The first thing chef Ricardo Zarate shows me when I walk into Rosaliné is the Josper oven.
That combination oven/grill is very much the hearth and the heart of Zarate’s shiny new Los Angeles restaurant.
“It can get up to 1,000 degrees,” Zarate says with a huge smile.
And Zarate, who released his The Fire of Peru cookbook last year, knows it’s time to burn bright at Rosaliné. This is the return to glory of L.A.’s most prominent Peruvian chef, a man who left his Mo-Chica/Picca/Paiche restaurant empire in 2014 because things were getting too fast and out of control. It was, he says, like being in a sports car going 300 miles per hour and then realizing that you’re not the driver.
So Zarate took some time to slow things down, find himself, refocus and reenergize. Now he’s back with Rosaliné, his grandest setting yet at the former Comme Ça space in West Hollywood.
At Rosaliné, Zarate is using the Josper to grill whole branzino and 28-day dry-aged rib eyes. He’s also cooking chaufa paella, a wondrous Latin-Asian mashup of Peruvian fried rice with pancetta, Chinese sausage, prawns and bagoong (fermented seafood paste), in the Josper. It’s a dish I first tried when Zarate was running his Oncé pop-up in Santa Monica a couple years ago, and it’s a dish that’s better than ever at Rosaliné because he’s in a restaurant that can support all of his skills and ambitions. He’s cooking with confidence. He’s a man who knows that he’s lost a lot but understands that L.A. is a city of triumphant second acts. In short, he’s ready to bring the fire.
Zarate has long been a master of refined comfort food, so he’s also making excellent fish nuggets he calls chicharron de paiche. He fries the Amazonian fish that’s coated in popped kiwicha (a Peruvian superfood also known as amaranth) and serves the nuggets with a yuzu aioli for dipping. Even more soul-warming is the juane de chancho, a slow-cooked pork shank with adobo, a garbanzo soft tamale and a hard-boiled egg wrapped in a banana leaf. So rustic, so satisfying.
And if you want to really taste the fire of Peru, you might want to start your meal with some beautifully composed selections from the ceviche bar (which pair well with Jeremy Lake’s cocktails). There’s kampachi with aji pesto. There’s Ensenada sea bass with Amazonian chili. There are live scallops and sea urchin with an uni leche de tigre. You can always cool off at the end of your meal with the bon bon bons ice cream-and-sorbet trio.
Beyond Rosaliné, Zarate has also opened Mamacita, a fast-casual spot in the Hollywood & Highland shopping/entertainment/dining complex. That’s where he’s serving wraps and grain bowls with barbecued skirt steak. That’s where he has kombucha on tap and where you can get ceviche to go. So after a high-profile hiatus, Zarate is back with both a quick-service restaurant and a big-ticket blockbuster. L.A. is lucky to have both.