Alana and I fell in love in Peru, which is to say we met on a month-long study abroad in Peru and cemented our friendship in Cusco. We bonded over our mutual love of Latin-American culture (and Latin-American men) and solidified our friendship through our exploration of Peruvian cuisine and 20-something study abroad antics, i.e. salsa dancing atop bars until the wee hours and waking a few later for class.
Several years later, she remains one of the most vivacious, curious, and open-minded ladies I know. This is a woman full of surprises: she runs a company, kills it at her career, and continues her adoration for Latin men. It’s not uncommon for sentences like this to come out of Alana’s mouth: “Well I was invited by Harvard to speak at this conference in Portugal and Fabio, my lover from Mexico met me there. Now I’m back at the office, but sure I can meet you for SoulCycle. How about 6:30 with Wayne?” She’s a trip, this one.
Unintentionally, Alana and I enjoyed a Peruvian double-header with appetizers and cocktails at China Chilcano Friday followed by a play, The Nether at Woolly. (Read the review here.) The following morning, we took in a SoulCycle class and headed to H Street for brunch at Ocopa, a darling little hole-in-the-wall Peruvian spot.
I hadn’t heard of Ocopa until I received an email invitation to give its brunch a try—but I knew exactly who to invite! Alana and I were joined by my friend Ashley, and the three of us settled into a table by the open-air front window of the restaurant.
The long, narrow space has an open kitchen and a black, white, and red color palette. There is an ethnic, Peruvian style to the place but it’s not overbearing. In the back, there’s a bright indoor atrium that would be great for a bright meal without actually having to experience the elements. But, it was a beautiful spring day (finally!), so we chose to sit by the open garage doors at the front of the restaurant.
Our waitress and the manager, Ani, were absolutely delightful and friendly. As was the Peruvian chef, who came to say hello towards the end of our meal. (By that point, we were absolutely enamored by the cuisine and his thick Spanish accent served only to make us adore him all the more.)
We wanted to order everything on the cocktail menu, which was filled with Pisco Sours, mimosas, and creative concoctions. We opted for the bottomless flavored mimosas: you can select from orange, mango, watermelon, lavender, and passion fruit mimosas. Regular mimosas are bottomless for $20 and the bottomless of the flavored varietals is $25. We each opted for a different one: mango for Alana, lavender for Ashley, and watermelon for me. Bright and bubbly, the mimosas were served in stemless narrow champagne flutes and were absolutely delicious. This watermelon mimosa is a strong contender for best mimosa ever—I was losing my mind on Snapchat.
Poor Alana ordered a pineapple Pisco Sour and hardly got to have a sip because Ashley and I quickly commandeered the cocktail. Complete with a perfectly playful umbrella, this pineapple Pisco cocktail looked exactly like the emoji and could have only tasted better if we’d been drinking it on a tropical South American beach.
Along with our cocktails, we began with the Papas con Huancaina, fingerling potatoes topped with a yellow Huancaina sauce, queso fresco, and a poached egg. It was actually a boiled egg, but no matter. We didn’t expect the potatoes to be that purple or the dish to be that lovely. The yellow sauce was so yummy that Ashley was literally scraping it off the plate with a spoon.
There are several Antichucho or skewer options: chicken, Mahi Mahi, pork belly, lamb, camarones, lomo, pulpo, and corazon. We went with the basic Bitch options of lomo (steak), and shrimp. Topped with chimichurri, the steak skewers were moist and tender.
The grilled shrimp were equally flavorful. And the yellow Peruvian sauce was artfully added to many of the dishes—perfect for dipping!
The root vegetable hash was like nothing we had expected—it was better! The mound of salad comprised shredded rainbow carrots, fingerling potatoes, parsnips, fried, crispy red onions, and house herbs. It was a unique, memorable take on a Peruvian salad—and big enough that all three of us went back for second helpings.
We were just as pleasantly surprised by the Tacu Tacu, a rice-and-beans dish that Ashley, our token vegetarian and animal-lover, wanted to order. The Tacu Tacu was described as rice, Peruvian canary beans, yellow onions, and aji amarillo. What was served to us was a casserole of sorts, with the canary beans, onions, and aji amarillo (delicious Peruvian yellow sauce) mixed into the rice and baked with a crispy shell, then topped with more red onions. I don’t normally care for rice and beans, but I absolutely loved this flavorful dish. It’s a great side dish for brunch and a hearty option for the resident vegetarians.
We ordered the Peruvian chicken with yucca fries—as it seemed only logical to order this traditional Peruvian dish at a Peruvian restaurant. Plus, I love yucca fries. The roasted chicken was incredibly flavorful and the Yucca fries held up to the best of them.
Ashley had her heart set on the super pancakes—chocolate version—and they were super. More like crepes, the thin, fluffy pancakes were rolled up and filled with melted chocolate.
We clearly hadn’t had nearly enough, so we ordered both desserts and more of our favorite mimosas.
As I adore Tres Leches cake, I couldn’t resist the Lucuma Tres Leches. The sponge cake was soaked with condensed milk, coconut cream, and lucuma. Served with fresh sliced strawberries, this dessert was a spectacular conclusion to a delicious meal.
We also had the rose ice cream, served with more strawberries, white chocolate chips, a dulce de leche drizzle, and toasted quinoa sprinkled on the side. It was beautifully plated and a perfect light dessert if that’s of concern to you!
We loved every bite and every minute of this delightful meal—we made friends with our neighbors, drank too many watermelon mimosas (OK just me) and reminisced about Cusco.
Happy and satiated, we sat in the sunshine—and then a tray of Alfajores, an Argentine cookie filled with dulce de leche, arrived at our table with the check. Color me impressed. Ocopa, te amo.
The Bitches say: A+ for unique, well-prepared Peruvian fare, inventive bottomless cocktails, and a fun, laid back environment that makes you want to stay awhile!
1324 H Street N.E.
Ocopa serves brunch Saturdays and Sundays beginning at 11 a.m.
This restaurant has closed as of March 2017.