Bread Basket – Yellow Potato, Panchita and Andean Bread with Whipped Butter, Salsa Verde de Cilantro, Salsa Ocopa, Salsa Rocoto, Salsa Huancaina
Anticuchos Platter – Chicken Liver, Chicken Heart, Chicken Gizzard, Beef Heart, Beef Tenderloin, Veal Sweetbread with Tomato Salsa and Aji Criollo
Mancha Pecho – Dry Potato Stew with Chincha-style Noodles, Chicharrón, Boiled Yucca, Salsa Criolla
Picarones – Fig Honey
Molded Tres Leches – Vanilla Bean Cream
Pudin Especial – Citrus, Caramel, Cream
At this point aware of Gaston Acurio’s empire, though it was not apparent when planning a trip to Peru, it was at the fourth of his and wife Astrid Gutsche’s Restaurants that one last meal in Lima took place, Panchita near the Inca Market certainly not the most famous or refined of spaces but the Food and service well worth a visit.
Subtitled “Sazon Criolla” and built on ancient Creole traditions of big flavors cooked over fire it is after walking a long path from the hostess stand to a case of Meat that guests are revealed an immense dining room built across several rooms and levels, the Salad Bar at its center an odd touch and one that did not seem popular on this particular evening though its contents looked fresh and intriguing.
Clearly a place accustomed to travelers, the contemporary vibe and décor finding several guests speaking English in close proximity, it was from bilingual menus that decisions were made amongst dishes ranging from Stews to Steaks and Chaufa to Pasta, the order lighter than it would have been if lunch had not ended just four hours earlier at Central.
Focused on ancient Cuisine without going quite as rustic as Isolina, though those in search of Offal will find bits here and there, it is with Bread charged per person a la Astrid & Gaston that most tables begin and finally opting to taste Chicha Morada it can simply be said that both are exactly what one might expect, the Purple Corn Juice sweet but not artificially so and Bread highlighted by fluffy Potato Brioche but otherwise pretty plain save for the Spreads.
Told by servers that portions run large, the intention to serve food as one’s Grandmother might embodied right down to family-style sides, it was in the form of a sizzling skillet protected by wood that Anticuchos arrived featuring more than just Beef Heart, the pieces also offered individually far more exciting as a choose-your-own-adventure with Chicken Gizzards and Sweetbreads particularly well cooked with a charred outside and supple center.
Getting in one last order of Fried Potatoes in addition to buttery Plantains, Peru’s Fries once again making one wonder why Belgium gets all the attention, it was with a mix of Potato Stew, Soy-slicked Noodles and Pig that the meal’s savories came to an end, the choice of whether to mix or eat separate left in the diner’s hand though everything benefitted when a bit of the undersized cut of fried Pork was included.
Obviously saving room for Chef Gutsche’s Desserts, the Picarones previously tasted at La Mar good enough to justify a second look, it was throwing caution to the wind that a server’s warning of Tres Leches being “too big” was ignored, the whole tray topped in Vanilla-scented Cream nearly finished…and it would have been if the lady had not tipped the server off on a birthday that also brought forth complimentary Citrus Bread Pudding with a candle and song.