The latest addition to Washington, D.C.’s wide array of ethnic eateries, Nazca Mochica is conveniently located just two blocks from Dupont Circle on P Street, specializing in a contemporary version of authentic Peruvian fare. Serving a selection of dishes rooted in Peruvian cuisine with a modern twist, the restaurant offers innovative tastes, but slightly disappoints with its entrees.
Although somewhat limited in its offerings, the menu at Nazca Mochica is decently varied. To start the meal, my table elected to sample an appetizer known as causitas, which consisted of a soft potato and pepper mixture topped with four distinct toppings: tuna ceviche, piquillo pepper salad, chicken salad and pork belly. This dish was nearly flawless in its execution. The potato balls provided a slightly sweet base for each savory ingredient on top, a delectable pairing that melted in our mouths. The high quality of the dish’s fresh ingredients was exceedingly evident in the taste and texture, making its price of $15 more than reasonable.
With expectations set high by the appetizer, we were left disappointed with our entrees. The seco de cordero — a lamb stew — and the aji de gallina — a chicken dish in a spicy, chili-based aji sauce — arrived with exquisite plating accompanied by an enticing aroma. Laid atop a well-seasoned rice and bean patty, the stew component of the dish overpowered the complementary elements on the plate. The combination of ingredients could have been successful, but it failed to strike a balance.
Similarly, the sauce on the aji de gallina overwhelmed the other ingredients on the plate.
However, every other element of the plate was cooked perfectly, as the potatoes, egg, rice and herbs surprisingly mixed together harmoniously. With the two dishes priced at $18 and $24, respectively, it is certainly an above-average price range for two average entrees. However, the portion sizes are large enough and of high enough quality to justify the prices.
Our concluding plate to the meal consisted of a trio of alfajores, described on the menu as Peruvian cookies, with a dulce de leche cream in the middle. Presented beautifully on a small square plate and dusted with powdered sugar, these cookies tasted even better than they looked. The cookie itself resembled shortbread, with the silky smooth dulce de leche cream providing a pop of sweetness in the middle. Amounting to what could be called a Peruvian Oreo, the alfajores provided an essential and delicious palate-cleansing close to the meal. Even if a price of $9 may seem steep for three small cookies, they were definitely worth it.
The restaurant exudes an ambience of subtle sophistication, maintaining a somewhat formal appearance without overwhelming the diners. A few notable features include etchings mimicking those of ancient Peru, as well as an open kitchen slightly offset from the primary dining area. The layout is intriguing, providing an effective point of conversation without at all feeling obtrusive. The staff remained attentive throughout the meal without hovering over our table.
Nazca Mochica proved to be a unique dining experience, blending traditional Peruvian dishes with modern flavors. The decor also worked effectively, as it produced an appealing combination of Peruvian culture ties with a fine dining atmosphere.
With excellent appetizers and desserts, the only real area of weakness was the entree selection. While the featured plate in a meal usually dictates it as a whole, here the appetizer and dessert stole the show.
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