Tucked away in the historical center of Yanahuara in Arequipa, El Tío Darío offers a celebration of classic dishes from across Peru and the country’s spicy south, including, of course, ceviche.
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The restaurant is a culmination of the decade-spanning culinary efforts of a local chef from Arequipa and a Japanese-Peruvian chef from Lima, whose nickname now stands as the restaurant’s brand standard.
This collaboration results from a desire to keep true to the diverse and traditional gastronomic styles of Peru, such as steaming food wrapped in banana leaves, while also recognizing the rising impact of international tourism on southern Peru. Additionally, the chefs saw a need to offer high-quality Peruvian cuisine but did not want to focus exclusively on ceviche and seafood, as many other restaurants do. Their wish was to not over-commercialize the restaurant but to keep a warm and familial setting where local families and traveling restaurateurs alike would be able to enjoy a quiet, tasteful meal.
This restaurant is, in a few words by our host, Michel Hediger, “a gastronomic paradise”.
[caption id="attachment_145527" align="alignnone" width="624"] (Photo: Lili and Clinton Fandrich/Traveling & Living in Peru)[/caption]
Located just a few steps away from the scenic overlook at the beautiful Plaza Yanahuara, down the picturesque Callejón del Cabildo, El Tío Darío is tucked into a garden oasis free from the noise of the city.
One can tell, as you enter the restaurant, that there was great thought put into keeping a warm and inviting ambiance. The dining areas, both indoor and out, are rustic and elegant with unique, hand-crafted tables that create a special touch. These thoughtful details add charm and style to the many events that are hosted there. In the shadow of the city’s three volcanoes and amidst the songs of birds, the fruit trees, flowers, vines and fountain are the backdrop of a wonderful and relaxing atmosphere. From any table, one can clearly see why the gardens at El Tío Darío enhance the provincial and classic feel.
El Tío Darío presents an impressive variety of traditional Peruvian and uniquely Arequipeño plates at prices accessible to most budgets. The quality of the food and the meticulous presentation, combined with sizeable portions, make a visit here more than worthwhile.
While Michel recounted the story of the restaurant, we had our first look at the Piqueo Darío Frío (S/49), a ceviche sampler that includes squid a la chalaca with choclo and zesty onion, fresh fish in creamy rocoto sauce, octopus bathed in an olive oil sauce and traditional lime-laced ceviche. This colorful array will satisfy a ceviche connoisseur and satiate the curiosity of someone who wants to try ceviche for the first time.
[caption id="attachment_145528" align="alignnone" width="624"] Soltero de Queso con Quinoa Tricolor (Photo: Lili and Clinton Fandrich/Traveling & Living in Peru)[/caption]
The second dish to arrive was the Soltero de Queso con Quinoa Tricolor (chica, S/16). This vibrant salad encapsulates many indigenous influences of Peru, including three types of quinoa, choclo and Andean cheese on a bed of crisp lettuce. The light citrus dressing brought everything together in a flavorful and filling salad.
Our main dishes arrived from the kitchen in beautiful terracotta bowls with herbal embellishments and a spicy aroma. The Cauche de Queso (S/28), a typical Arequipeño creation, combines fresh Andean cheese and a mild pepper sauce with Peru’s signature crop, potatoes. This was quickly followed by a true Peruvian classic, Ají de Gallina del Campo (S/29), which features shredded chicken in a mild pepper cream sauce with a hard-boiled egg, salty kalamata olives and a healthy portion of white rice.
[caption id="attachment_145529" align="alignnone" width="624"] Rocoto Relleno Tradicional (Photo: Lili and Clinton Fandrich/Traveling & Living in Peru)[/caption]
Finally, no lunch under the warm sun of Arequipa would be complete without Rocoto Relleno Tradicional (S/28). This flagship dish of the White City boasts a spicy rocoto pepper stuffed to the brim with tender beef, kalamata olives, spices and a topping of melted cheese, served alongside a slice of pastel de papa, a layered potato cake.
[caption id="attachment_145530" align="alignright" width="200"] Mousse de Tres Chocolates con Puro Cacao del Pais (Photo: Lili anad Clinton/Traveling & Living in Peru)[/caption]
The restaurant’s dessert menu has something for every sweet tooth. Our picks began with a small dish with two scoops of Queso Helado Artesanal (S/12), a favorite of Arequipa. This regionally famous homemade ice cream is made with three different types of milk and flavored with coconut, vanilla, and cinnamon for a perfect after-dinner treat.
If you love chocolate (and who doesn’t?!), the Mousse de Tres Chocolates (S/18) hits the mark. This smooth chocolate mousse is made with pure Peruvian cacao and topped with a fresh strawberry. Both of these delicious desserts are just the right size to end your meal.
There are drinks to suit everyone’s fancy at El Tío Darío, from chicha morada, to herbal teas and fine wines, but no meal in the whole of Peru would be complete without a Pisco Sour Clásico (S/20). Pisco is a Peruvian alcohol, famous worldwide, that is made from white grapes. Pisco Sour mixes this tangy alcohol with local varieties of lemon and egg-white bitters to fashion a drink that’s tasty and refreshing.
We loved our afternoon in the gardens at El Tío Darío, and if you find yourself passing through Arequipa, be sure to stop by. If you would like to see more about the restaurant, please check out The Fandrich Expedition’s “A Taste of Arequipa.”