Lately, the Missus and I have been fondly recalling our trip to Peru. And while it's been less than two years since we've been there, we're starting to speak of our trip in that faraway tone..... Funny thing is, as much as we marvel at visiting the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, it is the moments we treasure like walking into a dirt floor shack and grabbing some Chicha de Jora, a frothy alcohol beverage made from maize. And yes, the the fermentation process is actually started by moistening the maize in the maker's mouth. And of course it was the food, from Cebiche at Pescados Captiales, a fantastic meal at Astrid y Gaston, to the meal that was the most memorable, sharing dinner of home made Cuy (guinea pig) with a warm and gracious family in Cusco. You could say we've developed quite a fondness for Peru. So of course we were thrilled when we saw the sign for Nazca Grill go up. And even more thrilled when I noticed that the place had opened.
Nazca Grill now occupies the spot that both Aji Seco and the attached Taco Shop stood. The interior has been freshened up a bit, and in the open kitchen(actually the jerry-rigged kitchen of Aji Seco) stands a rotisserie. This could only mean one thing..... Pollo a la Brasa! Peruvians love their rotisserie chicken. You can't walk a block in Lima without running into a Pollo a la Brasa shop.
And yes indeed, Pollo a la Brasa was featured on the menu, as were Peruvian standards that would make any Peruvian ex-pat's heart sing. Stuff like Papa a la Huacaina, and those "Chifa" (Peruvian Chinese dishes) like Chaufa, basically a fried rice dish, and Lomo Saltado, which is basically a beef stir fry, featuring the unique Peruvian touch by including Papas Fritas (basically french fries). What else would you expect from Peru, where potatoes originated .
Pollo a la Brasa sounded good, but I was in search of something to refresh and revive me from the heat. If this ain't Cebiche weather, I don't know what is! We started with the Ceviche de Pescado ($10.95):
The cancha (fried corn kernals) and choclo (peruvian corn) were perfect and spot on. We really would have preferred a proper Camote (sweet potato) prepared in the Peruvian way, or even some purple sweet potatoes. The fish looked, tasted, and had the mouth feel of what they call "Corvina" in Peru(white sea bass), and was prepared well, with just the right amount of "cooking" from the citrus. It was however, a bit weak in the flavor department, you could say that the "Leche de Tigre" ("Tiger's milk" - the marinade for the Cebiche) lacked claws. It was very bland, which made this much less satisfying than the version at Latin Chef.
The Missus ordered one of Her favorite dishes, Pescado a lo Macho ($10):
First off, I gotta say this place really makes some good rice. The fish was cooked well, but again this was a bit lacking in the flavor department. The Missus prefers a version with a bit more spice and tomato for a nice mildly spicy-tangy kick. It was good, but not great.
Not in the mood for anything hot, I excitedly ordered the Tiradito Nazca ($11.95). I've developed a love for this supposedly Japanese influenced Peruvian dish. Every version of Tiradito I've had has been different. So I've come to think that this dish is a great way of a Chef displaying his, or her individuality, rather than sticking to the basic rules of Cebiche. I've had some fantastic versions, and some versions that looked amazing, but were train-wrecks. But I've never been bored by a Tiradito....until now:
When the dish arrived, the first sentence out of the Missus's mouth was; "where's the rest of it"? This tasted like the Cebiche with a bit of equally bland "crema" on it. No zing, no personality...... I was excited seeing this on he menu, as on my last visit, I learned that Latin Chfe no longer makes Tiradito....bummer.
After dinner, driving home, the Missus texted Her Peruvian friend. When She inquired as to whether he had been to Nazca Grill, he replied "of course". The place had only been open a week! That Peruvian pipeline is mighty strong. When She asked what he thought about the food, he replied that we needed to try the Lomo Saltado and the Pollo a la Brasa. So of course I returned, but this time for take-out.
I started with the Causa Nazca ($4.50).
I often call Causa a "layered mashed potato cake". A layer of mashed potato is covered with a filling, the usual is a tuna-mayo filling, with another layer of mashed potatoes on the top. This was the chicken version, which was pretty good. The shredded chicken was not dressed with too much mayo, so you could still taste the chicken. And who doesn't love mashed potatoes...in cake form. It was topped with a Huacaina sauce, a mild cheese sauce, which added, but didn't subtract from the flavor. Potatoes in Peru have amazing flavor, so I didn't even try to add that to the equation. Looking at my photo, I guess you could always say that this is a mashed potato-chicken salad sandwich, with the mashed potato being the "bread". We enjoyed this.
And of course the Lomo Saltado ($10):
This version was good, the meat has a decent chew without being tough, but I thought the dish could have a bit more ooomph, perhaps a bit more tangy-sour flavor. The saltiness was perfect. Again, the rice was perfect.
And of course, I needed to get some Pollo a la Brasa. I ordered a Half Chicken ($11.95), which came with a green salad, papas fritas (of course), and some Aji Amarilla (yellow pepper sauce).
Now truth be told, this place doesn't hold a candle to the woodburning Pollo a la Brasa joints in LA, or even the Peruvian mega-chain Pardo's. And while the flavor is not quite up to the level of El Pollo Inka, it is still quite good. The meat is very moist, soft, but not mushy. The flavor is on the salty side, but in a good way. The Aji Amarilla is bland. The fries....well, who doesn't love french fries??? The salad is your basic iceberg lettuce mix.
I'd have that chicken again. Be it ever so humble, we've got Pollo A la Brasa in San Diego.
The Gentleman who runs this place is named Wilson, who is a very nice, gracious, and accommodating guy. The service is decent, in that casual Peruvian way, and the food gets to your table much faster than at Latin Chef. There are items such as Anticuchos (grilled beef heart) and Sudado, which I assume is Sudado de Pescado, a fish stew, on the menu. I hope they do well!
4310 Genesee Ave
San Diego, CA 92117
Hours: Mon-Fri 1130am-10pm