Cusco – the navel of Inca world is not only the most convenient place to hit the road and visit stunning Inca sites but also a pretty good spot to eat. Today I wanted to share with you culinary delight we accidentally found on our way back from Pukamuqu (3 600 meters above sea level) which gives you the most spectacular panoramic views of Cusco.
It’s truly fantastic and well worth the hike up. You can see the whole city and from there you actually realize how big it is. The old city clearly stands out with its red roofs and the more recent buildings spread across the whole valley. Cristo Blanco itself will remind you of Jesus Christ from Rio de Janeiro. You start to think which one was first? Who copied the idea 😉 So I checked and learnt that Brazilian one was finished in 1931 and was built to mark 100 year anniversary of Brazil’s independence from Portugal. The one on the top of Pukamuqu was completed in 1945 by a group of Christian Palestinians that were seeking refuge in Cusco. It was a symbol of their gratitude toward the city, and was their parting gift when they finally returned to their home country. Brazil was first then. 😉
On the quite exhausting way up (it’s more the altitude not the length of the path), we promised we’ll step into one of the bars luring us with their happy hours. There we were: self-imposing a stick and carrot approach to motivate ourselves 😉 Carrot being the fantastic views and, of course, some drinks afterwards and stick: the time limits (obviously happy hours do not last 24/7). What we did not realize was the bonus i.e. great food we had along with the drinks.
On our way back we stepped into what looked like an eatery attached to a hostel. The place is small and very casual – up to 5-6 tables on ground level plus 2-3 more on the terrace upstairs. You would not go there for the place or views, but you cannot discard it as the food and drinks are delicious. The restaurant is led by 2 sisters who work side by side delivering the best quality meals.
The younger one is a chef, she created her menu very carefully, ensuring all ingredients are local and organic and all (including vegetarians) will enjoy what they see and taste. She pays a lot attention not only to how food tastes trying to get out best of Peruvian veggies and meat but also to the way dishes are presented. The oldest is responsible for service and drinks. Believe me, she knows how to make best Pisco Sour in Cusco. The name itself Ayni is an Inca name describing the social system of distribution: ‘Today for you, tomorrow for me’. You can actually feel the harmony in the food you eat. All ingredients come from organic farms and sister ensure that every purchase they make contributes to the development of the local farmers.
For a starter I took Limenian causa with crispy chicken (13 soles) with native potatoes, fresh avocado, tomato and some mayo – it looked amazing and tasted heavenly. Then I set myself up for a surprise as I had no clue what I was ordering, which only shows my poor Spanish as it turned out to be typical Cusquena dish. The dish was called Homemade Capchi de Habas (27 soles) and was a true treat. It made of what I think were broad beans and cheese in a stew with potatoes, onion, garlic, pepper, cumin, pepper, milk and huacatay. It was accompanied by quinoa, grilled zucchini, and fresh avocado. I loved it. It was mouth-watering, comfort food anyone is looking for after having climbed hundreds of stairs to reach Cristo Blanco. The capchi was well seasoned and not bland at all. I felt like having another plate. Instead, I went for a dessert which was potato tart. Quite foreign idea to me when it comes to desserts. But since two previous dishes tasted great, I though I’d give it a go. And again, I was not disappointed – I got a nice piece of warm potato cake on a thin crust with elderberry sauce. If you’re curious how it tasted – you need to go and check it out. For those who are unlikely to be in Cusco in the nearest future: you do not actually recognize taste of potato in it – at least mine European potato detector failed. ☺ Mind you, more than 4,000 varieties of native potatoes grow in the Andean highlands of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador.
We shook chef’s hand and wished both sisters well for future as what they achieve in their tiny kitchen is amazing. We promised to spread the word as rarely one comes across such a good cuisine at such a reasonable price.
Ayni Organic can be found at this address:
Calle Tandapata 353-B
San Blas, Cusco
and also on FB