Chicha Arequipa

Chicha Arequipa
Calle Santa Catalina 210 inside 105
Tel: (51) (54) 287360

Gaston Acurio is one of the premier chefs in the world and is credited for helping bring Peruvian cuisine into the modern era.  His famous restaurant is La Mar in the Miraflores section of Lima, where we tried to have a holiday dinner.  Regrettably, that restaurant was closed for the entire week we were there which was definitely a bit of a disappointment considering pretty much everyone and their mother recommended it.

So when we arrived in Arequipa, much to our delight we discovered that one of his other restaurants was open.  It wasn’t the flagship venue, but the folks at our hostel said it was excellent regardless.  This place would easily turn out to be the best meal we had in Peru (in my opinion) – and the worst, in a way, as it ended in a bit of a disaster unfortunately.

We made our way over to ChiCha (it was only a few blocks from our hostel) and we could tell immediately that our dining experience here would be a cut above the norm.  The restaurant’s ambiance has a relaxing courtyard feel, with a smart casual dress code and a friendly staff.

The meals there are pricy, but won’t break the bank.  I’d consider it one of those “let’s have a nice dinner tonight” treat after all the hiking and street cuy you eat.  After the pisco tasting in Cusco, I was more than happy to try a few more pisco drinks on their extensive pisco menu.

The lomo saltado that my sister ordered was the best one I had in Peru, perfectly seasoned, juicy, with just the right amount of char on the outside.   Mom ordered an alpaca curry that was a little more unique, but worked really well with the quinoa side that came with it.  I ordered an amazingly tasty dish as well, the pork stew.  The stew is definitely one of those comfort foods you have when you’re famished – hearty, warm, and even comes with a bib because it is a bit messy.  But it got really messy when I made one of the bigger mistakes of my life.  The stew came with (I looked it up after the fact) a fiery rocotto pepper.  This baby was easily the hottest thing I’ve ever eaten, and not thinking first, I took a giant bite out of it.  My body shutdown.  The burn was intense.  After about 10 minutes of heavy breathing and 4 glasses of water it calmed down a bit, but I legitimately struggled to finish my meal.

Despite the dracarys (Hi Game of Thrones fans) attack on my innards, the stew was actually really, really good.  But as I alluded to earlier, a bit of a disaster struck because of the meal – and I don’t mean the heat from the pepper.  Shortly after dinner, I fell victim to my first case of what we think was food poisoning.  We’re pretty sure it was from the pepper, since it was the only thing that I had eaten that my Mom and Sister didn’t try.  So that rocotto was just the gift that kept on giving for the next few days…

I’ll leave you with this tip: Whenever you travel – be sure to have or have quick access to Pepto Bismol.  It really saved me for the next part of the trip.  



Peru Part IV – Pisco tasting and the Inca Museum

After our trek to Machu Picchu we spent another couple days in Cusco to take in what the charming little town had left to offer.  We came back to Cusco on Christmas Eve, and we discovered that our previous concerns about the possibility of nothing being open because of the holiday were completely unfounded.   Let me tell you  – don’t worry about things being closed when visiting Cusco during the Christmas holiday.  The place was hoppin’.  Crowds and crowds of people were in the streets, restaurants had patrons coming in and out all night, and people were setting off fireworks like it was a war-zone (This was no joke; through the night our hotel room would vibrate with what sounded like shotguns being fired on the street).  The Peruvians know how to party.

Here’s a rundown of a few more of the things we did in Cusco:

The four types of pisco: Aromatic, Non-Aromatic, Mosto Verde (partial fermentation), and Blend.
The four types of pisco: Aromatic, Non-Aromatic, Mosto Verde (partial fermentation), and Blend.

Museo del Pisco
Calle Santa Catalina 398 | corner with Calle San Agustin
Open everyday 11:30am – 1am
Kitchen is open from 12pm – 3pm & 6:30pm – 11pm
(with several plates available outside of hours)

If there’s one thing you must try, it’s a pisco tasting at the Museo del Pisco.  The name is a bit of a misnomer, the place isn’t really that much of a museum and more of just a bar.  If you’ve never had pisco, this is a good place to become educated in the national beverage.  The menu boasts an overwhelming amount of pisco – much like a wine or whiskey list. I decided since I knew absolutely nothing about pisco, I went with the tasting (40 soles for one, 60 soles for two).

Pisco tasting with Sergui
Pisco tasting with Sergui

Now in the US, tastings usually come with 4 or 5 glasses and you sample a bunch of different types of beer, liquor, whatever.  When I ordered the tasting, little did I know it would come with a personal pisco sommelier.  My sommelier’s name was Sergui, a clean cut, well groomed/dressed Russian guy who gave me the complete rundown of pisco.  He was amazingly thorough, especially after my response to his question “What experience do you have with pisco?” was “I’ve had some pisco sours in college…”  He was extremely passionate about the liquor and clearly loved his work and answering questions, which made the experience that much more enjoyable.

Even if you don’t want to try it (because that s**t is strong), the Museo del Pisco has a variety of other beverages, a fun vibe, with good live music (to my delight they played Pearl Jam’s Even Flow during my tasting) and a friendly staff. This is a highly recommended visit.

Museo Inka
Cuesta del Almirante 103
Monday – Friday : 8am – 6pm
Saturday and Holidays: 9am – 4pm

Museo de la Coca
Calle Palacio 122
Monday – Sunday:  9am to 8pm.  (Free on Sunday)

Little Inca man.  Notice the bulge in his cheek?  He's chewing on coca leaves.
Little Inca man. Notice the bulge in his cheek? He’s chewing on coca leaves.

As far as actual museums go, we stopped by a couple.  Both were 10 soles, but one was way better of a value than the other.  I’ll start with the Museo de la Coca (Not to be confused with the Choco Museo).  We only really went to this museum because the restaurant we wanted to have lunch at wasn’t open yet and they were offering free visits for the holiday (it’s normally 10 soles).  It’s a neat little museum that provides a nice look at the history of coca and its cultural impact.  You could probably do the museum in an hour or so if you take in each display, and I actually really enjoyed reading the mythical history of how coca became a part of Inca culture.  I wouldn’t say this place is a must-see, but in the end, if you really want to visit it and you’re in the area, 10 soles really isn’t that expensive.

However, if you compare it with what 10 soles will get you at the Museo Inka, you’ll see the drastic difference.  Museo Inka at first glance really isn’t anything to write home about.  In fact, when you first walk in and look at the first few exhibits, the initial reaction will be, “Well this place is an effing rip-off”.  Don’t let the first couple of rooms fool you.  Once you head up to the second floor, the museum is way nicer and jam packed full of amazing artifacts.  The museum walks you through the history of Peru with displays containing Peruvian tools, pottery, textiles, ceremonial garb, weapons and gold relics.  The one really cool highlight is a burial chamber display featuring several mummies. If the weather is nice, the impressive courtyard is a nice place to relax a bit as well.  Unfortunately, like a lot of museums in the world, they don’t allow photography and I usually respect that request, so no pictures (sorry).