Cusco offers its visitors an excellent dining experience. The city caters to the tastes and budgets of all its visitors and has a wide range of cosmopolitan dining options. A tempting array of Peru cuisine, coupled with excellent service, makes the entire dining experience in Cusco very pleasant.
Peruvian cuisine is getting more and more popular. Ceviche (raw fish marinated in a spicy lemon sauce), lomo saltado (strips of sirloin marinated in vinegar, soy sauce and spices) and aji de callina (small species of chicken covered with a sauce) are some of the most famous dishes in Peru. Many of the Cusco restaurants, cafes and bars are situated amongst the best known Cusco shopping spots, perfect for grabbing a quick bite between buying that perfect Cusco souvenir.
The Plaza de Armas or the Main Square in central Cusco is lined with numerous Cusco restaurants that primarily cater to tourists. Consequently, the restaurant menus are designed to suit every budget and taste. While the food in these restaurants is excellent, they don't entirely reflect the rich tradition of Peruvian dining. The eateries around the Plateros offer more traditional fare. However, if you are looking for more contemporary dining options, try the restaurants being set up in the San Blas neighbourhood.
Gaston Acurio is the new super chef you have never heard of, and who plays a major role contributing in the promotion of Peruvian cuisine.
Peruvian food has risen to stardom over the last 15 years and is now the hottest trend in Latin America and even abroad, thanks to Gaston Acurio's support. Gaston owns 10 restaurants in Peru and around 10 others in the US (San Francisco), Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, Ecuador and Mexico.
His restaurant in Cusco is Chicha and is less then a 5 minute walk from the Main Square in Cusco, located on Heladeros street no. 261. Phone: 084 - 240520.
Novo Andino - Fusion Cuisine
Immigration in the 19th century to different countries ensured that Peru's native kitchen mixed with the cuisines of Africa, Arabia China, Japan and Europe resulting in unique flavours and one the most varied worldwide.
Many up-scale restaurants in Cusco have adopted a cooking style called fusion, where Mediterranean cooking techniques and dishes fused with typical Peruvian dishes and/or ingredients. This is often referred to as Novoandino.
Some examples of Novo-Andino cuisine / Fusion dishes you can find in the better restaurants are:
- Camarones crocantes con miel de maracuyá - Crispy shrimp with maracuya fruit honey.
- Lomo de res sellado con salsa de sauco Tenderloin streak with a sauce made from the Andean fruit "sauco"
- Lomo fino de alpaca con mantequilla acompañado de puré de papas sobre phyllo - alpaca loin with mashed potatoes on phyllo mass
- Chicharron de pollo novoandino - deep fried chicken meat covered with quinoa
Pizzerias in Cusco
Pizzerias are popular in Cusco and you will find them scattered all over the centre. The Andean pizza is made of a very thin base of dough and super crispy. The ingredients on top vary broadly and have been adapted to Peru. Pizza in Cusco always comes served with two salsas on the side, Aji (garlic sauce) and roccoto (made from chilli peppers) to spicy up your pizza. The typical Cusco pizzeria prepares its pizza on a wood-fire oven, giving your pizza a delicious taste. Head to Calle Procuradores also know as "Gringo Alley" where you will find at least 5 Pizzerias alll using wood fire ovens. Calle Procuradores entrance is opposite of the cathedral La Compania, on the Plaza the Arma's, the main square in Cusco. The Babieca Pizzeria is our favorite pizzeria in Cusco and all the pizzas are prepared over firewood in a traditional oven. Consider ordering your pizza 'Kilometrica' when you are sharing with 6 or more, a really huge pizza. You find Babieca Pizzeria in Tecsecocha no. 418. Phone number: 04-221122
Typical Peruvian Food
Far from being complete, here we mention just a few typical Peruvian dishes you can find during your Cusco holiday:
Anticucho - pieces of grilled meat, the most popular being beef heart, but also together with a potato. The meat is marinated in vinegar and herbs before it is grilled.
Ceviche -pieces of raw white fish, marinated in lime juice and spiced with chilli peppers, accompanied with sliced red onions, corn, sweet potato and seaweed. A very popular dish served only for lunch. It can also be served as a main dish.
Choclo con queso - cooked corn served with local fresh white cheese. Mostly sold by street vendors.
Local Peruvian Main Dishes in Cusco
Cuy al horno - guinea pig, roasted in the oven. Always great for spectacular holiday photos. Peruvians eat this dish normally only for special occasions.
Cuy chactado: Fried Guinea pig, breaded with corn flour accompanied with salad and baked potatoes. The cuy comes fresh. If you want to try this dish we recommend the restaurant "La quinta Eulalia" (only open from 11:00 to 4:00 pm).
Chicharon - deep fried pork served together with cooked corn, raw sliced onion seasoned with mint leaves.
Lomo saltado - stir fried slices of beef together with onions, tomato, sauced with chilli's, vinegar and soy sauce, served together with french fries and rice.
Roccoto relleno - hot pepper stuffed with chopped beef, peas, carrots and potatoes. It is then covered with a mixture of egg-white, milk and cheese and cooked in an oven.
Risotto de quinua - an example of fusion of Mediterranean and Peruvian cuisine, risotto made of quinua.
Quinua is a typical Andean grain like crop. It has become popular in other countries because of its nutritional value (high level of proteins). The NASA uses quinoa on its space flights because of its high nutritional values.
Lucuma, Chirimoya, Sauco and Maracuya are local Peruvian fruits and ingredients often used for desserts. You will find many desserts like cheesecakes and mousses made with these fruits.
Arroz con leche - rice with milk, cinnamon, clove and vanilla are added for flavour
Suspiro de Limena - sweet milk caramel topped with meringue, and flavoured with cinnamon and port wine.
Picarones - deep fried, ring-shaped pumpkin fritter coated with molasses syrup.
Mazamorra Morada is a multiethnic -jelly dessert made based on purple corn.
Drinks in Cusco
Chicha morada - usually homemade soft-drink made from boiled purple corn, pineapple and sugar. Further additions are clove and cinnamon. Commonly served during lunch
Inka Cola - Peru's national soft drink, a sweet, yellow-coloured drink with a larger market share than Coca Cola. Eventually, in 1999 Coco Cola bought 50% of the Inca Kola corporation in order increase its market-share in Peru.
Mate de coca - infusion made from coca leaves. Many hotels serve mate de coca for free on arrival to their guests. Among its many medicinal usages it is considered to be highly effective to help to quickly adapt to high altitude and thus preventing altitude sickness.
Pisco Sour - Peru's national cocktail made of Pisco, lemon juice, egg-white and sugar. Pisco is a sort of brandy made from grapes and comes from the Ica region near the coast of Peru.
Chicha - a low alcohol (typically 1% - 3%) beverage made of corn, mostly prepared at home. Strawberries can be added to the chicha and it is then called frutillada.
Our Cusco Restaurant Guide includes small typical eateries as well as up-scale restaurants. Note that some of the typical local restaurants only are open for lunch.