Many people are familiar with the original El Rocoto on Av. Aviacion in the Surco area, which was opened by Blanca Chavez on Oct. 4, 1985 in homage to her native Arequipa. In September of 2012, a second location was opened in Miraflores on Calle Federico Villarreal.
The atmosphere throughout the new locale is very comfortable, elegant and relaxing. One of the first things I noticed when I entered the premises of El Rocoto was the floor-to-ceiling wooden structure that holds a multitude of bottles of pisco and wine. But what really caught my eye as well were all of the white stone walls, an intentional choice meant to be reminiscent of Arequipa, which is known as "the white city" because white bricks (sillar) were cut from the lava from the Misti volcano and used in many of the structures throughout the city. The first floor of the restaurant has several tables as well as the buffet area. The second floor is a bit more dramatic. I enjoyed the combination of gray, plush banquette seating as well as the tomato-red chairs, dark tables and black slate floors. The bar area on the upper floor looked comfortable and inviting, as did the outdoor deck/bar area, which is a perfect place to sip a cocktail and chat with friends.
Besides being famous for its food from Arequipa, El Rocoto is also well known for its extensive buffet (70 soles). There is also a regular menu from which to order. On the day of our visit, we sampled items from the menu. Several of these items were also available in the buffet.
We began our dining experience with several appetizers, including the ocopa arequipeña, solterito de queso and rocoto relleno. The ocopa arequipeña (25 soles) consisted of sliced boiled potatoes bathed in a delicious, creamy sauce of peanuts, aji mirasol, huacatay (black mint paste), onions, garlic, fresh cheese, condensed milk and graham crackers. The combination of ingredients may sound a bit strange, but the flavor combination is a delight and one of the best and most unique sauces Peru has to offer.
El Rocoto is also well known for its rocoto relleno (28 soles). The red rocoto pepper is generously filled with chopped sirloin tip – not the ground beef used in some other restaurants’ preparations – as well as black olives, raisins, bits of hard-boiled egg and oregano and topped off with cheese. Even though the star of this dish is the stuffed rocoto, the generous portion of multi-layered potato gratin on the side was incredible and helped to balance the spiciness of the pepper. I found this to be one of the spicier rocoto rellenos that I have had in awhile and luckily I do enjoy heat and spice.
We enjoyed our four main dishes. For me, the cuy navideño was the most surprising dish of them all. The meat of the guinea pig (cuy) was rolled with pork and stuffed with dried fruit and pecans and then roasted and served with a sweet potato puree. The dish was mild and full of flavor. This was one of the most tender and moist cuy dishes I have eaten during my six years in Peru. This dish was only being served during the holiday season, but I think it would be a welcome addition to their regular menu.
My absolute favorite Peruvian soup, chupe de camarones enteros (50 soles), brought a smile to my face when the large bowl arrived at our table. The chowder/stew was filled with plump and succulent prawns as well as broth, potatoes, habas, corn, fresh cheese, fresh milk and a fried egg to accent the dish. This dish can be messy to eat, but it is one of the things I like about it. It is necessary to pick up the prawns and get all the "meat" and juices from them in order to really enjoy the experience. When I glanced at the El Rocoto menu and read the description of this chowder, I saw the words "divine delicacy," and this is a perfect way to describe this dish.
In my opinion, the way pork is prepared in Peru is just short of perfection. The chancho al horno (35 soles) was a dream. The skin was perfectly crunchy and crispy and the meat underneath was tender and juicy with a small layer of fat that enhanced the flavor of the pork. The roasted pork was accompanied by a healthy salad.
We also shared the costillar dorado (34 soles), which consisted of a thin slab of crunchy and golden lamb ribs that where prepared in the oven. This was also quite tasty, but the pork was the winner of the two.
Our table shared two desserts. The tocino del cielo (17 soles), which translates to “bacon from heaven,” was a good version of this popular flan-like caramel custard dessert, which had a coconut crust on the bottom and was accented with aguaymantos.
If you want to try a typical and traditional dessert from Arequipa, the queso helado (17 soles) is the one to try. The name translates to “cheese ice cream,” but this dessert does not contain or resemble cheese. This artisanal ice cream uses three types of milk: fresh milk, unsweetened evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk. I found the ice cream to be dense in texture and quite sweet.
El Rocoto could be the ideal restaurant to visit if you want to try the array of cuisine from Arequipa.
Calle Federico Villarreal 360 (between blocks 9 and 10 of Av. La Mar), Miraflores
Buffet: 70 soles
Criollo Appetizers: S./16-19
Traditional Appetizers: S./14-26
Soups of the Week: S./27-36
Main Dishes: S./49-60
Criollo Main Dishes: S./25-45
Main Dishes from Arequipa: S./19-40
Seafood Dishes: S./29-39