The project is the first restaurant for owners Robert Preston and Walter Lopez, but not its chef, Roberto Castre. Castre comes to Washington from Houston, where he met Preston and Lopez at his Latin Bites restaurant, which continues to operate despite Castre's relocation.
Lopez and Castre both hail from Peru, the food of which has been gaining momentum internationally and locally (see: China Chilcano, Ocopa).
Named after two ancient cultures, Nazca Mochica is branding its cuisine as traditional-meets-contemporary. In the bar, that means infusing pisco -- a brandy that is Peru's national spirit -- with ingredients such as lychee, ginger and ají peppers. That's where you'll also find a separate station devoted to seviche, whose defining characteristic is raw fish marinated in citrus (here, lime juice).
"It's the only seviche made right in the moment," Castre said of the Peruvian take on the Latin American staple. "It means a lot. It's our culture." His menu features around a dozen seviches, including the signature "Mochica," a hot-and-cold dish featuring fried yuca and calamari that was inspired by the mashup of leftovers he was served at a market in his home country.
Mochica's other offerings feature a variety of shareable plates, including anticuchos (skewers), fried yuca and tequeños (cheese sticks). You'll also see nods to Asia's influence on Peru, such as chicken ramen (with potatoes, natch), pork belly buns and crispy Brussels sprouts topped with sesame seeds and bonito flakes.
There's little overlap on the menu at the upper-level Nazca. There are two seviches and a handful of appetizers, notably the causitas, a colorful dish of potato mounds topped with tuna seviche and chicken salad, among other things. Entrees include a cilantro lamb short rib stew, chicken in ají amarillo sauce and shrimp chowder.
In other words: No Peruvian rotisserie chicken. Preston said there are plenty of local places doing it well, and by leaving it off the menu, Nazca Mochica is aiming to show there's a wealth of culinary attractions beyond it.
"Part of our mission is to educate people on Peruvian culture and cuisine," Preston said. "Peru's always had great dishes, but [until recently], they never knew how to market them."
Nazca Mochica, 1633 P St. NW. 202-733-3170. nazcamochica.com. 5 to 11 p.m. daily.