casual
  • Popular to Latin community
  • Great hole in the wall
  • Part Peruvian grocery store
  • Part handmade art store
  • Seafood/Meat dishes
  • Affordable
  • Catering available
  • Eat in/Take out
  • Cash only
  • Mon-Thu 11am-5pm
  • Fri 11am-10pm
  • Sat 12pm-10pm
  • Sun 12pm-6pm

**Recommendations: Yuca Frita con Chicharron, Ceviche, Chupe de Mariscos, Chicharron Sandwich, Chicha Morada

Guy Fieri from Triple D where are you?! I think Vancouver just schooled you! Talk about hidden gem! Mochikas Peruvian Cafe is located inside Platinum Touch Auto Spa. It was either going to be really really good, or really really bad, and I’m happy to say it was the prior! It’s definitely a secret location, however the Latin community and people working nearby seem to be aware of its existence. So how did I discover it? Well thanks to Sherman for the introduction we decided to come here for lunch! (The photos are his as well.)

The first and I think only Peruvian restaurant in Metro Vancouver and it’s located inside the building of a car wash. Nice! The “Grand Opening” banner has been up for a while and they actually just celebrated their one year anniversary. Don’t underestimate the “hole in the wall” ambiance because the food here is popular to the Latin community for a reason, and it’s just waiting to be discovered by the rest of Vancouver. And I hope to give it the helping hand it needs!

The owner is also the master chef/cook behind the food here. From what I can assume, it’s authentic Peruvian food, and from what I know, I know it’s all home cooked and made upon order (minus a few things that do sit in the chilled display case). I think it’s as close to authentic Peruvian as he can get with the resources still available. The owner has a lot of heart in this restaurant and my confidence was reassured when I noticed a few Latin customers come in for lunch as well. They seemed like regulars too and that’s always a good sign.

My knowledge of Peruvian food, let alone Latin and South American food is quite limited, and I have yet to make a trip to that part of the world. In Vancouver we don’t have much selection for Latin restaurants, and the only ones I have tried are El Inka Deli and baru Latino Restaurante. However I am more familiar with Spanish food and I know that’s one of the many influences for Peruvian cuisine. I’m actually not sure if there’s such a thing as “authentic” Peruvian cuisine because Peruvian cuisine is almost a fusion of several cuisines like Asian, Spanish and even African. Peru is quite multi-cultural so it borrows flavours from various cultures. Nonetheless I’m writing this post based on living and being in Vancouver and whether or not it was enjoyable and good, and I’m pleased to say that it was!

Mochikas Peruvian Cafe actually triples as a restaurant/cafe, mini Latin specialty foods store, and a handmade Peruvian crafts and jewelery store. How authentic right? It’s almost all of Peru in one stop! All it needed was a tiny television that reruns Latin soap operas and, or Latin game shows… oh wait, never mind that was also there! Except it was turned off! 😉 The place was all very charming and the fact that it’s located inside a car wash definitely added to the novelty of the whole experience. It had a few Peruvian art pieces and vases and the “specialty foods store” is basically a few shelves on the wall with imported Latin goods. It’s not a Latin Costco or art gallery, or anything to that degree, so I just want to mentally prepare you.

The restaurant itself is very casual, but it’s also clean and somewhat modern. Maybe modern isn’t the right word, but the restaurant is definitely not a dive on the inside. They also do a lot of catering and the prices aren’t dirt cheap as one might assume, but it’s actually reasonably priced for the quality of food they’re serving. A few of the more difficult items to prepare can be considered even pricey if you take into consideration the location and portion, but in the end I could appreciate its value and it definitely adds something new to the Vancouver food scene. The food tasted great with home made sauces, roasted in house meats and a home made quality that was still very professional. Mochikas is definitely one of those secrets that you can’t wait to share with the world.

Added note: This post was updated on March 7, 2011. The restaurant was revisited and the Chicha Morada, Causa a Limena and Chicharron Sandwich were complimentary.

On the table:**Chicha Morada – 5/6

  • Chilled purple corn drink with pineapple skin, green apple and cinnamon $2/glass $6/pitcher
  • It reminded me of a non-alcoholic sangria meets grape cider, but it has a creamy texture. The only time I tried it was at El Inka Deli (see here) and I liked it better here at Mochickas.
  • It almost tastes like grape juice, but with more citrus, and there’s no actual pureed fruit in it. It’s not too sweet, but nice and tangy from the bright pineapple flavour and I loved the aromatic hint of cinnamon.
  • It was almost like a chilled mulled wine and sometimes the drink will be made with other spices like cloves as well, which is like the one at El Inka Deli.
  • There was a few pieces of fresh pineapple and green apples floating on top, but it more for garnish.
  • This one is a still a bit artificial compared to a traditional version which is made of boiled down purple corn, fruits and warm spices, but it was still quite tasty and totally satisfying especially with the bargain price.

**Yuca Frita con Chicharron – 4.5/6

  • Deep fried cassava root & pork belly served with Mochikas signature sauces $7
  • This is an indulgent appetizer, but “well balanced” as an overall dish and quite delicious. It’s new to the menu and very typical of Latin cuisine.
  • It came with 3 pieces of pork belly and most of it was falling apart tender, although not really juicy. I would call dibs on the piece with the largest surface area of crunchiness.
  • The chicharron is traditionally deep fried pork rind, but in this case it seemed like roasted and then deep fried pork belly. It had a very crispy caramelized and salty rind, but it wasn’t like the cracklings on a porchetta.
  • Usually the skin is a lot thicker on a traditional chicharron, but I actually preferred this version where there’s more of a balance with the meat and skin.
  • I’m definitely not one for gelatinous fat and skin, but in this case the fat was incredibly melt in your mouth tender with a nice crunchy skin. The fat was impossible to separate from the lean meat since it was almost like melted buttery cream.
  • It actually tasted like the Chinese style roasted suckling pig. It was nice and savoury throughout and the ratio of meat to fat was perfect.
  • The cassava root is like a starchier and more fiberous potato and they were tender and crispy and delicious with the spicy Mochika sauce.
  • It comes with a side of pickled red onion called Salsa Criolla which is a traditional accompaniment in Peruvian dishes. It really helped to cut the richness of all the deep fried goodness so it made the dish “well balanced”.
  • The red onions weren’t really pickled, but they were raw and crunchy and actually very sweet from being marinated in the lime juice. They were tossed in a tangy and sweet lime and cilantro vinaigrette with some added heat from jalapenos. It’s actually not that spicy at all although it’s supposed to be a peppery salad.
  • The dish was also served with a homemade Mochika signature sauce which was a yellow dipping sauce that was delicious.
  • It was like Peruvian style hot mustard, but sweeter and creamier.
  • The sauce was sweet, smoky and quite spicy with a bold kick at the end. The initial notes are sweet and I feel like it’s made with roasted yellow peppers, cumin and ají peppers (a typical Peruvian pepper). It’s quite creamy, but it went well with everything on the plate, giving dynamic Peruvian flavours to what was essentially deep fried ingredients.

Causa a Limena3.5/6

  • Peruvian spiced mashed potatoes topped with chicken or tuna, black olive & spicy Peruvian rocoto sauce $6
  • I can’t believe I was getting presentation like this from a car wash!
  • This was like a cross of mashed potato salad meets tuna salad. It’s a simple Latin appetizer served slightly chilled and sometimes it’s made with avocado in it too, but this one isn’t.
  • The potatoes were ultra creamy, but coarsely mashed. They were mashed with hot and smoky aji pepper sauce so they carried a little heat at the end, but it wasn’t that spicy at all.
  • The tuna salad lightened up the potatoes and added the refreshing savoury flavour and slight crunch of vegetables it needed.
  • The tuna salad was quite basic with mayo, celery and onions and together with the potato it just tasted like a tuna potato salad.
  • Eaten with the hard boiled egg on top it tasted like a tuna, potato, and egg salad.
  • It wasn’t anything particularly unique, but it did taste and look good!
  • It really needs the spicy Peruvian rocoto sauce though otherwise it doesn’t seem very unique or “Latin” in flavours to me. It was a tangy, sweet and smoky yellow pepper sauce with a nice kick and it just woke up the flavours of the causa a limena.

**Ceviche – 5.5/6

  • Fresh fish of the day or mixed seafood marinated in lime juice, garlic, & cilantro served with corn, sweet potato & red onions $13
  • The ceviche is a must try at any Latin restaurant, as long as the seafood is fresh. You may question the freshness of the ceviche here, but it’s fine and not to be missed!
  • I ordered mixed seafood and it was awesome!
  • It came with lots of big chunks of fish (cod), shrimp, squid, octopus, one mussel and those tiny scallop niblets. The fish is raw but it “cooks” in the lime juice.
  • What made this dish was the marinade. The marinade is made in house and it was so complex and dynamic in flavours. It was sweet, savoury, tangy, bright, and carried a bit of heat. It was incredibly aromatic and it’s made with the infusion of ginger and sweet veggies which are extracted so you don’t even know they were in there.
  • After knowing that ginger is in there, you can definitely tell. It’s used for its aromatic sweetness more than its spice, and it almost made it taste Thai. I feel like it was the secret ingredient and even non-ginger fans would like this since it’s not the typical ginger flavour.
  • The marinade is drinkable and I could have it as a chilled soup. It was fantastic!
  • I loved the sweetness of the corn (very Peruvian) in combo with the raw onions which were also sweet again from being marinated in the lime juice. However it is a spicy ceviche, but the spice comes after.
  • It was incredibly refreshing and bright and the pieces of fish were so pounded that they absorbed the marinade easily and became so soft and tender, yet they still had texture.
  • The only parts of the ceviche I didn’t like was the shrimps, which were frozen and tasted frozen, and the mussel which was overcooked. Other than that the squid and tiny marble sized scallops were tender and the fish was brilliant.
  • Since the marinade is quite spicy the purple creamy sweet potato on the side was used to kill the heat when it got overwhelming. I love sides that serve a purpose!

**Chicharron Sandwich – 6/6

  • Crispy mini bun with layers of deep fried sweet potatoes, slices of chicharron (deep fried pork belly), topped with pickled red onion called Salsa Criolla, and a touch of Mochickas signature hot sauce $4.50
  • This will be better than any slider you can find almost anywhere! How can you go wrong with a pork belly burger?! That’s right! You can’t!
  • This was freaking delicious and I was in my own little world as I ate it! It’s pretty much the Chicharron appetizer I ordered above, but in mini burger form! I’d much rather have this!
  • It was a super crispy and crunchy burger, but very indulgent and rich.
  • It was like Chinese style roasted suckling pork sandwiched between warm crusty bread. It would have even been good with Hoisin sauce!

  • It was perfect ratio of meat and bread and it had thick layers of tender deep fried pork belly with extra crunchy skin, so it was almost like a Porchetta sandwich.
  • In the context of the sandwich, where every ingredient was crunchy, any gelatinous or chewy quality the pork belly may have had completely became unnoticed.
  • It was savoury and juicy with melt in your mouth pork belly and it carried a little heat, but I could have used way more Mochicka hot sauce.
  • The deep fried sweet potatoes were a bit overpowered and could have been crispier as well because I couldn’t taste the sweetness they were supposed to bring.
  • This burger really requires the pickled red onion salsa to cut through the fatty pork belly. I found the hot sauce helped as well, but I could only taste it’s spice and not it’s flavour so I wanted more of that smoky sweetness the sauce has.
  • Definitely a Follow Me Foodie approved sandwich, but I would make a request for more fresh cilantro or green onion, pickled red onion salsa, and Mochicka hot sauce for more flavour and balance, although it was still very flavourful as is.

**Chupe de Mariscos – 5.5/6

  • A spicy, hearty seafood chowder with Aji Panca, fresh cheese, rice, & cassava $14
  • The owner kept recommending the chowder and thank god he did, otherwise I would have overlooked it.
  • This is a must try and it’s hearty enough to satisfy most people for lunch.
  • It’s home made and the broth is incredible. It tastes like a Peruvian style curry laksa and this is probably a Peruvian dish that has had influence from Asian cuisine.
  • It seemed like the ceviche, but made into a thicker, richer soup broth with more seafood flavour.
  • It looks oily, but it doesn’t taste oily, and it’s not necessarily creamy, but still thick with flavour. It’s a sweet, tangy and spicy soup, but it has a very strong seafood flavour.
  • It was intense and almost like tomato and seafood bisque, but not nearly as creamy.

  • It’s loaded with lots of seafood. It came with 2 tender cod fillets, shrimps, squid, octopus, scallops, a clam, a mussel and the rice was not overcooked.
  • The cheese and cassava were MIA… but I didn’t care because it didn’t need it.
  • I feel like they use clam nectar because the broth really tastes like it’s made with crustaceans.
  • It has a sweet red bell pepper, tangy tomato paste, and chili paste base that is very well balanced, and with a squeeze of fresh lime (served on the side) the flavours just came alive, although it was already quite alive in the first place.
  • I’m not sure how authentic it is, but from what I know the authentic version is usually served with a poached or fried egg on top and can be a bit more yellow in colour.

Arroz con Pato – 3/6

  • 6 Hour braised duck marinated in Aji Amarillo, Peruvian spices & beer served with cilantro rice $14
  • I was most excited about this one from the description of the menu, but it sounds better than it was, although still good.
  • It’s actually a very classic and authentic recipe and dish, but I was just expecting something different and I didn’t know it would be so “simple” in flavours.
  • I liked how the the cilantro rice brightened up the flavours of the somewhat smoky and earthy duck, but overall I think the duck could be better prepared.
  • It was visually very appetizing and served on a bed of rice that was almost like a risotto but mixed with freshly chopped cilantro puree, green peas, sweet shallots, garlic and red peppers. The rice was delicious and bright with flavour, but it’s also not salty and quite neutral although herby.

  • The duck was marinated in beer and orange juice, but it’s not very apparent.
  • For being marinated in 6 hours I was expecting to be able to shred away at it with my fork, but it wasn’t the case.
  • I actually wouldn’t have guessed there was orange juice because I couldn’t taste the acidity or sweetness it should have brought.
  • The skin had a Peruvian spice dry rub and it was quite smoky with cumin and peppers, but not crispy and actually a bit gelatinous and chewy.
  • The meat on the other hand was quiet tender, although somewhat dry. Parts of it were juicy and the leg obviously had more flavour, but I was expecting so much more from a 6 hour braised duck.
  • The duck actually seemed more like pork and it lost its sweetness and seemed a bit overcooked rather than slowly braised.
  • The sweetness of the duck was more enhanced with the green peas, but overall it lacked the obvious tang, heat, sweetness, smokiness, and savouriness all the other dishes had.
  • Not something I would particularly order again, but I’m still glad I tried it.

Chocoteja – 3.5/6

  • A classic Peruvian chocolate – handmade dark chocolate filled with caramel & pecans $2
  • These are home made chocolates and I loved the rustic, yet fancy Mochikas packaging.
  • I had them straight from the fridge and they’re actually much better when you let them come to room temperature so it’s not as hard.
  • The chocolate was a bit waxy and didn’t taste the finest of quality, but the caramel was fantastic. It tastes like a home made dulche de leche and the flavour really came out over the chocolate.
  • The pecan was a whole pecan and it added a nice nutty crunch and it was like a Peruvian version of a Turtle, but the caramel was so much better, richer and made from caramelized milk and sugar.

[geotag]

Mochikas Peruvian Cafe on Urbanspoon

8 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *