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LAFF 2012: 4 of Downtown Los Angeles' Newest Dining Options

Pre- or post-screening, this quartet of spots -- all of which debuted since last year's fest -- are worth checking out.

This story first appeared in the June 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

PERU MENU

Mo-Chica
514 W. 7th St.

Chef-owner Ricardo Zarate, whose critically acclaimed fine-dining den Picca opened on the Westside last year, has moved his original, more casual Peruvian concept from its humble market stall near USC to an expanded, sit-down space along the neighborhood's burgeoning Restaurant Row. The menu is an exploration of slightly tweaked and elevated genre standards: lamb shank with cilantro beer sauce; lomo saltado with Kennebec fries; "hamburguesa" featuring an alpaca-and-lamb patty.

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PORK-A-PALOOZA

Umamicatesse
852 S. Broadway

Forget the burgers. Although impressive, you can feast on them at any of the rapidly proliferating Umami outposts around town. Focus on the nouveau-deli fare (supersmooth liver, a highly worthy thick-cut pastrami on rye). Or, courtesy of noted San Francisco toque Chris Cosentino, the pork-a-palooza proffered at the P!GG counter. Order the dishes that sound like a dare: whipped lardo in a can, crispy pig's ear with "brainnaise" and Iberico de Bellota crudo (that's right: pork sashimi).

FARMHOUSE FARE

Blue Cow Kitchen
350 S. Grand Ave.

The flagship project from Ellen Chen and Mario Del Pero, the folks behind L.A.'s upmarket Mendocino Farms sandwich shops, this mod-farmhouse charmer with a hardcore organic bent in the financial district hopscotches globally on a whimsy high. Appetizers include pork belly banh xeo (which is to say, crepe tacos) and beet-marinated deviled eggs with candied jalapenos, while the tandoori-style turkey club on naan is dressed in cucumber-mint raita.

SANDWICH FIX

Baco Mercat
408 S. Main St.

At this high-energy Historic Core neighborhood hangout run by chef-owner Josef Centeno -- who previously ran the kitchen at the buzzed-about Lazy Ox gastropub nearby in Little Tokyo -- the namesake gyro-taco hybrid of his own invention called "the baco" is king. The pan-ethnic sandwich features iterations like crispy shrimp with sriracha sauce and beef tongue schnitzel with harissa. Wash it down with the house-made sodas, which run from persimmon and ginger to lime-chile and pear.

What do you think?

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