Cusco – A Gastronomic Perspective

Due to the larger number of worldwide travelers coming to Machu Picchu for the past six years, there is no surprise to find superb Andean-nouvelle restaurants in the city of Cusco nowadays. This trend started in Lima in the late eighties and has extended to Cusco in the twenty first century. Gaston Acurio, a renowned Peruvian chef, owner of international restaurants and author of several cooking books, just opened “Chicha” in Cusco.

Thanks to the great contribution of Gaston Acurio, the world is embracing the secrets and flavours of Peruvian cuisine. Applying his knowledge of international cuisine in a Gourmet level using old Peruvian culinary products and traditions, he has particularly contributed in the development of the Andean-nouveau cuisine. As a result, he is currently recognized as one of the most important chefs in Latin America and Lima is now well-known as the gastronomic capital of America.

I have had the chance of travelling to Cusco more often since 2007 and tried most of the sound restaurants not only in Cusco but also in Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. In Cusco, you should not miss the Cicciolina restaurant; it is my top choice. It offers a cozy atmosphere where you can try guinea pig folded in Andean mush potatoes as a starter while drinking an Aguaymanto Sour. Fallen Angel, Inka Grill, Incanto, Map Café, Baco, and Bistrot 370 also offer a solid menu where you can taste different flavors linked to earth. Meats such as alpaca and guinea pig, tubers, grains and herbs such as coriander, parsley, “huacatay”, “paico”, “muña”, mint are used in a great variety of simple but tasty dishes. These restaurants are all located within a few blocks from the main square. If you are in search for healthier food assortment, you can visit La Granja de Heidi and HEMP on your way to the traditional San Blas neighborhood. While at night, Hans Hilburg, owner of El Pisquerito Bar and recognized bartender opens its doors offering the best Pisco-based cocktails and drinks.

El Huacatay, Huayocari Hacienda, 3 Keros, Tunupa and Allpamanca are the best gastronomy alternatives located along the Sacred Valley of the Incas. This region was considered a natural pantry by the Incas and was dedicated to agricultural production. The first three restaurants are “a la carte” and the last two offer lunch buffets. One can find from Andean cheese and “humitas” (ground corn and enveloped in its own leaves for cooking) as starters, quinoa risotto, stuffed trout, guinea pig and/or alpaca stew as main course, and “tojosh api” (fermented maize custard), “cañihua” custard, “pacae” nougat as desserts. Ask your travel consultant to organize for you a “Pachamanca” (beef, lamb, pork and guinea pig cooked on hot stones with broad beans, potatoes and humitas, in a hole covered with leaves and soil) and you will have an unforgettable meal!

During your visit to the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, I highly recommend you to stop by the lunch buffet rich in Peruvian dishes at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel located at the top of the Machu Picchu Mountain. You can also spend more time at this magnificent Inca city. Last but not least, for those who need to catch an early train or are under budget but still want to enjoy a nice meal, Toto’s House in Aguas Calientes, the town below the Machu Picchu Mountain, is my best advice.

Cusco has by far demonstrated its superb quality and innovative dish creations; a gastronomic experience you should have on your top travel list!

Jacqueline M. Faulkner

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