Lima Restaurant Throwdown: Panchita vs. Huaringas

I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s worth noting: my time in Lima was short. Very very short. However, I still managed to eat well. Very, very well. Peru, known for its crumbling ruins perched at the edge of a mountain, its alpaca clothing and its resilient, weather-worn people has had a second coming in the food sector of late. For hundreds of years, Peruvian food has been evolving, braiding in ingredients from far flung places and incorporating them into traditional favourites like ceviche and heavy criollo dishes. Peru is excited about its food, and it shows: Peruvian restaurants are cropping up all over South America, ambassadors of their native country’s enthusiastic devotion to delving deep into a culinary heritage. In my brief time running around Lima, I went to two popular Peruvian restaurants, Gastón Acurio’s Panchita and Las Brujas de Cachiche‘s upstairs bar, Huaringas.

Panchita: Peru’s Celebrity Chef Takes on Anticuchos

Celebrity Chef Gaston Acurio is one of the driving forces behind the renaissance of Peruvian cuisine. Acurio, who Food & Wine mag describes as “part Jamie Oliver, part Che Guevara […] seen here as a foodie folk hero, seeking not just to raise the status of his native cuisine but to improve the lot of the farmers, fishermen and cooks who create it”, is minor cult figure in Peru. I ended up dining at his new anticuchos restaurant by accident, when one of my meetings ended with a last minute plan for lunch. Anticuchos are marinated, spiced meat skewers that are grilled over an open flame. Popular on the streets of Lima and most other Andean countries, they are taken to a new level at Panchita.

While I ordered the chicken anticuchos, the agent I dined with went for the beef heart and I had some serious food envy. Spicy, tender and perfectly cooked, they were absolutely delicious and marked the first time I had tried beef heart. Each dish was served on a heavy wooden plate, with sides of grilled yellow potatoes and buttered corn, as well as a spicy green salsa to compliment the meat.

It happened that Acurio himself was sitting at the next table, and my friendly waiter (Christian, pictured below) told him that I was interested in writing about the restaurant. Next thing I knew, he was at our table and introducing me to his staff. Throughout the meal, almost every diner in the restaurant came up to take a picture with him or ask for his autograph. I’m not sure what role they will attribute to me (also in their photos) but it made for an interesting (and very fortutious) meal.

Celebrity-spotting aside, his food was undeniably excellent. While more expensive than your customary South American fare (the lunch for 2 ran us close to $30), if you want to treat yourself when in Lima then this is your place.

Av. Dos de Mayo 298, Miraflores
Reservations: 242-5957

Panchita restaurant in Lima

Excellent tamales as a first course, with perfectly steamed corn and tender chicken inside. Served with marinated onions and citrus dressing:

Panchita restaurant in Lima

Our waiter, Christian, preparing my chicken dish for consumption:

Panchita restaurant in Lima

Me and Gaston Acurio in front of his open kitchen at Panchita:

Gaston Acurio in Panchita

They seemed pretty happy to get their picture taken too:

Huaringas: Bruje de Cachiche’s Trendy Upstairs Bar

Las Brujes de Cachiche is another restaurant that gets resoundingly positive reviews. Located in Miraflores, the restaurant is inside of a beautiful, old stone building and creeping through its winding hallways and tiny corners added to the culinary experience. Like Panchita, its owner is a well-renowned expert in Peruvian food. Cesar Alcorta Suero’s menu is lovingly dedicated to the histroy and progress of his country’s cuisine and he has presented at food expos in Europe and Asia.

Unfortunately, the food did not match the delicate flavours and lingering tastes at Panchita. I ordered the same dishes, grilled chicken and beef heart anticuchos, but they were a disappointment. The beef heart was tough to cut through and seasoned blandly, with the side dish of corn sitting in a soup of butter and the potatoes limp. The chicken skewers were seasoned and grilled well, but did not match the sting of cayenne and chili in Panchita’s iteration of the same dish. The Brujas chicken dish was served with a pile of buttered snap peas topped with sesame – a strange match for the herbed chicken. Overall, while the decor was lovely, the food was less so.

It’s worth mentioning that Huaringas makes a mean pisco sour. Though both Chile and Peru lay claim to this drink (I’ve tried it in both countries), the version at Huaringas goes a long way to convincing you it belongs in Peru. With frothy egg whites and a kick like none other, it is well worth a trip to the bar to imbibe. So while I’d certainly recommend dining at Panchita, I’d suggest a stop off a Huaringas for a pre-meal drink: the bar was lovely, the drinks stiff and the staff attentive.

Las Brujes de Cachiche/Huaringas
Calle Bolognesi 472, Miraflores,
Reservations: 447-1133

Huaringas in Lima

Beef heart and chicken anticuchos at Las Brujas de Cachiche:

Huaringas in Lima

Closeup of the beef skewers:

And the good parts: a perfect Pisco Sour

and a lovely bar to lounge in:

And thus ends my culinary throwdown, with Panchita soundly taking the win.

More from Quito in a few days!

12 thoughts on “Lima Restaurant Throwdown: Panchita vs. Huaringas”

  1. There must be a whole lot of women (probably men, too) grumbling about the fact that so much of your travel and writing is focused on food, and yet you remain such a slender, petite thing. Cheers to inefficient metabolism!

    Funny that all the kitchen staff are wearing hair nets, but your waiter, doing some table-side prep, is not!

    Any good wine down there?

  2. Kevin: as I said to Gray on the Mexico post, I’ve definitely put on a few pounds on this trip, but overall it’s well worth it for food like this! I didn’t try the wine as I had several other meetings that day, but I’m a fan of Chile and Uruguay’s reds, for sure.

  3. We always tell people to make a stop in Lima on the way to or from Cusco just for the eating alone. It was our favorite food stop in Latin America and we loved how every local we spoke to was so proud of Peruvian cuisine and wanted to talk and share their knowledge. That’s awesome you go to meet Gaston, the MacDaddy of Peruvian cuisine!

    Huaringas served up the best pisco sours (my favorite was maracuya sour) we had in Peru (and Chile), but we didn’t stick around for the food. Glad to hear we didn’t miss much.

  4. Oh oh oh love this post! I tell everyone Lima should be the food capital of South America. My mouth is watering at this post! Delicioso!

    I’m with you on gaining weight all over S.A., but I actually lost it all in Lima because I got e-coli poisoning. First time in Lima, couldn’t eat a thing! That’s a tease when you’ve got great food like that!

  5. Audrey: thanks for your excellent Peruvian food crash course too. I always know if I’m enjoying the food, you two have either done so as well or will get there at some point soon!

    Teresa: I’m sorry to hear about the food poisoning – hopefully next time you can eat to your heart’s content. Reason to go back? :)

  6. Don’t worry about us being jealous of your ability to eat copious amounts of food without gaining weight, keep the reviews coming. I’m salivating over them. Lunch cannot come soon enough!

  7. This post reminds me of Throwdown! with Bobby Flay (am addicted to Food Network). I love it! The buzz around Peruvian food has definitely reached San Francisco. My cousin was really excited about some of the new Peruvian places popping up here in the last couple of years, but I thought it was just because she was half Peruvian, had lived down there for a few years and was married to a guy from Peru. I should have known when I heard the suits outside the Fairmont talking about the Peruvian place with great ceviche as the destination for their business lunch that there was something going on – that Peruvian cuisine was hot.

    I’m definitely going to Lima one day (hopefully in the not-too-distant future), so I’ll be sure to visit Panchita. As a child I ate everything my great-grandmother in Central Mexico prepared for me, from chicken feet to congealed pig blood; but I’ve grown more squeamish over the years. I would normally not be even remotely tempted to order the beef heart anticuchos. But based on your recommendation, I will definitely have to try them!

  8. Glad Jodi that you enjoyed your our cusine…Panchita is one of my favorites and despite is a little more expensive than regular restaurantes, it totally worth it…and you’re right about Brujas de Cachiche: not awesome food (matchless against Panchita) but one of the best Pisco Sours in Lima…if you get there around 11 pm in a friday night, won’t be any room ’cause it’s crowded ’till people leaves to clubs.

    I hope more tourist keep coming to Peru and try our food. The opposite happens to me when I go to USA…after 4 days, I start to loose weight ’cause I miss my food so much!

  9. Anis, you won’t be disappointed with the anticuchos, I’m sure of it!

    Eduardo, definitely enjoyed the food as well as the pisco sours. Glad that I chose well as I only had 2 days in Lima so I had to be picky!

    BaconMagicLady: DO IT.

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