Where in the world can you dine at a setting within 1,500 year old pre-Incan ruins? Here in Lima, at Huaca Pucllana! It is quite the impressive spot to entertain visiting friends. I recommend dining outside under the covered terrace to appreciate the full view. In the evening, I have heard the view is even more impressive due to the illuminated walkways of the pyramid and ruins.
The executive chef/owner, Marilu Madueno studied hotel and restaurant management in Lima before heading to the United States to attend the culinary program at Johnson and Wales University (one of the premier culinary schools in the U.S.). Next, she traveled to Paris and studied at Le Cordon Bleu. While in Paris, Marilu built up her resume at a Michelin 3-Star restaurant, Taillevent. She eventually returned to Lima and worked at La Rosa Nautica for a period of time. At Huaca Pucllana, Chef Madueno focuses on working with the native Peruvian ingredients, creating and reinterpreting traditional and contemporary Peruvian dishes. She periodically changes the dishes and refines them.
To begin our culinary experience, we sampled a classic pisco sour along with three other variations of pisco sours: aguaymanto sour, coca sour and a maracuya sour. The two favorites of our table were the coca sour and the aguaymanto sour. The coca sour had a very slight herbal flavor to the concoction, not too sweet and not too sour and was the most unique. The aguaymanto sour was also delicious.
Chef Madueno ordered the Tokapu appetizer for our table. Huaca Pucllana offers about 10 different appetizers. The Tokapu is a choice of four of their appetizers, which I highly recommend for sharing purposes. We sampled the crunchy yucca spirals with the traditional Huancaina sauce; the anticucho beef hearts, marinated with dry peppers, and served with fried corn potatoes; the guinea pig chicharron; and papitas rellenas which were potato croquettes stuffed with a ground beef mixture, with a bit of salsa criolla on top. The anticuchos were of high-quality and very tender. Not everyone at our table was enamored with the guinea pig chicharron, but those of us that do like cuy…we loved it! I had never sampled cuy in this form, but it really was a successful appetizer. We also enjoyed their delicious ceviche de langostinos a la piedra. They used high-quality, large shrimp for this dish as well as corn, canchita (toasted corn) and thinly-sliced onions.
Our table sampled several main dishes. My favorite was the cauche de camarones with gnocchi. I did not see this listed on the menu, but I believe it was an addition because camarones (freshwater crayfish) are currently in season. A perfect gnocchi should be tender, ethereally light and able to stand up to any sauce. Huaca Pucllana\‘s gnocchi was made with yellow potatoes and the texture and flavor was absolutely perfect. They were little pillows of deliciousness. The cauche de camarones was the perfect accompaniment to the gnocchi. The camarones (crayfish) were smothered in a rich, creamy sauce which contained queso fresco, milk, onion, garlic, aji amarillo, a bit of tomatoes and accented with a leaf of huacatay.
The lamb with loche risotto was delicious and excellent for those with a hearty appetite. The braised lamb shank was very tender and juicy. The pumpkin (zapallo loche) risotto was packed full of flavor. The pumpkin here in Peru is so flavorful and ideal in risotto. The trout filet grilled in a huacatay herb butter with sauteed Andean potatoes accompanied by red chilis and roasted peanuts was a real delight. I especially enjoyed the chonta (hearts of palm) that was the unique garnish on top of the trout. The trout handled the strong flavor of the huacatay and the roasted peanuts accented the dish perfectly. One of the better trout dishes I have experienced in Peru.
We sampled several desserts. The two black quinoa tuiles had a nice crunch to them and were generously filled with lucuma mousse, a bit of chocolate sauce and a fresh salad of strawberries and aguaymantos. We also tried the ample-sized Peruvian Shots (4) which consisted of: lucuma suspiro, pisco sour parfait with passion fruit granite, a tres leches and sauco compote and the chirimoya and chocolate with crunchy pecans. All of the desserts were tasty, but I believe the table favorites were the pisco sour parfait with passion fruit granite and the tres leches and sauco compote.
The typical cost of a meal at Huaca Pucllana is approximately 100 soles per person. Because of the incredible location of this restaurant, you should expect to pay a bit more for the ambience and food. The restaurant contributes to the lighting of the monument as well as giving 6.1% of their sales towards the continuous restoration efforts of the ruins.
Soon we will be approaching the holiday season, and I would be remiss if I did not mention that Huaca Pucllana has an annual New Years Eve party. Reservations are open to the public. The menu is fixed and usually offers two or three options. The price is approximately $100 U.S. per person, which also includes music, dancing, DJ and champagne. I think Huaca Pucllana would be a great place to ring in the new year.
Huaca Pucllana is located at General Borgono, 8th Block in Miraflores. Their phone number is: 445-4042. Hours are 12:30 to midnight Monday thru Saturday and 12:30 to 4:00 p.m. on Sundays. Reservations are accepted and recommended. The printed menus are available in Spanish or in English. You may also visit their website: www. resthuacapucllana.com.