As Much As We Love a Good Breakfast Pupusa, Nazca Kitchen's Brunch Is a Letdown
Nazca Kitchen's $5 margaritas are a celebration unto themselves.
Formed between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D., the Nazca Lines are a series of ancient geoglyphs in Southern Peru. The geoglyphs, which were created manually by removing one layer of earth in order to reveal another, take various forms: lines, geometric shapes, animals and human figures. Thousands of years later, debate continues as to what purpose the geoglyphs served, but the most prominent and enduring theory is that they bore religious significance to the Nazca.
Like these ancient, earthen drawings, Nazca Kitchen's brunch service is also an enigma. Nazca's website provides clues to what its originators had in mind, describing the restaurant as a fresh, refined take on South American cuisine.
Once inside Nazca's new West Village location, one does not get the sense that he or she is about to embark on a rich epicurean journey. Instead, the setting reads like a trek through the familiar with its monotone, officelike interior, flat-screen televisions hanging over the bar and '80s music piping through the speakers.
In contrast to the anonymous backdrop, the menu, with its liberal references to yuca, has promise. A classic steak-and-eggs plate gets a twist from caramelized onions and salsa quemada, a dry-roasted, tomato-based salsa. Meanwhile, the acai bowl teeters, as all bowls are wont to do, between pretension and substance with "berries from the Amazon" and a passionfruit drizzle. But the Latin breakfast ($14) caught our eye, for how often do Dallas diners have the opportunity to enjoy a pupusa before 11 a.m.?
Pupusas are thick corn tortillas traditionally stuffed with melting cheese, legumes, meat or a combination. Nazca Kitchen executed its version, which included a filling of aji chicken, perfectly. A web of griddle-marks inked its way across the surface while the interior afforded a lovely, fresh masa flavor and a bit of extra texture from the tender shreds of chicken.
This national dish of El Salvador is often accompanied by curtido, or cabbage relish, which provides textural variation and an infusion of bright, slightly fermented flavor to this otherwise savory, chewy dish. Nazca tried — and failed — to deliver something akin to curtido by partnering the pupusa with a few paltry shreds of cabbage and under-ripe mango. Worse still, the slaw was served atop a leaf of lettuce that looked as if it had been plucked from the earth at approximately the same time as the Nazca's first geoglyphs.
The other sides, save for the cup of velvety, sumptuous black beans, were also questionable. The bacon seemed superfluous, and the sunny-side-up eggs' whites arrived weeping and mucilaginous. One can envision a more serviceable plate wherein these sides are replaced with another pupusa or two. Or three.
The chorizo perico wrap ($12) arrived swathed in what can only be described as a Flaming Hot Cheetos-hued tortilla. The wrap contained eggs — the menu described them as scrambled, but a rough omelette is more accurate — cheddar and enough chorizo to span a small colon. The choice of tortilla color was clearly strategic, for when picked from its porcelain resting spot, this beefy behemoth dripped amber grease. Look not to the side of yuca for a palate cleanser, as they are deep fried until intensely craggy. The yuca fries were, in fact, the highlight of a plate that flew in the face of all adjectives synonymous with fresh and refined.
Anthropologists will likely study Nazca Kitchen's brunch food for years in order to determine what significance it carries for any culture. But then again, mimosas are only $3 at Nazca, so it is also entirely possible that significance can and will be found at the bottom of a glass.
Nazca Kitchen, 3700 McKinney Ave. Brunch served 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
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