Culantro y Perejil: The best of Arequipa’s culinary specialties in Lima

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Long before living in Lima, I was told that the Arequipa region of southern Peru has the best cuisine in the country. While this is a bold and potentially controversial assertion to make, it resonates with me to this day. Very much like with Mexican food, there are regional differences in Peruvian gastronomy that can be subject to debate. Chefs like Gaston Acurio showcase ceviche and pisco sours as flagship items without really calling attention to regional distinctiveness. The luxury of living in Peru is that we can eat all that this country has to offer and Culantro y Perejil is a shrine to Arequipeña and criolla specialties. The weekday crowd in search of hearty home-cooked food is comprised of both locals and tourists visiting the nearby Museo de Oro del Peru and hotels in the vicinity. On weekends the restaurant is packed with families, especially on Sundays when the legendary adobo arequipeño is served for breakfast starting at 8:30 a.m.

On any given day, a rocoto relleno is worth trying as a substantial starter, or a light entrée. I have sampled several in the city and Culantro y Perejil’s rendition is a must-try if you like spicy food. While its preparation involves blanching the rocoto peppers to tame the heat, this Arequipa specialty is best enjoyed with at least some kick, otherwise you may as well be eating stuffed bell peppers. The customary accompaniment for this dish is pastel de papa, layers of thinly sliced potatoes, baked with milk, egg and cheese for binding.

Another of my favorite dishes in Peru is the chupe de camarones, and Culantro y Perejil offers a generous bowlful of this chunky soup, which can serve as a full meal. The menu in Culantro y Perejil has an entire section devoted to camarón (crayfish) concoctions, all of which use shrimp as a substitution when the yearly ban takes place typically from January to March.

Solterito was a new discovery for me. According to chef and co-owner Luis López Rodas, a.k.a. Lucho, the name of this salad comes from the fact that none of the ingredients (fava beans, Peruvian corn kernels, finely diced tomato, red onion, Paria cheese, rocoto pepper, black olives and parsley for garnish), go together but rather they “marry” in ones mouth. This is a fun and highly nutritious salad with a punch from the olives and the rocoto peppers, and is a great appetizer to share.

The entrée list includes many other Peruvian specialties. The infallible cuy is offered and on Mother’s Day they plated fifty; so it’s a good idea to reserve these on holidays. The legendary tacu-tacu is also served and beautifully presented with tender and juicy seco de cabrito as well as with other meats.

The fun cocktails that Induperu-trained barman, Hans Chávez, prepares deserve a special mention. He takes inspiration from Arequipa landmarks like the Misti volcano and whips up innovative drinks.

Another exciting beverage was an Oreo-Bailey’s blend that surprised and pleased our palates.

Lastly, make sure you leave room to try the queso helado, another regional specialty, which consists of artisanal ice cream with coconut and a touch of cinnamon.

As a patron of Culantro y Perejil myself, I recommend a casual visit to this beautiful house to appreciate what the Arequipa region has to offer without leaving Lima. Especially if you live in Monterrico, its surrounding neighborhoods, or come to visit the Museo de Oro, you will have a very pleasant experience without battling the city’s traffic.

 

Culantro y Perejil

What: Arequipa region and criolla specialties
Where: Avenida Primavera 1859, Monterrico – Surco
When: Tuesday – Saturday: 11:30 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sunday (adobo day): 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Reservations: 435-8252; 434-2566; 9587- 8777; reservas@culatntroyperejil.com
Web:
http://www.culantroyperejil.com/
Services:
– Valet Parking
– 20 Soles corkage fee
– Areas for private events (30, 40 or 150 people)
Price range:
Samplers: S./ 50-70
Appetizers: S./ 16-30
Crawfish festival: S./ 32-70
Entrées: S./ 25-60
Adobo (only on Sundays): S./ 25
Dessert: S./ 10-15
Cocktails: S/. 10-18

 

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