Exploring Cusco’s ruins and markets worked up your appetite? Luckily, the ancient capital of the Tawantinsuyu, or Inca Empire, offers a growing number of upscale dining options.
This delightfully chic and highly recommended second-floor eatery is a split between a bodega, tapas bar and elegant candlelit dining room, offers a fusion of Italian, Mediterranean and Peruvian cuisine and, perhaps, Cusco’s best wine list. Open for lunch as of 12pm, Cicciolina’s exquisitely-designed and eclectic menu includes homemade squid-ink pasta, barbecued calamari, prawns and scallops, porcini mushroom soup, divine salads and Alpaca fillets. Tapas, served only at the bar, can be enjoyed with a glass of wine or a cocktail, and topped off with a delicious dessert, or biscotti. Although not required, reservations are strongly recommended.
Located in Plaza Regocijo, just blocks away from Cusco’s main plaza, this second-story stylish restaurant offers a modern twist on traditional Cusqueña and Andean cuisine. The menu, designed by renowned Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio, features cuy (guinea pig), octopus and prawn ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime juice and ají, the Peruvian hot pepper), ricotta and spinach cannelloni, slow-cooked meats, Peruvian kebabs and top-notch pizzas. Mouth-watering desserts, such as lúcuma tiramisu, pear tart, profiteroles, crème brûlée and chocolate soufflé can also be enjoyed, as well as novel chicha cocktails and refreshments. The restaurant has an open kitchen and bar and opens for lunch at noon.
Located in the Pre-Columbian Art Museum’s glass and steel-enclosed courtyard, this small, casual yet elegant café is the perfect spot for a gourmet lunch. MAP Café, a coveted restaurant known for it’s beautifully presented dishes and prompt service, offers a cross-over of Andean, Italian and French culinary traditions. Standouts include Lima-style causas (seasoned mashed potato terrine), guinea pig confit, fresh trout tartar and the Andean chili chutney, which is served with tuna and pureed sweet potatoes. MAP Café is open from 11am until 10pm.
This intimate restaurant, located in Cusco’s Hotel Monasterio, offers light Mediterranean-style lunches and a lovely view of the hotel’s largest gardens. Lunch is served from 11am until 4pm.
Limo is, indubitably, Cusco’s finest seafood restaurant. Favorites include tuna tartar, tiradito (a dish similar to sashimi and carpaccio, served in a spicy sauce), Peruvian-inspired sushi rolls, barbecued trout accompanied by a white wine and maracuyá sauce, and alpaca served with quinotto and mushrooms. Limo is also renowned for being a pisco bar, where lychee, fig and strawberry pisco-based cocktails can be enjoyed.
Le Soleil is Cusco’s first French gourmet restaurant and the only place in the city where duck confit and rillettes can be enjoyed. The five-course “Menu Luxe de France” (116 soles, or approximately US$44) includes snails in butter and parsley sauce, duck foie gras with onion and fruit marmalade, neck of duck confit flambéed with Armagnac, a chocolate dessert, coffee and glass of Sauternes 2009 Château de Mauvin. The seven-course “Degustation Menu” (159 soles, or approximately US$60) starts off with pork rillette, cream of vegetable soup and avocado curls in Dijon mustard. These dishes are followed by Andean trout filet with sautéed vegetables, beef tenderloin and, finally, a shot of citrus soup and mango and the Le Soleil crème brûlée or lemon pie. À la carte options include ratatouille, slow-cooked lamb cannelloni, quail, and rabbit with grain mustard sauce, traditional purée and vegetables. The restaurant is open for lunch (12:30pm to 3pm) from Monday to Friday, and features a wine bar.
If you’re looking for something totally different, vibrant and avant-garde, head for the Fallen Angel. Located in one of conquistador Francisco Pizarro’s former homes, this restaurant and art gallery offers an eclectic mix of international and novo-Andean cuisine. Menu items include trout ceviche, marinated octopus and pesto salad, chicken and curry pappardelle, a wide selection of steaks, and duck served with pineapple and mango chutney. It is open from 11am to 11pm.
So when you travel to Cusco make sure that you try some of the delicious cuisine that is on offer.