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.
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; email@example.com
– Valet Parking
– 20 Soles corkage fee
– Areas for private events (30, 40 or 150 people)
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