|The comfortable interior of Greens Organic, in Cusco. (All photos by Andres Allain)|
By Ross Knutson
Next time you’re in Cusco and looking for something healthier, more local and, well, greener, try Greens. Located just down the street from Imperial City’s majestic cathedral, Greens Organic is a restaurant specializing in gourmet organic food, featuring local ingredients.
Founded eight years ago, it has now traded its small San Blas location for a larger, fresher, and more airy spot with a corner view of Cusco’s main square. Balcony seating is available for those who wish to enjoy some fresh mountain air and take in the street scenes below, as the restaurant itself is located on the second floor.
The main dining room is graced with windows and skylights, which let in an abundance of natural light – something often overlooked in Cusco, as many of the colonial buildings do not let in much light and are thus always in the chilly side.
Adding to the concept of being “green” and fresh, the very simple decorations feature samplings of local organic products and paintings that highlight much of the natural beauty that can be found in Cusco and the surrounding areas.
The staff is dressed very casual, which make the visitor feel that much more at home in the restaurant. Developing this level of comfort is one of Greens’ objectives, as they seek to take away the fear and doubt that many diners face when confronted with lots of fresh ingredients – like vegetables.
This is to counter the message that comes ingrained in the traveler, as their guidebooks warn them off eating anything that is not peeled, boiled, or treated. It is just better to play it safe and avoid these items in general say, the guidebooks. Not so says Greens, as these fresh ingredients are easier to digest for those who have just arrived to Cusco and its 11,000-foot elevations.
To start things off, we were served a couple of earthy appetizers that starred ingredients from the restaurant’s own organic farm in the nearby Sacred Valley. The first dish was the restaurant’s signature Greens’ Salad, which featured a wonderful selection of greens and fruits. It was served with a fresh organic mango and mandarin vinaigrette that the salad just enough sweetness. Mango was also featured in the second appetizer, a trout ceviche, where the sweetness of the mango provided a perfect balance to the wonderfully acidic leche de tigre.
|The Greens Salad and a fresh juice|
With our taste buds now alive and kicking, it was time for the main courses. First in line was a well prepared Lomo de Alpaca a la Pimienta (Alpaca Pepper Steak) – accompanied with an excellent ratatouille that really brought out the well balanced and perfectly cooked alpaca steak.
The next dish was locally-raised trout. The unique element of this creation was it was served in a papillote, or parchment. This is a French technique, in which the fish is wrapped in a paper and then steamed, allowing the herbs and spices to set in. In this case, the fish was very lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and lime; the subtleness allowed the trout to be the star of the show. Accompanying the trout was another of Peru’s well-known vegetables, asparagus – grilled to perfection and generously covered with a layer of Andean cheese. A more perfect complement to the fish could not be had.
|The alpaca steak with ratatouille|
To wrap up the main courses, we tried another of Greens’ specialties, their sandwiches. We were served the Campesino, a vegetarian sandwich with with caramelized onions, zucchini, mushrooms, and a host of other veggies on wonderfully toasted bread. Coming from somebody who knows his sandwiches, this was truly a treat and could easily be a meal itself.
All of this taste-testing left us to be a bit thirsty and thankfully, one of Greens’ signature items are fresh and creative – let’s call them “freshative”- juices. The staff can prepare any number of juices for its
guests, but their most popular ones are an audacious strawberry ginger creation, a smooth pineapple and lime, a creamy magno and maracuya concoction, and an organic yogurt-based peach and orange refresher.
Thirst quenched, it was on to dessert. When we were told the dessert would be a mango ravioli, I really had no idea what to expect, but a mango ravioli was exactly what we received. In this unique dish, the mango was finely sliced and folded over a pear and apple culis. A passion fruit sauce was lightly drizzled over the top giving the idea of some type of pasta sauce.
|The meal finished with the mango ravioli|
With a variety of organic and well-prepared dishes, with simple and explosive flavors, Green’s is a perfect venue for those who have just arrived to Cusco. Greens is open for lunch and dinner and most dishes are within the S/. 20-25 range, with a large collection of sides around S/. 15. Do make sure to try several of the juices as they are well worth their S/.8 price tag. I know for sure that next time I am in Cusco, I will be stopping by Greens for some fresh eats.