Updated: Sept. 27, 2018 at 12:04 p.m.
For a new brunch and drinks spot minutes from campus, Pisco y Nazca offers fresh, upscale dining for a quality price.
Originally a Miami staple, the Peruvian restaurant on 1823 L St. NW, which opened this month, is the restaurant’s first expansion out of the city. Dubbed a gastropub, the establishment specializes in high-quality bar food and cocktails, with an emphasis on a vast selection of ceviche.
The upscale experience is exuded in its decor, which sleekly captures its Miami roots through a light, bright space decked in light blue tiles and potted ferns. There isn’t much shade in the outdoor seating area, but there are plenty of tables and booths indoors, along with a round bar surrounded by stools.
Catch the pub for lunch and dinner weekdays 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays a full 12 hours from 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., or enjoy brunch on Saturdays 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
This bar and restaurant aims to make creative cocktails (all $12) from Peruvian favorites. The pisco sour pairs Peruvian whiskey with lime juice and simple syrup, with added egg white for creaminess and bitters for an aromatic finish.
For starters meant to share, the mixta empanadas ($10) serve one roll with chicken stew and yellow peppers, along with one carne empanada of skirt steak and tenderloin with hints of onion, tomato and soy sauce. Both dishes were served piping hot with a pepper aioli dip. Each bite was flaky, yet teeming with savory juices.
The entrees run the gamut of prices from the barley risotto ($12), with stir-fry veggies, to a more upscale option in the lomo saltado ($26.50), which impresses with a spin on the Peruvian dish, adding corn-flavored rice and soy sauce to a classic dish of stir-fried steak, onion, tomato and fries.
The weekend brunch menu adds simple yet flavorful options of classic meals like huevos rancheros ($12), two fried eggs and pork belly on a grilled tortilla with jalapeno cilantro cream, and a croque madame ($12), with smoked ham and a fried egg on ciabatta and topped with a spicy huancaina sauce, a Peruvian staple made from yellow chiles.
But the restaurant’s specialty is ceviche, a traditionally fish-based dish prepared cold and marinated in citruses, herbs and other spices. Pisco y Nazca goes a few steps further, with fish bowls of diverse, unexpected flavors.
The passionfruit ceviche ($16.50) combines shrimp and Peruvian corn with passionfruit leche de tigre, or tiger’s milk – a traditional Peruvian sauce. Nikkei style ceviche ($20) uses elements of Japanese cuisine like wasabi peas, ahi tuna and wonton-sesame crisps.
To get a solid introduction to this delicious dish, try Pisco y Nazca’s ceviche tradicionale ($16.50).
The dish is served cold from preparation to table, and you can sense the freshness in each ingredient. Its basin of lime juice and other spices comprise the leche de tigre, which soaks into whitefish hake, leaving it cured and tender, dressed on top with red onions and herbs.
Pairing the hake with alternating bites of the crunchy concha corn, juicy sweet potato, choclo corns and mild, refreshing lettuce balances out the lip-puckering citrus.
The sweet potato, which is soaked and boiled in the soda Fanta, was the biggest flavor surprise to my palette. I had never had starch that tasted so sweet and remained natural in texture and consistency.
All of the elements rest in the lemon juice, but each ingredient absorbs the marinade in a different way, giving you a fresh, delectable note of new flavor each time you get a forkful of fish. Split it with friends and don’t let it sit for too long, as the soaked up citrus increases tenfold after some minutes sitting in the juices.
You’d never expect that fish could hold such a myriad of flavors, but Pisco y Nazca’s ceviche could easily turn you into a pescatarian.
This post has been updated to reflect the following correction:
On one reference, Pisco y Nazca was spelled incorrectly. It is now spelled correctly. We regret this error.