Nazca Kitchen is Open at Walnut Hill (Photos)

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Next to where the old Dave & Busters was laid to rest, lies Nazca Kitchen, a bright and colorful beacon of hope for anyone looking for a taste of healthy, fresh and flavorful foods with South American roots. Walking in, you'll notice the space's lightness; there's even a dining room with walls and a ceiling made mostly of glass. Oh, and there's a palm tree in the center of the main dining room, bringing the outdoors (well, somewhere else's outdoors where they have palm trees) inside. We popped in on Sunday, which was the restaurant's first official lunch service, and were impressed by much of the fresh-focused menu.

With a balsy opening date of 12-21-12 (otherwise known as The Day The World Did Not End) Nazca (which does not in fact mean Nascar in Portuguese) intends to bring South American comfort food to your face. And perhaps you should let it. Majority owner Craig Collins (who also owns nearby Red Hot & Blue) got the idea for Nazca Kitchen while traveling in South America. The name Nazca actually comes from a Peruvian, agricultural civilization who became extinct after environmental factors caused its demise. An interesting premise for a restaurant who opened its doors on the day the world was supposed to end.

Another point of interest: for some reason the dining situation at Nazca requires a bit of instruction the first time you go there. After we were seated we were are told "the way they do it" is that they seat you first, then you get up and order (and pay) at the counter, and then they bring you your food. There is self-serve drink station for soft drinks and spa-like water spiked with fruits, but the staff is happy to bring any necessary refills to your table. This makes for an odd experience, and it makes tipping a bit awkward. Luckily we had cash for tips, because the register receipt had no tip option.

Nazca's menu is full of bold flavors and colors, from fresh white fish ceviche punctuated with citrus, fruits and marinated onion, to a much warmer butternut squash medley, with its fall spices, caramelized onions and dried fruit. Fish tacos come wrapped in a flour and corn tortilla, or in butter lettuce leaves for a lighter option. Both are served with chipotle-aioli drizzle and mango salsa. A steak sandwich comes on a sweet Amazon crunch bun topped with sauteed peppers, mozzarella, jicama slaw, tomato and a house made steak sauce. Luckily for me, I brought a full table so I could taste all of these during my visit.

Appetizers range from $7-9, entrees from $11-16 and salads, sandwiches and wraps range from $5.50 to $13. Sides are between three and four bucks each.

Breakfast options range from $4.50-7.00 and include breakfast wraps with fillings like eggs, cheese, roasted kale, stew meat and chorizo plus Brazilian spins on granola and yogurt dishes. If you're thirsty, Nazca boasts a full espresso bar (I actually spotted Nazca's heritage house blend of coffee beans at Central Market) as well as freshly squeezed juices and coladas, which are a blend of fruit, milk and ice. Pass the rum!

While the steak certainly comes close, the food at Nazca Kitchen probably isn't gluttonous enough to score that coveted "last meal" spot. But luckily for all of us now that the world hasn't ended, we should have plenty of time to enjoy the food at NAZCA.

Nazca Kitchen is located at 8041 Walnut Hill Lane and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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