Friday, July 27, 2012

Peru/Brazil/Argentina Day 10: Epic Arequipa restaurant

May 12, 2012
Peru Day 10: Epic Arequipa restaurant

After the crazy adventure back to Cusco yesterday we really lazed around and slept in... till 8am :) Kev and I started packing up our room, cleaned our boots, etc. We had a quick breakfast in the hostel and then packed up the rest of our stuff. Our flight wasn't till mid-afternoon out of Cusco so we ran some minor errands in the morning, like heading to the bank. We also went to Starbucks which was funny, it's always interesting to see how those kinds of large companies "localize" for other countries. It was funny, there was a Mango y Maracuya Frappucino :) hahaha. Amazing. And also, my 2 favourite fruits ever, so I bought one. Fun. They also had some silly stuff like "Alfajores"... at Starbucks? I don't think so. We decided to wait and get a real Alfajore back at the local bakery later.

Peruvian blend at Starbucks Cusco?!
Starbucks "Alfajores"
We met up with Frank and then checked out of the hostel.

A couple extra shots of the hostel
This hostel was awesome
Then back to the main square and we found an interesting dessert place where I was able to try Lucuma Ice Cream!!! It was... kinda weird! It sortof tasted like Green Tea Ice Cream. Maggie's Pizza was closed so we went back to Panadería El Buen Pastor, the pastry place run by Nuns near our hostel. Of course, instead of "El Buen Pastor", I was calling it "El Buen Pastry". haha. Anyway it was awesome and I got a cheese empenada and an apple pocket thing which rocked.

Tasty looking desserts
A Lumuma-flavoured Ice Cream I got
Kev back at the pastry place for lunch
After that, off we went to the airport. Goodbye Cusco and your crazy high altitude! It was super fun to be there and we were happy to have relaxed back in Cusco after the crazy last week of trekking fun. But now, off to a little bit of a bigger place... Arequipa!

We headed to the airport and had a reasonably quick checkin. The flight to Arequipa had changed from its original direct flight to a flight via Juliaca. We stopped there to exchange some passengers before continuing on to Arequipa. Juliaca looked very different from the window - most roads unpaved, most houses seemed to be made from a similar colour of red brick. We may have seen Lake Titicaca, but we weren't totally sure though. We stopped for a bit and then continued onwards to Arequipa.

We arrived in Arequipa and got into a cab with a very friendly taxi driver. He told us all about the city and suggested a restaurant called "Chi Cha" - an "awesome place where they serve very good local food, it is excellent", he said. We noted that as a "well, maybe we'll go there", only to return to the idea of going there with full force in a bit (more on that in a sec). We got to our hostel, La Casa De Melgar, and it was a CRAZY place!!! What an amazing and unusual setup!! It had HUGE doors, like 20 ft tall at least. The walls in the rooms were all made of Silar rock, what a strange and interesting hostel. The courtyard was so cool, layered with different steps up to the roof and lots of cool places to hang out. We dropped off our stuff and started to look up on their hostel WiFi (yes!) where to go for dinner.

As we were unpacking and looking at Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews, it dawned on us like 30 min later that "Chi Cha", was the same as the restaurant "Chicha", listed as the Lonely Planet Pick. Also, 4.5 STARS ON TRIPADVISOR. Whaaaaaaaaat!!!!!!! I looked at the menu and got crazy overexcited. It sounded SO amazing and SO interesting and SO awesome, I was freaking out. I was so jazzed up to be in a (slightly) bigger city and so keen to try what looked like an amazing restaurant. It's a restaurant by Cordon Bleu chef Gastón Acurio, known for "elevating" Peruvian food into fancy dining. Also, he is the creator/executive chef of La Mar Cebecheria, an awesome place in San Francisco.

Anyway, we got there and my excitement was TOTALLY warranted. I was freaking out the one time I got to go to the Singapore Airport Lounge... I was SO excited and it was just bound to be the best dinner ever... and it was. :)

I started with Cebiche Classico as a starter. I sortof think of this as a Peruvian version of the Jewishy food pickled herring, but instead of being pickled it's more citrus-y. It's probably a bit more like Peruvian sashimi, I guess! It's SO good. And here it was incredibly tasty. Soft, large pieces, and probably the best Ceviche evvvvveeeeeeeeeeer. I've only had it a few times but oh man this one was good.
And now in Arequipa! Amazing bread to start at Chi Cha
Some amazing drink
Maracuya Sour drink, this was epic
Cebiche Classico, uggggh so good
The other folks then ordered "Cuy Pekines"... uh... "Peking style guinea pig". Needless to say I didn't eat it. Not only cause the idea was super gross, but mostly because we had guinea pigs as pets when I was younger and there was zero chance that I was gonna try this. And, thankfully, they're not kosher anyway, so I had a pretty good excuse :) People seemed to like it though, and the style was with wraps and hoisin sauce, like Mu Shu chicken usually comes in a chinese restaurant. They said it was like a crispy, fatty chicken done in a duck style. Like Mu Shu pork/Peking duck. Anyway, I think everyone enjoyed it but I was ok to skip this one :)

The ceviche though was delicious. The "Leche de Tigre" sauce was spicy and sour, the fish was so soft and excellent, and they had those big corn pieces and hard corn on the side too. So awesome.

Dinner came next and Frank got something called "Tres Traditiones", which was an interesting mixed plate of different kinds of Peruvian foods. I got Alpaca in an Indian Curry Style! It came with Banana Fritters on the side which were INSANE. For a drink I had a Maracuya Sour... like a Pisco Sour but made with Maracuya, my favourite thing ever... a Brazillian Passionfruit!!!!!!! OHHHH MANNN. It was strong and so good. My dinner also came with Quinoa/Barley pearls, which were very tasty.

Kev trying the Cuy Pekines
Frank's dinner
My dinner: Alpaca Curry
Amazing quinoa
Everyone excited for dinner
Jess got something called Ocopa - "queen of potatoes" with this cheesy sauce that rocked. Christy got a super fancy burger. Kev got something called Aji de Gallina, which was like a spicy chicken in sauce. Everyone was SUPER happy with their choices and we really got some amazing dishes here. It was so cool to try Peruvian food in this sort of upscale vibe, and with this sort of "world fusion" vibe to it. So amazing.

The Maracuya Sour was so amazing and I was excited off-the-charts by the amazing food so I decided to try another drink. I got something called the "Cholopolitan" - also epic!! It had some complex flavours, so tasty and interesting. I got a funny photo drinking it with Frank and we have our pinkies up :) Fancy.

"Cholopolitan", also amazing
Happy customers
"Man, that was good!"
And now... time for dessert.

We got something called "Degustation"... haha, and of course I said, "This is gonna be desgustation-ally GOOD!" The puns continue, even after a Cholopolitan. I can't contain them. :) Anyway it WAS amazing, and this was sort of the "tasters menu" for the three best desserts. A Chirimoya Mousse (ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!), Arroz con Leche (sortof like rice pudding) and a Queso (cheese) ice cream thing. So epic!! We "washed it all down" with a cool pineapple gummy for dessert.

Dessert time!!
Cool candied pineapple for dessert
Chi Cha, the best restaurant I've probably ever been to

I can quite honestly say I think this was the best restaurant I've ever been to in my entire life. It was such amazingly high quality food, the presentation was beautiful, the vibe was very chill and laid-back, the service was fantastic, the food tasted so good and was both local with a little bit of upscale worldliness to it, the drinks were interesting and unusual and tasty... it was a total knockout. I can't imagine a better dinner ever. I LOVED this place.

We walked back to the hostel, high-fiving at the epic dinner we just ploughed through, reminiscing about the good times on the hike last week and how the good times were just rollin' on forwards. What an amazing place. I am so glad we went. It was so great. It was also an very affordable place given the quality and amazingness of the food. I think our entire dinner with drinks came to $40 a person. If you are ever in Arequipa, Peru... drop everything and go to Chi Cha right NOW! It was life-changingly awesome.

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