Pikoh, pronounced in the same manner as the Pico Blvd. on which it resides, transports patrons into a whole new type of ambiance. A living divider of hanging plants separate the bar from the main dining room, with another arboretum of sorts just past the entryway. Servers and bartenders hustle frantically across the otherwise minimalist interior and cute front patio, beautifully crafted dishes and cocktails in hand.
Pikoh’s small plates are ‘inspired by the melting pot that is Los Angeles’ and absolutely embody the ‘sharing’ trend that’s ravaged the contemporary dining scene—namely in dishes offering but a few bites per person. Chef Partner Ricardo Zarate, known as a ‘godfather of Peruvian Cuisine,’ has expanded his culinary range at Pikoh to include a myriad of dishes that reflect more Italian, Asian and Mediterranean influence than anything else. This is aptly demonstrated in his vegetable risotto, a decadent, creamy indulgence covered in a snowfall of delicately shaved Parmesan.
Zarate’s salmon miso shines with a gochujang miso that gives this perfectly-cooked fish an addictive, oh-so-buttery finish, and ventures a step further into Peruvian territory with the addition of red and white quinoa alongside. But Zarate’s roots truly shine in his lomo saltado, a Peruvian staple, with tender hanger steak that soaks up a slightly sweet but boldly earthy spice profile, with rich onions, tomatoes, fries and seasoned rice.
Pikoh’s cocktail program is equally exotic and worldly, with entire sections devoted to reinventing gin and tonics, old fashioned’s, spritzers and rum punches respectively. Then there’s the core cocktails, such as the buck bunny, which combines gin, carrot juice, lemon, honey and ginger into something strangely enticing and curiously smooth.
Dessert keeps with Pikoh’s melting pot theme with specialties such as panna cotta and tres leches cake sporting equally precise execution and subtle novelty in their own right. But it’s the pavlova, a rarely attempted Russian meringue, finished in this case with stone fruit compote and avocado mousse, that takes the cake for the finish.
Pikoh is located at 11940 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064. Open 7a – 10p Mon – Fri, 10a – 10p Sat, 10a – 3p Sun. Dinner service 5 – 10p Mon – Sat. Avg. out-the-door price for 3 plates and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$95/person. For more information, visit PikohLA.com.
Adjacent to Studio City’s rustic drag along Tujunga Ave sits Los Balcones, bringing exotic flare and a flash of gourmet to the neighborhood’s otherwise quaint and classic dining scene. Setting up shop in the relatively intimate space formerly occupied by high-end hotspot Girasol, Los Balcones is an expansion from the restaurant’s first location in Hollywood, which has been around for 14 years and counting. But even if you’ve tried the former, this new haute spot is full of surprises.
Guests find themselves in a high-energy room with a modernistic backdrop, where locals go to let their hair down and in-the-know Angelinos venture to try the next great thing. The L-shaped dining room holds maybe 20 tables, with a few more on the narrow heated patio right outside, and every one of them is packed with guests yearning for that elusive Mestizo cuisine, a meld of Peruvian and Spanish flavor rarely done north of the border.
If lomo saltado, a marinated beef dish with vegetables, fries and rice, is your litmus test for Peruvian food [it has the ubiquity that cheeseburgers do in the US], this place has made it about as tender as you’ll find. From there, Los Balcones branches far beyond just Spanish influence, instead covering much of Europe. Take their signature quinotto, which transforms quinoa into Italian risotto, finished with a mix of mushrooms and a mountain of shaved truffle. Savor over the locro parpadelle, rich with pumpkin ragout, as well as the pan de la chola, a Latin take on charcuterie.
The costilla de short ribs, another Los Balcones classic, showcases melt-in-your-mouth 6-hour slow cooked short rib with a play on classic tacu tacu, a harmonious compilation of rice and beans fried into a pancake, topped with a fried egg. The seco de pato, or duck two ways, yields succulent duck confit with its roasted counterpart alongside.
The bar works an equal level of magic, with creations like the sangre de la pacha, which will turn almost any bourbon hater with a mix of honey, ginger lemon and—what—beet. They make a mean margarita as well, and of course you’re not going to a Peruvian restaurant without getting a pisco sour [drinking it straight is another story]. For dessert, try the lucama budino. A meal like this might set you back more than some Peruvian real estate, but for those looking for a culinary adventure, Los Balcones is doing its high-end predecessor justice.
Los Balcones is located at 11334 Moorpark St, North Hollywood, CA 91602. Open 5 – 11p Tue – Sat. Closed Sun/Mon. Avg. out-the-door price for split appetizer, entrée, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$95/person. For more information call (818) 924-2323 or visit LosBalconesPeru.com.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.