Costa Verde

The ceviches and pisco sours alone make this Peruvian kitchen worth a visit.

From June 2006 Cheap Eats

Even before you order at this Peruvian restaurant partway between Ballston and Clarendon, you're welcomed with a bowl of thick, roasted corn kernels, salted like popcorn and just as hard to stop eating. They're even better when you swipe them through the salsa verde, a thick, iridescent purée of chilies that signals that the kitchen is in good hands. This addictive snack pairs perfectly with a tart pisco sour, a concoction of pisco brandy, sugar-cane juice, and frothed egg whites.

It goes down smoothly, as does much of the cooking here. What elevates Costa Verde above a slew of pan-Latino restaurants in the area is its consistency and attention to detail. Even the rice, an afterthought at many places, is so good you find yourself wanting to order seconds. Ceviches–there are six kinds–are sharp and tangy, full of good, firm fish and seafood. As befits a cuisine born along the coast, fish and seafood predominate. You'll find a garlicky shrimp soup enriched with a splash of cream, an excellent crispy whole fried fish, and a plate of octopus and calamari sautéed in a garlicky white-wine sauce.

Not everything that comes from the water is bound for greatness; sometimes a filet of mahi-mahi, as in the escabèche, or in the saltado de pescado is thready, not moist. The menu, which looks long, is full of duplications, variations on a few themes. But whatever quibbles you might have, they'll be erased by the time you dig into the luscious tres leches cake for dessert.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.