Ambling round the White City's historic 'sillar' centre, brow furrowed, tummy grumbling and eyes glued to my trusty lonely planet bible I of course flick first to the eating pages and there at the head of the page (labelled 'top choice') Zingaro Peruvian parradilla, beckons me. I'm a sucker for recommendations. We sit outside in the tranquil and secluded court yard, under a canopy of white umbrellas as hints of the city's incessantly blue sky peep through.
To drink we ordered the Zingaro sangria of red wine with fresh strawberry and peach juice, which arrived in a tall jug layering shades of reds and oranges, shades of the city's famous sunsets. Our server swiftly whipped it into crimson velvet sangria and delicately poured each glass.
Being too indecisive we opted for the wide array of starters in the Piqueo Arequipeño platter: adobo de cerdo, mini rocotos rellenos, queso frito, papas con acopa Arequipeña and soltero de queso. Regional delicacies - comforting, wholesome and executed perfectly.
Rocotto relleno is an Arequipan staple in all local picanteria. These miniature morsels still held a spicy bite to them and their sweet flesh gave way to a rich meaty filling, warmly spiced and gently creamy.
Queso frito is another local favourite. The Peruvians beloved queso blanco crispy outside and soft and creamy within, almost like a South American halloumi and all the more delicious when adorned in their famous, luminous yellow salsa de aji.
Soltero de queso, a salad made of cheese (only in Peru!), is suprisingly refreshing and zingy, a citrus dressing along with red onions, coriander, fresh broad beans and maize cut the salty cheese and olives perfectly.
The papas con acopa Arequipeña were somewhat plain and underseasoned and in a country with over one hundred potato varieties I was not desperate for yet more of the starchy stuff.
The adobo de cerdo on the other hand was sumptuous. Braised pork which melted into the rich, meaty gravy like belly pork. Warming and very gently spiced, I could have eaten an entire bowl by itself.
Next was an alpaca fillet in aromatic rosemary sauce served with a vegetable salad, fried yukka and sweet potato. It's simplistic presentation masked a decadent balance of flavours. The aromatic warmth of the rosemary was powerful and strong to match the tender and super lean fillet. Alpaca is a lighter alternative to beef, with a sweet and succulent flavour, and definitely worth a try.
I was also keen to taste the innovative modern fusion food on the rise in Peru and opted for the Salmon pisco - salmon fillet infused with pisco with a mango carpaccio, aguaymento (Peruvian physalis/ Inca berry), fresh herbs, and sweet potato. The mango carpaccio, though lovely and refreshing, was perhaps a note of sweetness too far next to the succulent yet crispy fish. But, the pisco and mango infusion was a delight.
This being just a brief introduction to Pervian cuisine I'll be back to sample some more soon, next time ceviche!
I am an amateur cook blogging about the food I eat and cook, and my travels along the way.