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Trip Report: Lima and Cusco (VERY long!)

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This is the third of three reports I'll be posting from a December 2006 trip to Easter Island, Santiago, and Peru (Cusco and Lima). While I was doing my planning, I got great recommendations from these boards – thanks to you all – it was VERY much appreciated. Hope these notes help others the way I was helped :-)

Lima:

We only had one meal in Lima at ***** Punto Azul ***** on San Martin at Alcanfores in Miraflores. This is a classic Lima ceviche restaurant, open only for lunch and specializing in very fresh fish. We had ceviche, duh, and shrimp in chili sauce – and it was great; sparkling with freshness. USD 25 with tip, including one coffee and one beer.

Cusco:

***** Victor Victoria ***** on Tigre. There are quite a few restaurants in Cusco serving Middle Eastern food, and Victor Victoria is apparently the one most frequented by Israelis. It's small and modest, with the restaurant taking up the first room and the family seemingly congregated in the one behind it. Offers cappuccino (poorly made from a Gaggia, weak and lukewarm), good room-temperature fresh juices, and okay breakfasts; we had the "British" with bacon, eggs and beans, and a very large guacamole sandwich. The service was earnest and sweet. About 10 USD including juice and cappuccino. Not recommended; random chance would probably serve you just as well.

***** Chez Maggy ***** I was feeling sickish, so we went to Cusco's most famous pizza joint for a simple and familiar dinner. We ordered nachos and a pizza, and loved them both - small portions, carefully-made and delicious. About 10 USD, including a Cusqueno lager (light and fairly tasteless, Peruvian) and an espresso. Recommended.

***** Los Perros ***** on Teqsecocha. The guidebooks describe this as a "trendy hangout,” and it seems to be a slightly upscale version of a backpacker cafe. Clean, playing a mix of eighties and Euro chillout music, lots of sofas and old copies of Marie Claire and Maxim. The service is slow and -even more than elsewhere in Peru- there's no pressure to pay and go. We ordered spring rolls, gyoza and potato skins, all of which turned out to be big servings (the spring rolls were six, each twice the normal size) and delicious, with a large array of dipping sauces. USD 20 including two cappuccinos and two Cokes.

***** Pacha Papa ***** on the San Blas square. Although there's courtyard seating, it was raining so we sat in the cozy yellow-walled dining room, where unfortunately all five tables of English-speaking diners could hear every word of each other’s conversations. Oh well. We ordered lomo saltado (stirfried beef with tomatoes and onions served with rice and french fries) and aji de gallina (chicken stew with a cheese and walnut sauce, including hard-boiled eggs, olives and potato, with rice). Very nice service, good food. About 25 USD including one coca sour and a coca tea.

***** MAP Café ***** sister restaurant to the Inka Grill. A modernist glass box sitting incongruously in the middle of the pre-Columbian art museum courtyard. Upscale, trendy and with a pretty, minimalist decor, most patrons the night we visited were under 40 and foreign. The service was very well-meaning but hilariously inept (like, banging into each other inept). We were given a mango salad amuse, as well as tiny warm soft breads with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and parsley sauce. We ordered penne with panka-tomato and pisco cream sauce, alpaca tonnato, trout tartare and goat cheese salad, followed by roasted pineapple with custard foam. Everything was delicious and beautifully-presented.

Just under USD 100, including a bottle of Chilean carmanere, a pisco sour, a bottle of Cusquena dark, and an espresso. Recommended.

***** Inka Grill ***** Probably the most accessible restaurant in Cusco: on the main square, clean and upscale, English spoken. ("We're surrounded by gringos," the Spanish-speaking woman at the next table whispered to her friend.) I was surprised by the initial aggressive (opt-out!) attempt to upsell us to a fixed-price holiday menu at USD 45 per person. But we ordered off the ordinary menu - chicken satay with peanut sauce, lomo saltado (this time with soy sauce and cilantro) and chicken coconut soup. Good quality ingredients, carefully prepared, nicely presented. About 30 USD for two including one pisco sour, two coca teas and an espresso. Definitely recommended.

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