Last night we visited Nazca, a Peruvian restaurant that opened last March in downtown San Jose. We're always on the look out for good South American food so Stefania can sample dishes she grew up with in Chile.
The interior is a sleek open space with a small wall separating the large bar and lounge area from the dinning area. The colors and lighting give it a feeling of a club or lounge. The only oddity was the pan flute music in the background. We soon amused ourselves though figuring out what song was getting the flute treatment. 'We Are The World' on the pan flute is odd, but half way through our meal the music kicked over to something a little less goofy.
Service was crisp and efficient. Our waitress set the stage for us and checked with us on timing and clearing often. The right mix of friendly chattiness and professionalism that matched well with the lounge/club feel.
We started with five items from the Appetizer menu that we passed around between the four of us. Each dish was presented on a long plate which worked well for sharing if not passing. The Pastel de Choclo was light and fluffy with the filling centered in the whipped corn bread crust. This is something Stef makes at harvest every year. It's hearty and satisfying. This take brought a lightness to the dish.
We had the Ceviche de Pescado, which featured Red Snapper. The fish is always 'of the day' for the Ceviche's we were informed and our waitress recommended this highly. We were not disappointed. The Anticuchos de Corazon takes a leap of faith for an American Suburban palate, but they were cooked perfectly and had a nice gamy - mineral mix. We also sampled Choros a las Chalaca, mussles with a corn salsa, and Papa Rellena, a deep fried version of the hearty ground meat, egg, olive and raisins stuffing combo.
No appetizer disappointed, in fact we could have ordered another round after the first. Each executed well with a great variety of flavors and textures.
For our main course we again passed around four dishes; Aji de Gallina is a pulled chicken in a cream sauce, Arroz a las Criolla de Mariscos, is the Peruvian take on paella, Seco de Cordero, a savory lamb shank, and Bistec a lo Pobre a grilled steak with fried egg.
Only the chicken disappointed. The cream sauce was sweet and dominated the dish with out a good balance of spice or acidity. The lamb had a nice gamy finish and fell from the bone. The paella though was the highlight with spicy dark rice and a perfect mix of seafood in each bite. It came topped with a beautiful full head on shrimp.
We sampled all four desserts on the menu and no disappointments at all in that group. In fact when faced with the dessert options at other downtown restaurants, I think my preference would be to head here to finish. Each was a nice combination of fruitiness and sweetness.
The wine list was small and mainly South American, keeping with the theme and we were pleasantly surprised by the two Peruvian selection on the menu we sampled. As a wine guy I'd like to see a little deeper selection on the menu, especially given the complexity and depth of the menu and food. A Syrah from the Northern Rhone would have been excellent with the lamb, and the corn based appetizers would have sung with a full bodied Chardonnay from Sonoma, or Burgundy.
Nazca will become a regular stop for us, I'm sure.