Chicha is one of several possible stops on Cusco’s growing gastronomic trail. One luxury traveller going by the pseudonym of Andrew Harper recently dropped by, detailing his experience on thingsyoushouldknowblog.com
Overlooking Cusco’s charming Plaza Regocijo, the excellent and very popular new restaurant Chicha is the latest venture of Astrid & Gastón, Peru’s best and most intriguing restaurant group, founded by chef Gastón Acurio and his German wife, Astrid, in 1994. (The only son of an old Peruvian family, Acurio was sent to Spain to study law, but eventually discovered his real vocation as a cook and met his wife while doing a course at the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris).
We stopped by for lunch recently, and immediately liked the airy loftlike setting on the second floor of an old colonial house, with high ceilings and an open kitchen.
The very appealing and reasonably priced menu offers a choice between Acurio’s reinterpretation of traditional Andean dishes — Peruvian cuisine is in fact very regional — and a selection of contemporary Peruvian dishes served at the group’s many restaurants in Lima.
We chose to start with pastel de choclo al horno de lentildea, or Andean corn pie baked in a woodburning oven, a delicious savory dish reminiscent of a Peruvian take on shepherd’s pie with cornmeal instead of potato, and a causa escabeche, or pickled swordfish with onions and yellow peppers on a bed of seared mashed yellow potatoes, a first-rate dish from coastal Peru. Next, we sampled a terrific grilled marinated pork loin served on a bed of fava beans in a sauce of molle (Cusquenian black pepper), honey and mustard seeds and aji de gallina, a tasty dish of shredded chicken breast in a garlicky cheese sauce on top of sliced potatoes.