Nazca Mochica

I topped off Restaurant Week with Nazca Mochica, a swanky Peruvian joint just East of Dupont Circle. I sometimes feel like I’m a junkie chasing my next restaurant high. I always want to try something newer, more exotic, more interesting. It felt a bit disappointing to be eating Peruvian at a time like this.

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They’ve got some beautiful digs here, including a live stream from the central park of Lima. Like I needed one more reason to feel bad about not actually being in Lima (although in three short days I will be in Brussels, so maybe I’m still winning). Service started out a little slow (including not starting us off with a drink menu. I’m at the point in my life in which I am insulted while being mistaken for being younger than I am and ALSO insulted at being mistaken for older, so I’m sensitive to them not bringing me the drink menu right away). They did, though, and both wine and cocktails were exciting and reasonable. I got the beet and rosemary chilcano and my wonderful spouse ordered a glass of Malbec. “Blech! Is this cranberry or something?!” he said as he recoiled while trying my chilcano. I liked it a lot and appreciated the spicy ginger beer with the subtle sweetness of the beet, but let this serve as a lesson about there being no accounting for taste. Choose your cocktail wisely.

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This was the last time service was slow.

In fact, from this point on, it turned into a fast-motion meal with “Yakety Sax” playing in the background. Our appetizers came out even before the drinks, and a whole ninety seconds after ordering. It wasn’t one minute after we finished those that the entrees came out, and the dessert came as soon as our dinner plates were cleared. Our reservation was at 6:30 and I’m pretty sure we left the restaurant before 7:00. That being said, let’s go over the meal components:

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For the appetizer round, I had the ceviche and my husband got the causitas. That ceviche was ridiculously good. The fish was so soft, not a bit chewy or rubbery, had a light lime touch with something creamy (coconut milk?) as well. The bits of fried yuca complemented the fish well. And it was enormous! The causitas were very soft and plushy but, if I’m being honest, kind of bland. All three were the same with just slightly different toppings.

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For the entree, my husband (at my strong encouragement) got the seco de cordero and I had the pulpo a la parrilla. The perspective on this photo makes it look like I ate an entire sea monster, but in reality the lamb was much larger. The lamb was very tender with not a bit of chewy fat on it and the sauce was rich and winey with a slight spicy bite. It was top-notch and I think we’re both glad that I forced him to get this. Before I talk about the octopus, full disclosure: my husband recently called me “an octopus master” after I cooked PERFECT tentacles. I love octopus, but when it’s bad, it’s really bad. I started with the fat end, knowing it would be the inferior part and it was…quite chewy. I felt like some kind of hoity-toity Captain Ahab hacking at this leg with the provided steak knife. Fortunately, it improved from there. The sear on the tentacles was perfect (mmmm! Those crispy suckers!) and I liked the accompanying hominy. I wish this dish had had a green vegetable. Potatoes just don’t do it for me.

Finally, the part of the meal we had been waiting for: the alfajores. This is literally the only dessert Nazca Mochica has so we assumed it would be heinously good. Unfortunately, we were mistaken.

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What is this nonsense? The cookie-to-dulce de leche ratio was all wrong. I think the generally accepted rule on this is 1:1 and these cookies were just way too thick. I’m not sure I even tasted the caramel center. It was like expecting a Double Stuff Oreo and instead getting an Oreo that someone had licked the frosting out of and stuck the two halves back together.

Price: $45 per person during Restaurant Week; something closer to $50 or $55 per person at all other times.

Bottom line: I was satisfied after this dinner and not upset that I came here, but I’m not sure I’d come back. The Octopus Master(TM) is kind of above this. PS It has recently come to my attention that I also happen to be the Alfajores Master. My Peruvian coworker was impressed with my cookies, so it has been decided. And if I want to be depressed that I’m not in Peru, I can just watch videos at home.

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