Chef Ricardo Zarate has eyes for Silver Lake. Specifically, Sunset Boulevard between Lucile and Edgecliff with his latest restaurant, Causita. Zarate’s opened his Nikkei Peruvian food restaurant on April 19 next door to the recently reopened Bar Moruno.
Helping to establish the modern Peruvian genre in Los Angeles, Zarate opened Mo-Chica in 2009 at Mercado la Paloma nearby USC, expanding to his celebrated Picca restaurant in Pico-Robertson in 2011. He later reopened Mo-Chica in Downtown LA and debuted Paiche in Marina del Rey (the two locations have since closed). Zarate made a subtle comeback with his Once pop-up series, which expanded into a full-fledged Peruvian restaurant inside the Palazzo in Las Vegas. He helped open the popular Rosaliné in West Hollywood in 2017, though his current involvement there is unclear; that same year, he helped develop the menu at Mama Lion in Koreatown. In the past five years, he’s mostly been laying low.
However, 2022 is proving to be a busy year for Zarate. The prolific chef opened Short Stories in February across the street from the Original Farmers Market in the former Farmer’s Daughter hotel. While Short Stories dives into a combination of Peruvian dishes and California classics, Causita — the Peruvian slang term for “best friends” — leans into Japanese and Peruvian ingredients, or Nikkei cuisine. The seafood-heavy menu includes starters of ceviches and tiraditos, along with a nigiri causa nikkei. Zarate serves Peru’s traditional potato or causa, with sushi-like preparations of tuna, salmon, and other raw fish served with a side of potato. He served a version of this causa at Picca as well.
Small plates at Causita include gem caesar and steamed bao with gochujang sauce, parmesan, beets, and pork belly, while medium-sized shared plates might be grilled octopus or lamb ragu. When ready for a full platter, opt for the sea bass tamale with mushroom coffee jus, or the branzino with a butterbean artichoke mousse, and jalapeño sauce with roasted tomato. Zarate is in his element here, with some innovative creations like foie gras churro bombs with the citrusy lucuma fruit and cranberry. He also serves a multi-course Nikkei steak omakase that costs $100 a person.
Former Ma’am Sir and Sotto bartender Ramsey Musk developed the drinks around pisco, Peru’s traditional brandy, along with Japanese whiskey, sochu, tequila, rums, and plenty of fresh ingredients. Also on board is sake, local beers, plus an organic and biodynamic wine list curated by Intent to Dine Hospitality Group’s David Rosoff.
Speaking of Rosoff, Causita is the group’s third, and potentially final restaurant in Silver Lake’s Sunset Triangle Plaza. The property already has Bar Moruno and Rápido — a grab-and-go market featuring wines, bites by chef Chris Feldmeier, and Jyan Isaac Bread. The team utilized Studio UNLTD for its overall design, which created distinct looks for each space.