By Maureen Santucci
Despite the fact that Peruvian cuisine has become more and more recognized in the world gastronomic scene, some of the best restaurants to try in the Inca capital of Cusco offer international fare. While the local dishes are delicious, it’s well worth giving some of these tastes from other lands a try while you’re here.
One of the best Cusco restaurants has to be Le Soleil, offering authentic French (and only French) food, wines and, of course, desserts. The owner, Artur, is absolutely delightful and keeps a firm hand on the running of the place. In fact, you are likely to meet him if you dine there.
While everything on the menu is fabulous, one of the best is the duck, cooked in two different ways, both delicious. If you can’t decide, opt for the tasting menu. There are two: one with five dishes and one with seven. They are the perfect way of sampling a variety of the decadent offerings.
Whatever you choose, it would be an absolute crime not to include French wine as well as dessert, crafted as only the French can. This epicurean feast is not the cheapest option in town but still quite reasonable considering that it is on par with the finest restaurants in New York or other cosmopolitan capitals.
For a lighter, quick bite, try Artur’s latest creation right next door: authentic Japanese udon. Le Soleil is open every day but Wednesday, for lunch and dinner.
Speaking of delightful owners, it’s worth visiting La Cantina just to have a chat with Raffaele. He, like the wines and cheeses he purveys, comes straight from Italy. Although it’s primarily a wine bar as opposed to restaurant (the walls are lined with a multitude of varieties), the pizzas as well as the cheese and meat plates give you another great excuse for stopping in.
Fair warning- it is a dangerous proposition stepping through these doors. The atmosphere and staff are warm and inviting; trying one of the wines will only inspire you to try them all; and the wafer-thin pizzas using only the finest ingredients will make you want to order one after the other.
The pizza oven is small, allowing only one to be cooked at a time, and the dining area is fairly small as well. This is not a place to rush in and out. Rather, it is a place to linger over your food and drink, sharing conversation with old friends and making new ones.
Open 7 days a week, from 6 to 11 pm.
The best Indian food in Cusco, Peru, is, perhaps not surprisingly, served up by a native Brit. Located above the San Blas fountain, this curry house doesn’t have a huge variety of dishes but makes up for it in the quality of them. There are all levels of spiciness available so whether you want as mild as possible or tongue blistering, you will be happy here.
Choices include chicken, lamb and vegetarian plates. For the veg, you can choose from beans or tofu, something not often found on the menus here. If you are hankering to try alpaca, there are also a couple of chef specials that are a Cusco favorite. Be sure to order some of the garlic naan to go with.
Building on the success of Korma Sutra, the owner has opened up a Mexican place right next door. Tacomania serves up tacos, burritos, enchiladas and chimichangas, and they are all first-rate. If you are hankering for this style cuisine, do yourself a favor and pass by all the tourist oriented restaurants hawking Mexican food as they are anything but. This is the closest to the real deal you’ll find in town.
Note that the seating is more diner-style so if you’re after a romantic dinner, go next door to Korma Sutra. Both restaurants are currently open only at night, closed Sundays.
Originally from the US, Maureen Santucci now calls the ancient Peruvian capital of Cusco home, where she has lived for almost 6 years, working as a travel consultant as well as writing for Fodors Travel Guide. This article was written on behalf of Aracari Travel, providers of custom luxury itineraries all over Peru.
Photos courtesy of the author.