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,” says Zarate. “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.
chef ricardo zarate
Born in Lima, Peru, Ricardo Zarate is synonymous with indigenous South American foods. Immaculately executed and fused with his underlying passion, drive, and kitchen ingenuity, Zarate’s cuisine has earned widespread critical acclaim and praise from media and consumers alike. The second youngest of 13 siblings, Zarate frequently helped in the family kitchen from a large family, learning techniques from his mother and grandmother, whom he credits as his biggest influences.
By age 17, Zarate enrolled in his hometown culinary school, Instituto de las Americas, going on to form what would become the foundations of his Peruvian influence. Upon graduating, Zarate headed to London to practice his craft, working for 12 years at notable restaurants such as One Aldwych and Zuma. It was here that his passion for new foods and ingredients grew. It was there he began to draw inspiration from the Japanese, Chinese and European flavors that are still prominent in his cooking today.
In 2009, Zarate headed to Los Angeles and opened Mo-chica at Mercado la Paloma. The restaurant was housed in a cultural center designed to showcase local creativity to the broader community, the restaurant was soon followed by a pop-up restaurant, Test Kitchen, where Zarate offered consumers a new dining experience weekly from a rotating roster of high-profile guest chefs. With Zarate’s cuisine beginning to shape a large following, he introduced the modern Peruvian cantina, Picca, in 2011. A critical success, it was recognized as one of GQ’s “Best New Restaurants” and in the same year, Zarate was named one of Food & Wine’s “Best New Chefs.”
In 2013, Zarate went on to open Paiche, a Japanese izakaya-style Peruvian seafood restaurant located in Marina Del Rey, consequently named one of Esquire’s “Best New Restaurants.” In 2015, he debuted his first cookbook, The Fire of Peru, aiming to guide consumers to try the food of his country. With a wealth of flavors and dishes to explore, Zarate accredits the book to the Peruvian home cooks, including his mother.
In summer 2017, Zarate opened Rosaline in West Hollywood, rising once again through the ranks of prestigious LA restaurants. Topping numerous “best of” lists, Rosaline has earned a spot on award-winning LA Times’ restaurant critic Jonathan Gold’s “101 Best Restaurants” list, Thrillist’s “Best New Restaurants” of 2017, and Eater LA’s “Most Beautiful Restaurants” of 2017, among others. In 2018, Zarate reincarnated Once, a previous pop-up venture, at The Palazzo in Las Vegas, introducing his signature elevated Peruvian cuisine to a new city. Describing the concept, Zarate said: “Once is the new wave of Peruvian cuisine that combines modern Japanese elements with traditional Peruvian staples that I experienced growing up in Lima. It will remind people about the extensive history, not only of Peru but of the melting pot of cultures that have evolved Peruvian food over centuries.”
He now continues that ethos at Causita in LA’s Silver Lake neighborhood, a triumphant culmination of his years of collaboration across high-profile kitchens.