From scrumptious seafood to innovative fusion dishes, Peru’s eclectic culinary heritage has gained the country worldwide recognition as one of the world’s leading culinary hotspots. Set high up in the Andean peaks, atmospheric food venues abound and some of Peru’s leading chefs can be found serving up mouth-watering regional fare and international specialties. Here are some of the ten best.
Located in the bohemian district of San Blas, Pachapapa is a rustic restaurant specializing in high-quality, traditional Andean cuisine. Surrounded by whitewashed columns and scattered pot plants, diners sit on wooded banquettes in an open courtyard that is warmed by outside heaters and an enormous clay oven. If visiting at the weekend, the presence of a harpist adds to the restaurant’s atmosphere. This is one of the best places for sampling Peruvian classics such as oven-fried trout and anticucha de alpaca,skewers of tender alpaca meat macerated in local spices. Those brave enough to try the local speciality of cuy,whole-roasted guinea pig, should make sure to order in advance.
Presiding over the second floor of an old colonial house just minutes away from Cusco’s central plaza, Cicciolina is a charming venue split between a low-key tapas bar and an intimate candle-lit restaurant. With its old wooden beams, ochre walls, and dried garlic bundles and paprika garlands hanging from the ceiling, the place exudes a warm ambience where guests are welcomed like old friends. Served from an open-plan kitchen, the menu offers many Mediterranean flavors, with tasty small plates of pan-fried scallops and squid-ink pasta that work as perfect accompaniments to a glass of fine vintage from the bodega’s extensive collection.
Named after the ancient corn beer of the Incas, Chicha is one of Cusco’s most vaunted restaurants so make sure you reserve well in advance to secure a table. It’s owned by Peru’s award-winning celebrity chef Gastón Acurio who has found great success with his restaurants in Lima and other cities in both North and South America. The restaurant overlooks the town’s beguiling Plaza Regocijo and diners can enjoy balcony views while tucking into sophisticated dishes that put an imaginative twist on traditional Andean recipes. Seafood fans will love the delicious trout ceviche (fish cooked in lime juice and chili) or the tender grilled octopus while the lomo saltado,a Peruvian specialty of flash-fried spicy strips of sirloin, is one of the best in town.
Boasting an unbeatable view over Cusco’s thriving central Plaza de Armas, LIMO is a chic and contemporary restaurant and pisco bar. Its décor has a minimalist design of bare red tiled floors and wooden tables, while retaining many beguiling historic features of its original colonial architecture. It is an easy place to spend a long, luxurious evening with a glass of a pisco-based cocktail (a grape brandy and Peru’s national drink). The kitchen specializes in Peruvian-Asian seafood dishes with fantastic sushi and tiradito,Peru’s very own version of sashimi.
Fine dining and culture are combined at MAP Café, an elegant eatery that is located within the city’s Pre-Columbian art museum. Dominating the central cobbled courtyard, the restaurant inhabits a light-filled, glass-enclosed conservatory where smart, black-suited waiters serve gourmet Peruvian fusion food to its well-heeled diners. Once the sun has set, you can enjoy an intimate candlelit experience and choose from a great assortment of dishes from the fixed-priced three course menu. The place does a superb version of chicken estofado while its irresistible desserts resemble more objets d’art than edible treats.
With a farmhouse ambience and a tantalizing all-natural menu, Greens Organic offers the perfect health kick after a night on the Cusco tiles. Located on the second floor of a colonial building on the main plaza, Greens sources local ingredients, many from the nearby Sacred Valley, to create its meals. Homemade wheat pasta, generous salads packed with goats’ cheese, quinoa and roasted beetroot provide vegetarians with something special. Meat-eaters can tuck into succulent Alpaca medallions. Don’t miss the delicious tropical fruit juices or for something stronger, there is a top-notch selection of organic wines and beers.
Hidden away in the corner of an unassuming plaza, Fallen Angel is an ultra-funky hotel, guesthouse and restaurant known for its outlandish décor and whimsical art and design. Surrounded by flying pigs and floating cherubs, guests sit down to eat at tables made of sheets of thick glass balanced on bathtubs in which tropical fish swim around inside. Those that manage to tear their attention away from the eccentric interiors and focus on the food will find it offers one of the best steaks in town, cooked with spices and accompanied with garlic salsas.
For an alternative to the regional cuisine, head to Le Soleil, Cusco’s go-to restaurant for finesse and flavor à la francaise. Its interiors are stylish and subtly romantic, with starched white tablecloths and sparkling wine glasses to serve crisp Champagne or Bordeaux grandscrus available on the extensive wine list. The menu features many Gallic staples such as duck à l’orange and baked ratatouille. Shoestring diners can opt for just a single course but for something more indulgent, go for the seven-course tasting menu.
Italian and Peruvian cuisines collide to create a surprisingly seamless match in the inviting Incanto, located in a former Inca palace. The simple and contemporary restaurant enjoys a convivial ambience as happy diners tuck into homemade pizzas cooked in the huge clay ovens dominating the center of the dining room. Squid-ink tagliatelle and wonderful ice creams in a variety of flavors represent the restaurant’s Italian flare while the Andean antipasti that contains local cheese, alpaca chorizo and quinoa croquettes is a great sharing option.
With a rooftop terrace offering stunning views over Cusco, Marcelo Batata makes use of traditional Peruvian ingredients to create dishes that incorporate Criollo, Oriental and Mediterranean influences. The deep red walls of its interior, decorated with black-and-white photography depicting the local people and landscape, draw a striking contrast with the jet-black beams and seating. Sample the tender Alpaca steaks or go for the chicken in a creamy sauce made with aguaymanto,a small, orange fruit native to Peru. Anyone wishing to recreate these distinctive dishes can sign up to a cooking course with the restaurant’s talented chef Erick Paz Gallegos.