Restaurant review: La Locanda

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(Photo: Erick Andia/Living in Peru)
If you are looking for a luxury, fine dining experience, you will definitely find it at La Locanda.

The five-star luxury hotel, Swissotel, located in San Isidro, currently has five restaurants located in their spacious premises. Le Cafe and Gourmet Deli focus on casual cuisine such as sandwiches, light snacks and pastries; Sushi Cage serves up Japanese cuisine; La Fondue provides traditional and creative Swiss and European cuisine such as fondues and raclettes; and La Locanda focuses on a sophisticated fusion of Mediterranean and Peruvian cuisine in a fine dining atmosphere.

Many people are not aware of the incredible restaurants that are situated inside many of the top hotels in Lima. Perhaps diners believe they are exclusively for the hotel patrons. This is not the case. All of the restaurants situated inside of the Swissotel are open to the public. A few weeks ago, Living in Peru had the pleasure to dine at La Locanda.

inside
(Photo: Erick Andia/Living in Peru)

We sat down with head chef, Augusto Salazar. Chef Salazar graduated from Escuela de Alta Cocina D’Gallia in 2003 and held internships in Lima at the Sheraton Hotel, Hotel Sonesta Posada del Inca and Hotel Foresta. He broadened his culinary horizons at Hotel Libertador de Paracas, as chef of La Trattoria Restaurante as well as worked as Chef de Partie (station or line chef) for famous French chef, Herve. Besides working as the chef at La Locanda in Lima for the past six years, Augusto previously traveled to the Swissotel in Beijing, China where he participated in a Peruvian gastronomic festival. Chef Salazar also traveled to both Germany and France where he had brief internships working under Michelin-star chefs.

Chef Salazar and his staff at La Locanda and the Swissotel are very proud of their culinary recognitions in recent years. La Locanda has placed in both 3rd and 4th place for “Best Hotel Restaurant” for the past few years in the prestigious SUMMUM of Gastronomy as well as being first place winners in 2013 and 2014 for “Best Hotel Restaurant” on TripAdvisor. La Locanda continues to enjoy popularity and success on TripAdvisor.

As we entered the restaurant premises of La Locanda you immediately notice the white tablecloths, comfortable high-backed chairs, muted lighting, both polished wood floors and plush carpet, fresh flowers, upscale table settings, and attention to detail. This is not a trendy restaurant, but a classically elegant restaurant.

When I asked Chef Augusto what he felt La Locanda excelled in, he told me they took great pride in their customer service as well as a concentration on fish and seafood as well as keeping a focus on preparing food with a Mediterranean concept. This was quite evident in many of the dishes we sampled, but most especially in their fish dishes. So many of the 9 dishes we sampled were impressive not only in their presentation, but also in the flavors.

We began with the Crema de Erizo y Zapallo (S/ 33), a sea urchin and pumpkin cream soup with fresh turmeric that was boldly presented. This creamy concoction was served inside the spiny shell of the sea urchin. The earthiness of the pumpkin and the saltiness of the sea with the sea urchin resting on top, along with an accent of caviar and fresh herbs was a perfect marriage. It was unique and we thoroughly enjoyed this combination.

soup
Sea urchin and pumpkin cream soup, left, baby lamb, right (Photo: Erick Andia/Living in Peru)

Most definitely, one of the best renditions and treatments of the rock fish, Chita, that I’ve ever had in my life was on the day of our visit to La Locanda. We enjoyed every bite of this succulent Chita. The Chita (S/ 68) was prepared using a light touch of olive oil, clarified butter, and bathed in a mixture of herbs (sage, garlic, thyme, and star anise). Carrot ravioli accompanied the fish which were filled with a mixture of sea scallops and a creamy herb sauce (parsley, dill, basil, and cream). A confit of shallots which were then lightly charred on the grilled generously accented both the Chita and the ravioli. The last touch was a light and ultra-fresh drizzle of a vibrant fennel sauce. All the herbs used in the dishes at La Locanda are all grown in an herb garden located on the premises of the Swissotel. All the flavors in this dish complemented each other and no ingredient overwhelmed any of the others. Typically I eat Chita prepared whole and deep fried with garlic chips. It’s a more rustic approach to this white, meaty fish. I was pleasantly surprised by the delicate texture and refined flavors in this dish. It was tender, delicate and a pleasure to eat. Exquisite on every level. There is a reason why the Chita is one of the more popular dishes ordered at La Locanda.

Another favorite of our table was the Carpaccio de Lenguado (S/ 58). This was one of the most beautiful presentations of carpaccio. The freshest lenguado (flounder) was served with precise slices presented in a circular shape, the borders were decorated with a dots of asparagus purée, capers and tiny basil leaves, topped off with black truffle caviar and drizzled with a truffle vinaigrette. This dish was delicate, glistening and perfect in every aspect. Every bite was a pleasure.

tiradito
Carpaccio de Lenguado, left, Chita with ravioli, right (Photo: Erick Andia/Living in Peru)

Besides the fish dishes mentioned above we sampled the Langosta Punta Velero (S/ 52). This lobster hails from the northern region of Peru in the Los Organos area. Artisanal black squid ink ravioli filled with a fava bean purée accompanied the lobster and a light butter sauce was drizzled over. A spinach sauce decorated the entire dish.

Personally, I would have enjoyed this dish a bit more if the lobster had been cooked for a lesser time. I found the texture on the chewy side. I prefer my fish and seafood to be lightly cooked and tender.

The Seabass gin beurre blanc (S/ 69), a generous fillet of sea bass topped off with a generous amount of carrot capellini (thin threads of carrot) and a fricassee of Chantelle mushrooms would satisfy most fish lovers. I felt the beurre blanc sauce was definitely made better with the addition of gin. It was a pleasant surprise.

carrot
Seabass topped off with thin threads of carrot (Photo: Erick Andia/Living in Peru)

We did share a couple of the meat options on the menu card: a decent version of baby lamb with the Canilla de cordero de leche (S/ 87) and the creative Macaroni stuffed with milk-fed goat (S/ 49), were both quite rich and filling. The first used milk-fed lamb and was accompanied by a paste of black truffle and portobello purée and a confit of sliced potatoes. The second dish used tender roasted baby goat which was filled inside artisanal pasta tubes along with baked baby carrots and a foam prepared from morel mushrooms.

macarroni
Macaroni stuffed with milk-fed goat, left, lobster and raviolis, right (Photo: Erick Andia/Living in Peru)

Both of our desserts would satisfy both fruit lovers and chocolate lovers. The Bosque de frambuesa y berries (S/ 29) was both creative and decadent in its presentation of chocolate truffles, pressed chocolate cake, hazelnuts, raspberries, blueberries and decorated with a large dark chocolate swirl accented with gold leaf pieces and a raspberry spherification.

dessert
Bosque de frambuesa y berries (Photo: Erick Andia/Living in Peru)

The El nuevo dolce Locanda (S/ 29), is the ideal dessert for lovers of fruit, and especially focused on Peruvian fruits (as seen in article’s main photo). When the dessert was presented I primarily noticed the bounty of fruit and the vibrant colors of the aguaymanto, raspberries, blueberries and a fruit I was unfamiliar with until this day. The pitaya fruit comes from the Peruvian jungle. It is considered a Peruvian apple cactus fruit, also known as dragon fruit. The fruit is white inside with tiny black seeds. It resembles a kiwi fruit, but is white instead of green. It is gelatin-like in texture and imparts a mild, bland sweetness. This dessert was abundant in textures and freshness.

Besides being open to the public, La Locanda is quite popular among business executives as well as those looking to treat themselves to a special and romantic culinary experience. The seating is intimate and allows for the patrons to enjoy a quiet, private conversation.

The prices at La Locanda are on the expensive side. Considering the restaurant is located inside a five-star restaurant and caters to this type of clientele, it should be no surprise. The prices are justified by the high quality of ingredients used and the precision and meticulous attention to detail in every plate that leaves the kitchen. Another factor is their renowned attentive customer service. The waitstaff at La Locanda is most definitely service-oriented. The concept of true customer service is very evident here.

Please note, Chef Salazar is constantly renewing the menu at La Locanda. It changes approximately every 1 1/2 months.

If you are looking for a luxury, fine dining experience, you will definitely find it at La Locanda.

La Locanda
Av. Santo Toribio 173
Swissotel
Centro Empresarial Real
San Isidro
Phone: 421-4400, anexo 2204
Open every day: 12:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m.; 7:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m.

Reservations accepted
Valet parking
Capacity: 56 persons
Facebook
Website

Starters: S/ 42-58
Soups: S/ 33
Pastas/Risottos: S/ 48-52
Fish/Seafood: S/ 67-71
Meats: S/ 74-87
Antipasto Station: S/ 60 (large variety of imported cheeses and meats)
Desserts: S/ 29-32
Tasting Menu (6-course): (without wine pairing) S/ 155; (with wine pairing) S/ 245
Extensive wine list

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Sheila Christensen Jeanneau

Sheila was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. She spent several years in Denver, Colorado at Regis University and lived eleven years in Fort Lauderdale, Florida before moving with her Peruvian husband to live full-time in Peru in 2007. An epicurean at heart, Sheila first became inspired about food and cooking through the fantastic cooks in her Danish family. In her free time, Sheila is a volunteer at an orphanage, is involved in sports, including tennis and spinning, and loves exploring Peru’s incredible cuisine.

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