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Causita, the latest venture of critically-acclaimed chef Ricardo Zarate, brings the storied tradition of Japanese and Peruvian (“Nikkei Peruvian”) cuisine to Los Angeles. The third and, as of now, final concept of the Intent to Dine Hospitality Group — co-led by industry veteran David Rosoff — Causita will join its recently opened sister concepts, Bar Moruno and Rápido, all situated along a dynamic stretch of Sunset Boulevard next to Silver Lake’s Sunset Triangle Plaza.
Born in Lima, Peru, Zarate’s name has become synonymous with indigenous South American food over his 10+ year tenure in restaurants across Los Angeles. The second youngest of 13 siblings, Zarate frequently helped in the kitchen of his large family’s home, learning techniques from his mother and grandmother, whom he credits as his biggest influences. His LA-based career highlights and accolades include helming Mo-chica, a contemporary Peruvian food stand at Mercado la Paloma in Downtown LA (2009); Test Kitchen, a pop-up restaurant where he offered consumers a new dining experience weekly from a rotating roster of high-profile guest chefs (2011).
A melting pot of cultures has evolved Peruvian food over centuries. One significant influence was the arrival of Japanese migrants in the late 1800s, who, lacking ingredients traditional to their native country, used Peruvian substitutes (and, simultaneously, introduced new ingredients to Peruvian cuisine, like miso, ginger, soy, wasabi, and rice vinegar). This would form the foundation of what has come to be known as Peruvian “Nikkei” cuisine. (Nikkei, which translates to “Japanese ancestry,” is a word that encompasses people all around the world who have a Japanese heritage but do not live in Japan.) Currently, the cuisine is recognized as using Peruvian ingredients (tropical fish, quinoa, potatoes, aji Amarillo peppers) molded by Japanese techniques.
“Growing up in Lima, it was common to see and eat food that combined modern Japanese elements with traditional Peruvian staples,” said Zarate in a statement. “I hope it will introduce people to a new and extensive history, not only of Peru but of the melting pot of cultures that have evolved Peruvian food over centuries.”
Named after the Peruvian slang term for “best friends,” Causita honors Nikkei’s inspirational journey of new friendships forged in the warm and welcoming fires of family and cultural collaboration. It originated from the word “causa,” which comes from the Quechuan word “kausaq,” meaning “to give life.” The term causa is recognized as a dish made of potato (which is native to Peru and a fixture of many Peruvian recipes), chili pepper, lemon, mayonnaise, avocado, chicken or tuna, and assorted vegetables.
Like its name suggests, diners are encouraged to start off with Nigiri Causita Nikkei, which includes selections of tuna, salmon, and other raw fish served sushi-style with a slide of potato, instead of rice. Other starters and shareable plates include a selection of Ceviches & Tiraditos Nikkei such as the Chocolatas Clams (chalaca style, charapita, leche de tigre, apple criolla) and Salmon Tiradito (beet jerky, ponzu, horseradish mousse, gochujang sauce, leche de tigre), as well as Pequeños such as the Little Gem Caesar (cesar’s verde dressing, parmesan, popped quinoa, anchovy) and Steamed Bao (gochujang sauce, parmesan cheese, rocoto sauce; beets, pork belly). Heartier highlights and sides include a Seabass Tamale (mushroom-coffee jus, choclo corn, limo aioli), Udon Noodles (shiitake, peruvian pesto, wasabi tobiko, roasted onion jus), and Josper Roasted Vegetables (seasonal veggies, aji amarillo, miso vinaigrette). Finally, desserts ranging from Matcha Cheesecake (passionfruit chantilly, pickled berries) to Foie Gras Churro Bombs (lucuma, cranberry sauce) round out the menu.
Developed by Ramsey Musk (The Proper Hotel Group, Ma’am Sir, Sotto), Causita’s cocktail program will emphasize pisco (a type of brandy native to South America), agave spirits, rum, and Japanese whiskey, focusing on small and ethical producers. Imbibers can expect playful and layered craft cocktails such as the Oh Captain, My Captain (macchu pisco, lo-fi sweet vermouth, hans reisetbauer carrot eau de vie, carrot-coconut caviar), the Pucara Pisco Punch (capurro quebranta, clement canne blue, pineau des charentes, spiced grape, pineapple, cava), and the Girl from Lobitos (avua prata, paranubes, blanc vermouth, passionfruit, ginger, lime, shiso foam), to name a few. The wine list — like its adjacent sister restaurant, Bar Moruno — will be curated by Rosoff, focusing on organic and biodynamic bottles from across the globe, a spotlight on special selections from Latin America.
Designed by Studio UNLTD, the bright, breezy dining room and exterior patio provide a comforting and unassuming backdrop for the bold and adventurous dishes (and beverages) that the menu brings. Clean lines and light wood furniture are reminiscent of an upscale Japanese sushi house, while plaster walls, greenery, and artwork give nods to Peru. (A quipu — an ancient Inca device for recording information, consisting of variously colored threads knotted in different ways — provides a particularly striking focal point to the center of the dining room. Designed by Peruvian artist Rudolph Castro, this commissioned quipu represents, through its colors and knots, the union between Peruvian and Japanese culture.) Other flourishes include traditional Peruvian statuettes thought to bring good fortune, positive vibes and protection that are strategically placed throughout the back bar. Overall, the design tells the story of the marriage of the two cultures from which the menu is derived.
Causita is located at 3709 W. Sunset Blvd. in Silver Lake and will welcome diners Tuesday — Thursday from 5-10 PM, Friday & Saturday from 5-10:30 PM.