Cusco City Guide
The city of Cusco has boomed of late due to it having become a firm fixture on the international tourist map as the doorway to Machu Picchu. In between ancient Incan structures and looming Spanish churches, cobbled streets loop and climb, leading swarms of tourists through a maze of shops, hotels and restaurants that are the inevitable progeny of the city's success.As with many such places, the experience you get is what you are willing to work for and food is no exception. It needs some wading through the chaff to get there, but Cusco is fast becoming a culinary hot-spot as Peruvian cuisine status skyrockets in the culinary world. If you are interested to know more, take a look at Cusco City Guide. Carried to fame on the back of the famous ceviche and by celebrity chefs such as Gaston Acurio who have travelled the world introducing them to the pleasures of Peruvian cuisine, the world has come to love Peruvian cuisine for its seemingly endless array of new and exciting flavours. Influenced by immigrants from China, Japan, Europe and Africa and locally by ingredients and styles from the Andes, the coast and the jungle, Peruvian food is general astounding in its simplicity, but stunning in its flavour. And of course it helps that it is in general very affordable - don't forget to ask for the lunch time menu which will usually come with a starter, main and a drink and even in Cusco you can feast for under S./10 ($3).The Cusque dining experience is a real pleasure due to the availability of massive variety in such close proximity, from locals who continue to cook simply spectacular Peruvian food to foreigners who fall in love with the place and stay to set up restaurants with delicious fusion menu.The following four restaurants are locals' favorites that cover the entire spectrum of price and cuisine.Baco is a wine and fine food restaurant for those with some cash to spare, and the urge for some luxury. Impeccably designed, it is subtly lit with furnishings and a style that are rustic but elegant. For wine lovers it is a must with a well thought out wine menu from all over South America and for those who are new to the region's wines they offer a wine tasting menu of flights of 3. The owners and waiters are all friendly and knowledgeable and will be able to guide you to the perfect wine to accompany your meal. The menu is excellent and well done from the starters to the desserts by all reports, but a must try is the Alpaca fillet with wasabi butter, oven roasted olives and sweet oca mash. Spectacular.Kintaro is a little hidden away, but as you enter you are whisked away from Cusco to calm tranquil Japan. The space is simple and perfect with seating at tables or on the floor and the mood of simplicity and Japanese elegance is carried through in everything from crockery to the bathroom. The entire menu is delicious (and comes with photos, essential for non-regular eaters of Japanese food) and is populated with intensely flavorful soups , rice and noodle dishes and sushi. They have a daily menu where you get a starter soup, a main and an herbal tea for S./15 ($5); try it, your body will thank you for the delicious, healthy meal and the little slice of absolute tranquility.Obispo is one of the true vegetarian options in the city and another haven removed from the fast pace of Cusco life. It is not easy to find, but there are three vegetarian places in a row on this street, all with chalk boards outside advertising their daily specials. Obispo offers a wonderful menu for S.7 ($3.50) which includes a soup, mains and herbal tea which is the perfect option for those who are struggling with the altitude and need a light meal. Space is limited below, but head upstairs and sprawl out on some cushions next to low tables, relax and enjoy. The TallarinesSaltado (stir fried noodles) is the vegetarian relative of the famous Lomosaltado (stir-fried beef), one of the bastions of Peruvian cuisine and make a great choice for mains.Another great option for a quick vegetarian snack is a little kiosk called Prasada just up the road from Obispo where you simply have to stop and pick up some falafels.Los mundialistas is an icon for the locals and unmissable for some true Peruvian cuisine at its very best. Their specialties are Chicharron and Adobo CusqueÃ±o. The Chicharron consist of chunks of pork and potatoes all fried and top quality - this restaurant has been serving locals for over 30 years and has built its reputation on the quality of its food. The plate is garnished with red onion and mint and a spectacular salsa that combine to give you a glimpse into pork heaven. The adobo is a rich pork stew similarly robbed from the halls of the gods, the broth made of chicha de jora(an alcoholic maize drink),white wine, a whole swathe of herbs and rocotto, the capsicum sized, fiery Peruvian chili. The best time to go is over lunch time when the pork is freshest, but you will be hard pressed to get a table. If all else fails, no fear, the neighboring restaurants like El Rey are equally worthwhile.Finally, don't neglect to head down to the local markets, particularly to the main market near the train station where you can lose yourself amongst stalls selling fresh and wonderful cheeses, fruits and herbs and pick up freshly made juices and local dishes for just a few Soles. For more info, visit Cusco City Guide.