Lima and Cusco
Hi Everyone - My wife and I and two friends are going to Lima and Cusco over Christmas and New Years. I know that there have been many posts about both of these cities, but many of them are quite old (maybe out-dated?).
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated - especially links to other posts you found particularly helpful or Peruvian Chow Hounders who really know their stuff.
Also, what are the dishes we absolutely shouldn't leave Peru without having? Is the guinea pig good? Are the heart skewers for real, or is that just tourist drek?
We prefer the hole-in-the-walls and the street food to the gourmet, but I am sure we will be feasting on both.
Thanks for your help
I am in Lima right now and heading back to LA tomorrow morning, after having visited Cusco, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and now staying in Miraflores.
For Cusco, a definite winner is a place called Granja Heidi (Farmer Heidi), a great place run by an older German couple. It tends to attract mostly visitors from other countries (NOT tourists) and they have many Peruvian dishes to offer and can give plenty of info about the local fare. The food is terrific (we ended up going back there three times during our stay in Cusco) and the atmosphere is upscale farmhouse, my own description. They have many wonderful vegetarian dishes, some excellent chicken and meat dishes, and you will not be disappointed. Definitely not expensive by American standards and we ate a few other more expensive yet not nearly as good meals in Cusco. The owner even made a special chicken broth soup that was easy on the stomach for my partner who was very sick one day. The owners grow some of their own vegetables and make some of their own soft cheeses and serve them in the restaurant. Try the stuffed peppers (vegetarian option) and you will not be disappointed.
In Lima, we had the tasting (they call in sampling) menu at Astrid y Gaston. Very nice place but we were really only impressed with 3 or 4 of the 6 dishes presented. The desserts were not memorable at all. Perhaps I am being too tough of a critic. I read somewhere on CHOW that you should drop your expectations when eating around Peru and you will then start to be impressed. Gaston´s dishes of Asian influence were the most notable and tasty. Also, the young goat was excellent.
Another option in Lima which I have not come across is a place called Alfresco in Miraflores. It just happened to be across the street from our hotel and the concierge recommended it. As we had just arrived and wanted something easy, we went and were pleasantly surprised with what we found. The ceviche mixto was some of the best we had during our entire stay, and there is a grilled platter of fish which proved to be excellent with a bit of spice.
Another adventure led us to Punto Azul a few blocks from where we were staying. We were there on Sunday and there were probably 30 groups waiting for tables, EXTREMELY popular with the locals. The portions were enormous and we couldn´t even come close to finishing what we ordered. The ceviche was tasty, though not quite as good as Alfresco, and could have easily fed four people. Between the two of us, we ordered three dishes (including the ceviche) and ended up taking one entire plate home with us. Huge quantities and very reasonable prices in a local (family oriented) atmosphere. At the end of the meal I noticed that this restaurant has five locations. Good or bad, you decide. Only open for lunch.
BTW, the owner of Granja Heidi mentioned to us that Cuy (guinea pig) isn´t worth the effort. The preparation takes at least an entire day and is very difficult for restaurants to execute unless you order the day before (it ends up very dry and chewy and you get more in your teeth than in your stomach). That was enough to turn me toward some of the other very popular local dishes most of which were all very delicious.
I do not agree with Ericandblueboy's comments. Apparently, they have been at the Alfresco in San Isidro. There is another one in Miraflores (Malecon Balco), which I usually vist a couple of times during my regular visits to Lima, mostly for lunch. The ceviches and the food in general is excellent. Also, I have never seen tourist buses or a lot of tourists in there. All in all, I must have been to the place more than a dozen times and it was always excellent. Besides Alfresco, my choices for best restaurants in Lima are the buffet at Costaverde, the seafood at La Mar as well as, of course, Astrid y Gastón and, when it is not too crowded, Gloria. Try to avoid Rosa Nautica. Though the food is not bad, it is rather conventional, and the service is lousy. The last time I visited the place with a client, they even tried to charge me with 5 or 6 additional desert items we never ordered . In addition, they still started arguing about it.
Go to Lar Mar for their varietly of cebiche and tiger's milk (lunch only).
Astrid y Gaston for the most international presentation of Peruvian cuisine.
Huaca Pucllana served me a fried fatty cuy with no meat but the setting was spectacular. They have coal braziers as you dine on the porch.
These were the best restaurants we tried in Lima. I tried anticuchos....not a big fan of beef heart but definitely worth trying for a foodie.
One of the best meals we had in Cusco, was from a Picanteria called La Chomba. It is located on 339 Tullumayo, and though it looks far on maps, it isn't too far from Plaza de Armas - though walking uphill in the altitude....
Parallel to Avenida del Sol is a street called Pampas de Castillo, there are several Chicharonerias lining the street. During lunch they wheel some of the fryers into the street, so all you smell is pork and chicken frying.
Off of Avenida del Sol are several Anticucho carts during the evening. But the best anticuchos we had was on Choquechaca, which is uphill in the San Blas area. We only observed locals eating from these stands.
The best Cuy we had was prepared for us by the family of a friend, and it was fabulous. The version we had at Pacha Papa (listed in all the LP guides) was terrible.
Our visit to La Chomba:
The anticuchos are genuine and are good, not just for tourists. Ceviche is a must - with ocean fish in Lima and with fish from the Amazon in Cusco if you can get it. I posted about eating a lot of guinea pig in very rural northern Peru a few months ago - although we were made to eat way too much in the communities we were working, it was delicious. Unfortunately, the times I've had cuy in restaraunts in Peru, the cuy was the size of a mouse and my portion had little to no meat. There are a lot of very upscale restaurants in Lima (that I've never been to). My preference is the "scene" (the only scene in the world that I actually like) in Barranco. Go there and explore.
Cusco is a bit touristy for me, but go, have fun, and eat well.
re: Sam Fujisaka
I couldn't remember the word "anticuchos" for the life of me! And I love 'em. Easy to fix at home too. My cuy, size-wise, really looked like a guinea pig. There was nothing exciting about it except I hadn't had it before. There was also a little "joint" upstairs on a side street where we had chicharones and beer with the locals.
Definitely eat guinea pig (if memory serves me right it's called "cuy al horno." The server looked at my blonde hair and pail skin and was sure I didn't know what I was ordering. But I persevered and it was just fine. A lot like chicken ! It is a little disconcerting with the little buck teeth lying there on your plate :) I don't think I had heart in Peru but I've had it in Peruvian restaurants and LOVE it. The main square in Cusco has a lot of restaurants and we had a great time in them all. Musicians will come in and play traditional music and then move on to another restaurant. We really enjoyed Cusco. In Lima we ate in an amazing restaurant right at the beach. I believe it was called Costa Verde and, although they have a menu, everyone has the buffet. We were, like, oh no, we don't like buffets. Well, this was amazing. It had every meat, fish, vegetable, dessert you can imagine plus made to order sushi. This was about ten years ago so don't know if it's there but I'm betting it is. And, of course, Macchu Pichu will take your breath away. Oh, on that note, I DID have a little altitude sickness when we first arrived in Cusco from Lima. I would just walk around a little and then lie down. Did that a few times. By morning I was fine and MP is actually a little lower than Cusco.