Don’t let the location fool you. Situated in an outdoor shopping center in southwest Kendall—a good 40-minute drive from trendy South Beach—and in Doral, Pisco Y Nazca Ceviche Gastrobar features some of the tastiest morsels in South Florida. Tops on their menu are the ceviches, blends of traditional yet modern ingredients that call on the flavors of Peru.
It’s no surprise that this lust-worthy concept was created by the Centurion Restaurant Group, the same visionaries behind Bulla Gastrobar in Coral Gables. After all, this is a group known for bright flavors and the bold use of Spanish ingredients. But instead of touring Spain for menu inspiration at Pisco Y Nazca, Owner Carlos Centurion and VP/Partner Juan Carlos Marchan traveled to Peru. The result: the highly acclaimed debut of Pisco Y Nazca in late 2015.
Although he originally hails from Ecuador, Marchan is in love with Peruvian cuisine and culture. It only makes sense, then, that he would imbue his newest restaurant with the spirit and soul of Peru—from the innovative menu to the friendly, approachable service and earth tone-rich design. It helps that Executive Chef Miguel Antonio Gomez Fernandez was born and raised in Peru, and understands the straightforward flavors of the cuisine. Central to this tradition is the edgy, ineluctable, inimitable Peruvian heat.
“Peruvians love their spice,” Marchan says. “The country has hundreds of different type of peppers, many of which are native to Peru.” To showcase that variety, Pisco Y Naza features a piquant punch in many of their signature ceviches, where freshly caught seafood is marinated in a blend of citrus, chile peppers, and tropical fruits. The Cremoso Ceviche, for example, combines mahi and shrimp with habanero peppers, creamy leche de tigre, celery, and sweet potato. Another spicy choice: the Jalapeño Huacatay, which bathes salmon and shrimp in a creamy jalapeño leche de tigre sauce.
The most popular ceviche on Pisco Y Nazca’s menu, however, is the Rocoto—a meaty mix of mahi, shrimp, octopus, fried calamari, rocoto leche de tigre, cancha, and sweet potato.
For fish lovers unsure of the raw seafood in ceviche, dishes like the Pargo Crocante might be a better pick—fried whole snapper served over a spicy Asian sauce—or the Salmon Andino—seared salmon served over a bed of quinoa salad and avocado with huacatay sauce. And don’t miss the Choros Mariners, a pound of steamed mussels swimming in ají amarillo, chico de jora, and cream served with a stack of crostini to soak up the leftover broth.
With its focus on fresh fish, often served raw, Pisco Y Nazca is intent on sourcing only the highest quality seafood. An impressive feat, considering that its under-the-sea stars hail from all over the Americas, including Peru, Ecuador, and Mexico. That variety is what yields a rainbow of flavors on the menu, however—a signature tack of which Chef Miguel is particularly proud.
If you’re not a fan of seafood, don’t fret; carnivores are not forgotten at Pisco Y Nazca. Just as central to Peruvian cuisine are dishes like Lomo Saltado (stir-fried tenderloin), Churrascazo (grilled aged Angus skirt steak), and Anticucho Corazón (grilled beef heart skewers). There’s even a twist on the classic burger—dubbed the Que Bestia Burger—which features a charred eight-ounce Angus beef patty, accompanied by tomato-panca chutney, rocoto pepper aïoli, and shoestring fries.
Alongside these perennial favorites are rustic, flaky empanadas filled with chicken stew or mushrooms, classic Pollo Asado (crispy roasted half chicken with french fries and green salad), and hearty Chaufa (fried rice with shrimp and calamari).
For dessert, there’s only one option that commends itself: the Chocolate Dome. This decadent gustatory valediction is composed of a sphere of dark chocolate filled with sweet potato custard and warm ganache. “It’s been a tremendous success,” enthuses Marchan. “I cannot tell you how many times our guests whip out their phones to see this dessert unveiled tableside.” The inspiration came, not surprisingly, from a restaurant in Lima. Marchan’s culinary team simply customized the concept for an American clientele.
Food, however, is only half of the culinary equation; drink is an absolute must in Peruvian culture. The country’s national drink, Pisco Sour, is naturally foremost on the menu. “It’s a classic cocktail, and you don’t really want to mess with it,” Marchan notes. To wit, Pisco Y Nazca’s rendition is stiff and strong, just as it is served in Peru—made with three ounces of Pisco Cuatro Gallos to awaken all of the senses.
Beer is a fixture in Peru, too; Peruvian labels like Cristal and Cusqueña are offered at Pisco Y Nazca, alongside Miami craft bews like MIA Weisse, Wynwood La Rubia, and Pop’s Porter. If the prospect of a full Peruvian meal is a bit daunting, Marchan encourages guests to sip and sample at happy hour, stretching from 4-7pm daily. There are even soccer games broadcast on flatscreen TVs for obsessed footballers.
Whoever you are, you likely have a place at Pisco Y Nazca. “Our crowd is comprised of adventurous foodies, social butterflies, and generally awesome people,” quips Marchan. “Kendall is a growing area and has welcomed us with open arms. In turn, we welcome everyone.”
So what’s next for Pisco Y Nazca? A second location is already open in Doral, not to mention an expanded menu and updated design. The restaurant’s expansion will roll out from there, with planned spin-offs in Sunrise and Tampa, Florida; Washington, DC; and Houston.
“We want to continue sharing our love for Peruvian cuisine,” says Marchan. “We’ve had multiple requests from travelers all over the country to bring this gem to their home cities. That’s exactly what we plan to do.”
By Jacquelynn Powers Maurice | Print Contributor