If I think of passion fruit, my first thought goes to a little house I rented on Kaua’i years ago, deep in the middle of a passion fruit field. The scent was addicting – getting out of the car and walking to the front door was an olfactory paradise. I used to pick a few every day, would let them wizen on the table for a few days (do not eat a passion fruit straight from the tree or the acidity will overwhelm you) and I would go to town.
If, like me, the idea of passion fruit conjures images of wild sex and aphrodisiac meals, well, think again. The name possesses a religious connotation as it was missionaries (the fruit is indigenous to Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina) who came up with it – apparently the pretty flower from the Passi Flora plant reminded them of the torture Christ had to endure before crucifixion. Go figure, and I am sorry if I ruined it for you.
Passion fruit was on my mind because recently I had lunch at Mo-Chica, an informal Peruvian restaurant in downtown LA. I had read fabulous reviews and I was eager to try Peruvian food, of which I knew nothing about. The place is colorful if a bit charmless and the order is placed at the counter after studying a large board with the menu and a smaller one with the specials. I ordered Arroz con Mariscos (Rice with Seafood), a sort of Peruvian Paella, served on a tray with a small salad and a soup. The complete meal service is a nice touch and I liked my rice but I can’t say I am dying to go back and have some more. The flavours were a mixture of Mexican and Spanish spices, pleasant but not riveting. What was unforgettable, though, was the Maracuya (passion fruit) creme brulee. Passion fruit juice is usually added to drinks, sorbets or desserts not as a main ingredient but as an enhancer because, in itself, is pretty acidic. Combined with sugar and cream for a silky custard is plain heavenly and the whole schlep downtown was worthy just for that.
And, if you are a Westsider looking for decent Chinese food and don’t want to make your way downtown or to the San Gabriel Valley, Brentwood has, amazingly, a solid dim sum restaurant tucked away in a faceless strip mall on Wilshire. The Palace Sea Food and Dim Sum was recommended to me by a Chinese friend and it didn’t disappoint. The dim sum selection was not as wide as you might find in one of the cavernous SGV joints but it was remarkably good. The place has the same charm of a Wells Fargo bank and being forced to valet despite an empty parking lot is so annoyingly West Side but I would definitely go back for the Dim Sum and the noodles.