Posts Tagged ‘Arequipa’

Zig Zag (Arequipa, Peru)

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010 by virginia

After our early morning start to see the condors at Colca Canyon, we were pretty tired by the time we got back to Arequipa, a four hour drive away. Our experience with altitude had left us feeling a bit sluggish and took away our appetites so I couldn’t stomach the thought of eating anything complicated. While the Peruvian food we had eaten so far was tasty, some of it was really rich, and there were a lot of spices and herbs mixed into the sauces. I was in the mood for something plain and simple, and Zig Zag fit the bill.

One of the couples in our Colca Canyon tour group had eaten there before and recommended it to us. They said that we would probably need reservations but we decided to chance it, arriving at the restaurant at an early hour for dinner. The restaurant was empty but every table had a little “Reserved” sign on it. Uh oh. However, because we were there so early, they told us they could accommodate us if we finished before a certain time, when the reservations were to be honored. Since that gave us an hour and a half to eat, we had no issues. We settled down to eat and they brought us a small dish of cheese and olives to start. The cheese was crumbly and salty, like feta.

Cheese and olives

The menu featured all different kind of meats, most of which were sold by the gram and simply prepared. We picked out three dishes to share, including an appetizer of three different tartares – trout, tuna, and salmon. All three with simply prepared with a little bit of olive and citrus. Each was topped with a sundried tomato that was intensely flavorful. The plate was garnished with cornichon, hearts of palm, capers, peppers, and a tiny quail egg. The fish was super fresh, and nicely cut into small cubes. The portions of each tartare were ample, and we enjoyed every bite.

Trout, tuna, and salmon tartare

While we were eating our tartares, they also brought us some small rolls of bread with herbed butter. The bread was soft and chewy and the butter was flavorful. They were fine to nibble on.

Roll with herbed butter

For the main part of our meal, they brought us paper bibs to wear. Yes, bibs. Our waitress told us they were “necessary”, and when our food came, we saw why. We had ordered a grilled platter that came with four different kinds of meat. The meat was served on hot volcanic stones and were sizzling hot. The juice from the meat was literally sputtering when the platter arrived, so the bibs protected our clothes. In reality, we probably didn’t need bibs but it was all in good fun. We found them amusing and wore them proudly. What astonished me most, however, was the amount of food we were brought.

When we ordered the assorted meat platter (which I actually thought came from the appetizer section), we told the waitress we would be sharing it. When the platter came, there were actually two sets of stone, each with its own set of four meats. It also came with a huge bowl of french fries that could have easily fed four people. I couldn’t believe this was one order, and I worried that the waitress had misunderstood us and had placed two orders instead. Turns out that wasn’t the case. It really was an order for one, and boy, that was a lot of food. The meats were marked with toothpicks so we could identify what each one was, and it came with ostrich, alpaca, beef, and lamb.

Huge platter of meat - ostrich, alpaca, beef, lamb

The meats were already cooked to perfection so we quickly removed them from the stones to prevent them from overcooking. They were very simply prepared, just a little seasoning and grilled on the stones. After all the rich foods we had eaten on our trip, it was a welcomed change. The alpaca was tender and tasted similar to veal or pork. The beef had actual beef flavor, and the lamb was nicely gamey. The only meat we didn’t like was the ostrich, which was tough and bland. We dipped the meats into the various bowls of sauce that included an ajo sauce (garlicky), tartar sauce, herbed butter sauce, and a spicy rocoto (pepper) sauce.

The fries that came with the meats were heavenly. They were super crispy on the outside, potato-y on the inside, and not greasy at all. They were seasoned with salt and that was it. I ate handfuls, even without ketchup, and enjoyed every one of them. I am an avid french fry eater and even I couldn’t get through all of it. We left half the bowl behind, and let me tell you, I was really tempted to ask them to pack it up for us.

Awesome french fries

We had been worried that the meats wouldn’t be enough food so we got a small order of camarones, or crayfish, which are an Arequipan specialty. The camarones also came sizzling hot on a volcanic stone. We were too busy eating all the meat first, however, so they did get a bit overcooked sitting on the hot stone. They were still really tasty though, fresh and flavorful.

Camarones on the hot volcanic stone

The camarones came with a choice of a side dish so we opted for fried yuca. They turned out to be breaded yuca croquettes, with a crisp exterior and creamy interior. They were really good but a little starchy, and we were beyond full at this point.

Fried yuca

The veggie action in our meal came from a side dish of ratatouille. To be perfectly honest, we really didn’t eat it because we were too busy stuffing our faces full of meat and carbs.


Josh and I had walked into the restaurant not feeling so hungry, and the amount of food we ended up ordering (by accident) was pretty hilarious. Our table was absolutely filled, and despite not having an appetite to begin with, we made a pretty good dent into everything.

So much food!

Overall we both absolutely loved Zig Zag. It was one of the best meals we had in all of Peru, even though it was one of simplest meals we had. The meats and camarones were all top notch and the presentation was pretty neat. The fried sides were all well prepared, and I couldn’t stop eating the french fries even after I was stuffed. The restaurant was empty when we arrived but by the time we left, it was packed and there was a line at the door. The vibe was upbeat but not stuffy, and it’s someplace that I wouldn’t have minded hanging out at the bar. Service was great and the prices were actually really reasonable. For all of our food, which included the trio of tartares, the assortment of meats, the camarones, all sides, plus a few Cusquena beers, the total was S/182 after tax and tip. That’s about US$67, which would be an absolute steal here in NYC. If you find yourself in Arequipa, run, don’t walk to Zig Zag! Reservations are definitely recommended.

Zig Zag Restaurant
Zela 210 – Cercado
Arequipa, Peru

Wayrana (Arequipa, Peru)

Thursday, October 21st, 2010 by virginia

Wayrana was another restaurant that our guide recommended, and it was in our guidebook as well so we decided to give it a shot. We were a bit worried when we walked in and the only people eating in the restaurant was a large group of tourists, but the menu posted outside had looked promising, plus they offered the dishes that we had been hoping to try while we were in Arequipa.

We started out with a large bottle of Arequipena, which was not so different from Cusquena but we just liked that they also had a beer named after their city. Like most of the beer we had in Peru, it was pretty light and inoffensive.

Arequipena beer

There was one dish that our guide told us we had to try for lunch, chupe de camarones, but we couldn’t find it on the menu at Chi Cha. Looking back, I now realize we were idiots and looked under the wrong section of the menu. The dish is a soup, so we were looking under the appetizer/soup section, but it was actually under the huge section titled “Camarones.” Oh well. Even though our guide said that it was a dish that should be eaten for lunch because it’s a very heavy soup, we decided to take the chance and have it for dinner. Since neither of us were really very hungry, we decided to split an order of the chupe to start, and then split an entree to finish.

Chupe de camarones

Chupe de camarones is basically crayfish chowder. The soup is rich and creamy, made with lots of milk and cheese. It has a thick, velvety texture, and at times seemed more like a stew than a soup. There were lots of whole camarones, or crayfish, in the soup, as well as rice, corn, potatoes, and a poached egg. To make it even richer, the whole dish was topped with shredded cheese. Unfortunately I think there was some Andean mint mixed in there as well, which put me off a bit, but I pushed through because I really did enjoy the richness and the texture. The portion you see in the picture above is just half of a serving because when we told our waiter we were splitting, the kitchen thoughtfully plated our portions separately, which made things much easier.

Whole camarone (I enjoyed sucking out the heads!)

The kitchen also split our entree for us, which may not have been the best thing considering our entree was cuy, or guinea pig. My initial impression of the cuy can be found here. But basically, they cut that sucker in half from head to toe, giving us an inside look of the cuy’s innards, including its bony little rib cage and the contents of its little skull. The cuy was prepared Arequipan style, which meant that it was deep fried. That rendered the skin super crispy and tasty, but the meat was minimal and it was tough for me to really dig in and gnaw at the little bones. Seeing the head on the plate really did throw me off, but I think I would have really liked the dish if the cuy had been cut into little unidentifiable pieces.

Cuy in all its glory

Overall I was pretty impressed with the food at Wayrana, and service was definitely top notch. Even though I was initially turned off by the fact that the only people eating in the restaurant were tourists, my opinion definitely changed when I tasted the food. The chupe de camarones was really delicious, and the fact that I could eat it even with the Andean mint mixed in it is a testament to just how tasty the dish was. There were a lot of ingredients in there but everything worked together harmoniously. The cuy was also well prepared. It was basically just deep fried, but it was well seasoned and not greasy at all. I know most people are probably grossed out by the thought of eating guinea pig, but it really is similar to eating rabbit or quail. It’s definitely something worth trying, and hey, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it again. But at least give it a shot!

Calle Santa Catalina, 200, Int. B, Cercado
Arequipa, Peru

Chi Cha (Arequipa, Peru)

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010 by virginia

Before our city tour of Arequipa, we had time to get lunch. Our guide recommended Chi Cha, a restaurant owned by Gaston Acurio, who is supposedly the best chef in Peru. He owns many different restaurants throughout the country, but this was the only one we tried so we can’t really judge his culinary prowess.

The restaurant was very large and was divided into two rooms, a bright outer room that was more casual looking and a more formal dining room inside. There were no tables for two open, so they seated us at a large round table that could fit eight people, which made us feel a bit weird but at least we had plenty of space. Our meal started off with a basket of mixed breads, including two slices of loaf bread that tasted like corn bread, two breadsticks, and three different flavors of mini baguettes.

Assorted breads

While the bread itself was a little dry, I really liked slathering them with the accompanying soft creamy butter that was mixed with Peruvian chilis. The flavor of the chilis really came through in the butter, and it was an interesting twist on something that’s usually just an afterthought.

Butter mixed with Peruvian chilis

For our lunch, we decided to share a few dishes that we were told were specialties of Arequipa. We knew we had to try rocoto relleno, which is a spicy pepper stuffed with chopped beef and onions and served with potatoes and cheese. The pepper wasn’t super spicy, but it did have a kick to it. The filling reminded me of chili con carne, though the spices were different. There was a potato and cheese gratin on the plate next to the stuffed pepper, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the cheese flavor. I just don’t like cheese in general, and this particular kind tasted very milky to me. Josh didn’t mind it though. I did like the stuffed pepper by itself.

Rocoto relleno

Another dish that I was eager to try was antichuchos de corazon, or grilled brochettes of beef heart. The beef hearts were served with potatoes, corn, and various dipping sauces, including a garlicky sauce and a spicy rocoto sauce. Josh was not as eager to try this dish, and even less so when our request that they cook the hearts to medium turned out more like medium rare. I loved the flavor of the beef heart though, which was nice and smokey from the grill and surprisingly very beefy in taste. Josh couldn’t get past the texture, which was a little chewy and bouncy, but I thought it was pretty tender considering that it was beef heart. I ended up polishing off most of the dish.

Antichuchos de corazon (grilled beef heart brochettes)

Our last dish was ocopa, which is sliced boiled potatoes covered in a thick, creamy yellow sauce that tastes strongly of Andean mint. The sauce is traditionally made with milk and cheese, and is super rich. This version had pieces of fried cheese on top that were nice and salty, as well as pieces of hard boiled egg and olives. It was an interesting combination of flavors and textures, but unfortunately, I took an instant dislike to Andean mint. I don’t know why exactly, since I like regular spearmint and peppermint, but I had a strong aversion to the Andean kind. Whenever I tasted it in any dish during the rest of our trip, I would immediately recoil in disgust and stop eating right away. It made no sense to me, but I really just didn’t like it. Josh, on the other hand, did enjoy the mint, as well as the ocopa. I guess we don’t always have similar tastes!


When they brought our check, they also brought us two marshmallows to finish our meal on a sweet note. I forget what flavor these were, but they were sweet, light, and airy.


Overall we thought the food at Chi Cha was pretty good. While I just didn’t like the flavor of the ocopa or the potato and cheese gratin with the rocoto relleno, it was just a personal taste, not an issue with the preparation. Josh liked the dishes that I didn’t enjoy, and I absolutely loved the beef hearts while he couldn’t take the texture. We both thought the service was very efficient. In fact, our dishes arrived so quickly that we wondered if they had everything already lined up to go in the kitchen sitting under heat lamps. I don’t think that was the case though, because everything was sizzling hot and not overcooked or dried out. Our three dishes, plus a few beers, came out to S/82, or about US$30. Not bad. It’s definitely a place that I would recommend for some local Arequipan cuisine in a nice atmosphere.

Chi Cha
Santa Catalina, 210 Int. 105
Arequipa, Peru

Peru Day 3 – Arequipa

Monday, October 18th, 2010 by virginia

On our third day in Peru, we had breakfast at our hotel in Lima before heading to the airport to catch our flight to Arequipa. Breakfast was pretty ordinary, just an omelet, potatoes, a roll, and some more salchichas.

Salchichas, omelet, roll, butter, potatoes

The flight from Lima to Arequipa left at 10:20 and was only about an hour and 20 minutes. As soon as we got off the plane we could see the impressive volcanoes that border the city. After we were dropped off at our hotel, we had some time to kill before our city tour in the afternoon so we went out to get some lunch. The guide that brought us to our hotel made a few restaurant suggestions, as well as some recommendations on what to eat. We ended up at Chi Cha, which unfortunately turned out to be a chain restaurant, but the food was decent.

Our city tour started at the Santa Catalina convent, which is like a city built within the city. It housed cloistered nuns was closed to the public for 400 years, until 1970. The nuns that used to live there were mostly of wealthy Spanish descent, and they had servants and slaves. Their wealth was quite obvious because some of their rooms and furnishings are on display. There are cloistered nuns who live there now, but their current setup is very different. The walls inside the convent are really colorful, with bright oranges and blues everywhere. The streets are cobble stone and are named after Spanish cities. It really was an interesting place to visit.

Bright orange walls

Bright blue walls

Spanish style streets

Restored kitchen

Spanish style courtyard

Bright blue columns

After leaving the convent, we drove to the outskirts of the city to get a better view of the volcanoes and the beautifully lush, green valleys. The volcanoes are called Chachani, Pichu Pichu, and Misti.

View of the valley

Misti volcano in the background

Next we drove to the Yuanahara district of the city, which is famous for its buildings made from white volcanic rock (called sillar). There was a pretty church with intricate carvings in the front.

San Juan Bautista Church

We made our way back to the center of Arequipa and went to visit another church with beautiful carvings in the front, La Compania. The church is also made from white volcanic rock, and our guide pointed out images with hidden meanings woven throughout the carvings.

La Compania Church

Next we walked over to the main square in Arequipa, the Plaza de Armas. There are palm trees all around and a huge fountain in the middle, plus tons of pigeons everywhere. There were lots of people just hanging out in the square, and the mood was very festive.

Plaza de Armas

Arches all around the square that reminded me of Spain

The last stop on our city tour was the main cathedral. It’s an enormous structure with identical towers on each end. There was a gate surrounding the cathedral that had beautiful wrought iron work.

Cathedral facade

Intricate iron gate in the front

Inside the cathedral is a statue of the devil “in jail,” trapped underneath a pulpit. It is kind of a freaky looking statue, and I think it’s very rare to see any images of the devil in a Catholic church.

The devil in jail

After our city tour ended, we walked around the plaza for a while then went back to our hotel for a drink before dinner. Our hotel was quite beautiful, in a completely restored stone building. It looks like an old castle but the bartender showed us pictures of what it looked like before the restoration, and it really was quite a mess. The details they put into the construction are really pretty amazing.

The bar at our hotel that looked like a room in a medieval castle

We ended our night in Arequipa with an adventurous dinner at a restaurant called Wayrana that involved crayfish and cuy. It was our first taste of guinea pig on our trip, but not the last. More on that later!

Quick Update From Peru – Cuy Adventures

Monday, September 20th, 2010 by virginia

We ate cuy tonight! For those not familiar, cuy is guinea pig. I was admittedly a little freaked out by the little body split in half from head to toe, so that you could see the skull, the ears, teeny teeth, brittle ribs, etc. It was hard to look at, but once I cut off the head and removed it from the plate, it was easier to dig in.

Taste-wise, it was kind of like rabbit, which has a similar texture to chicken. This particular preparation involved deep frying it, so the skin was super crisp and probably the best part. Not so much meat, but good for a nibble. We plan on trying it again in Cuzco, where we hear it’s also a specialty there. Next time I’ll be better prepared!

Josh's Cuy - the other half was on my plate.