Three types, to be exact: alpaca, chicharrón (pork), and ceviche (fish), in that order. Though they were each rather scrumptious in their own way, I state with undeniable certainty that alpaca was by far my favorite.
I ate alpaca for supper two weekends ago. It had been my plan to do so for some time, and I was admittedly rather excited at the prospect. I made myself wait until 6:30 before setting out, to augment my hunger as much as possible. The place that Google had recommended to me was supposedly located just off the Plaza de Armas, but despite striding up and down both sides of the street, scanning the restaurant names, I could not find it. Happily, I had prepared for such a contingency. I strode (I say “strode” because that is how I usually walk around Cusco at night) my way to Macondo, a restaurant to which I had previously gone with a group of students to hear one of our classmates play mandolin. While I was there before I had caught a glimpse of the menu and some of the dishes, which were well-presented, smelled wonderful, and included alpaca. By 7:00 I had seated myself at a table in the dimly-lit, whimsically decorated restaurant and had ordered my “alpaca mignon,” which I selected because I wanted to know how alpaca meat itself tasted, not how some dish with bits of alpaca tasted. I LOVED it! It tasted like steak, but somehow a bit different. Perhaps it had a slightly metallic tang, though that could have been due to how rarely it was prepared. (Sorry, the slight taste difference between it and steak is very hard to describe, especially at a distance of a week and a half.) It was definitely much more tender than any steak I have ever eaten. Just in case you are wondering, it cost me S/25, plus a tip of S/2.50.
This past weekend I consumed the quite traditional chicharrón – chunks of deep fried pork. I had a similar problem with finding a restaurant as with the alpaca. My host mother suggested I eat chicharrón on Sunday when I told her my intention to do so over the weekend. Accordingly, I made myself wait (again) until 1:30 on Sunday before heading straight up the street to a chicharrón place I pass on the way to and from school and that always smells delicious. It was closed. So, I walked down and over a few streets to another one I knew of. It, too, was closed. Good grief! I think this past Sunday must have been some sort of holiday or something because many more shops and restaurants were closed than usual. According to my Lonely Planet Peru book, Sunday is supposed to be the traditional day to eat out. Hmph. Anyways, after my second disappointment, I determined to head to the “chicharrón street,” as some of us Spanish school students refer to it, where there are three or four chicharrón restaurants in a row. Fifteen minutes of walking and numerous protestations of my hungry stomach later, I turned the corner onto the street. Only one chicharrón restaurant was open! I seated myself, the lone patron, at a table in the sun and was soon served my chunks chicharrón plus the requisite sides on an insufficiently large plate. Really, the chicharrón tasted like fried pork. They were not incredibly spectacular, just tasty. However, when combined in one bite with the corn, potato, onion, and mint that came alongside them, their taste – or the combined taste of everything in the forkful, rather – was quite unique and enjoyable. Total cost: S/10.
I ate ceviche – raw fish “cooked” in citrus juice – yesterday more or less on a whim. During mid-morning break at Spanish school I was invited by the gregarious and fun Dutch Charlotte to join her and some other people to eat ceviche at the same restaurant where she had eaten and loved ceviche last week. At first I intimated that I probably should not and could not go, as my host mother expected me home for lunch, as always. But, after arguing with myself in class for a few minutes, I decided there was no reason for me to not text Adela and ask permission to eat out just this once. Plus, if I did not eat ceviche with the group, I would probably never eat it. Adela responded to my text by calling and giving her enthusiastic consent. Therefore, after a 45-minute, time-killing stint at the internet cafe across from school, I walked down to the meeting place with another girl who was going. There were eight of us, all girls. I think we must have made quite a sight walking to the restaurant in one abnormally tall by Pervian standards, white, English-speaking group. The restaurant was sunny and filled with Peruvians. We ordered four plates of ceviche, three plates of fried fish, and one plate of rice with mussels and the like. Everything was delicious, espcially the fried fish. The ceviche itself was somewhat citrusy, a bit spicy, and rather alarmingly white and floppy. I decided that I prefer raw fish I eat to be pink rather than white; the pale, creamy color of the fish was a bit unappetizing. However, the flavor certainly was not bad. For me, though, I think it is one of those dishes that I never will feel the need to eat again. It was good once. And that is sufficient. S/20. (Good food is cheap here, people!)