In many of the destinations we have traveled to in South America, the gourmet food scene has been rather lacking. It makes sense because, outside of the major cities, the demand for extravagant cuisine at inflated prices is just not there.
But in Cusco, the influx of foreign travelers heading to Machu Picchu has created such a demand for these restaurants that you can find just about every type of fine dining option in the city several times over.
Naturally, we went to as many as we could.
But during our explorations of Cusco, we had an ace in the hole. Our Adventure Life guide gave us insider tips to finding the very best (not to mention gave a stellar detour to show us the food in the Sacred Valley).
Now, whether they like it or not, we’re sharing three of our favorites because they are just too good to keep to ourselves.
La Bodega 138
If you’re in the mood for amazing pizza with crisp crusts and high quality ingredients (not the mediocre stuff that is called “good pizza” in this part of the world), then head to La Bodega 138.
You know a pizza place is going to be special when the menu has more unique pairings than tried and true staples, and La Bodega 138 has just that.
Kiwi and Parma ham? That sounds odd, but we’ll go with it. Elderberries, blue cheese, onions, and bacon? We’ll take two. Salami, prosciutto, onions, arugula, and aguaymanto (a fruit related to the tomatillo)? How can you say no to that?
Interesting pizza choices are not the only option on the menu here as La Bodega 138 also has some stellar salads and pastas to choose from, too. Just be sure to get in early as this restaurant is rather small and fills up fast!
Prices: $15-20 per large pizza (big enough for 2)
If you have a reason to celebrate while in Cusco, like we did with our 2-year wedding anniversary, a nice dinner at Cicciolina is in order.
This restaurant is what Peruvian fine dining is all about. Classy ambiance, supremely attentive staff, gorgeous plating, and wonderfully delicious food.
Although my heart was set on cuy, we opted for other items as the cuy was not served whole. Instead, my eyes focused on the perfectly cooked duck breast with red wine reduction while Angie went for a traditional trout with a not-so-traditional ginger and pepper sauce. We could dedicate a whole post to these main dishes, but the real star was the side of fried sweet potato gnocchi on top of a creamy wasabi sauce.
That side truly won the evening.
Finally, after some encouragement by a few rounds of pisco sours, we decided to top it all off with a dessert of basil ice cream and a mango-centric pastry. While the pastry was a bit lacking, basil ice cream has to be one of our all-time favorite flavors and we can never refuse it when it is on the menu. This particular basil ice cream was exceptionally creamy with an eggy, custardy flavor.
After the meal was over we had to pause and reflect for a moment. We truly could not remember the last time we had a meal as delicious as this one.
Prices: around $20 per entree
Museo del Pisco
Although Museo del Pisco does serve food, we’re going to call this one for what it is- a bar.
But it is not just any bar. This one is solely dedicated to the Peruvian liquor known as pisco, and they know how to do it right.
Upon entry you’ll be greeted with one of the most beautiful bars ever, with hundreds of bottles lining the wall- all of them pisco. Many of the bottles contain homemade pisco infusions, infused with pretty much any fruit, vegetable, or herb you can think of. Look around even more and you’ll see the history of pisco painted on the wall and old fashioned distilling equipment in each corner of the building.
We visited this particular establishment twice and gave their menu quite the working over. Of course the tried and true pisco sour is made to perfection and worth a start to wake your taste buds up. But if you are looking for a unique cocktail using Peru‘s liquor of choice, we highly recommend the Besame (cranberry-infused pisco with raspberry, cherry, and strawberry) and the spicy Jaya Melon (pisco, melon, and hot pepper).
Just be careful when ordering the Besame, because saying that word that as a command may bring a very interesting result!
Prices: $6-$8 per drink
Cusco is a Delicious City
If we had to make one complaint about Cusco as a whole it would be this: you don’t have enough time to try it all. With the staggering number of gourmet restaurants in this city, you can truly eat your way around for weeks upon weeks without hitting the same place twice.
We’re just thankful to have had a wonderful guide from Cusco who tried them all before us to have such superb recommendations. Otherwise we may not have known where to begin.