L imo, Peruvian food and Pisco Bar – to give it its full name – is universally recognized as one of Cusco’s finest dining establishments and is probably nipping at the heels of some of the best restaurants in Peru.
From first-hand experience it is easy to see why it has garnered such an enviable reputation. Its location, close to all of Cusco’s luxury hotels and overlooking the incomparable Plaza de Armas is unbeatable; the views of the colourful square, the elegant colonial arcades and the baroque façade of Cusco’s vast Jesuit church are stunning by day or night; and the excellent food is an inventive combination of Japanese cuisine fused with traditional Peruvian. Furthermore prices are very reasonable by world standards, so if Cusco is on your Peru itinerary – and in fairness you’d need a very good reason for it not to be – then allow yourself the luxury of a meal at Limo to complete your culinary Peru experience.
The entrance to Limo (above, centre) is fairly well concealed behind the colonial arches on same side of the Plaza de Armas as the Cathedral, near to the subtly branded (it’s a UNICEF requirement) MacDonalds and KFC. Look out for the signage on the second floor (first floor if you are a Brit) as you won’t find eager – OK, annoying – “greeters” prowling the pavements outside looking for customers as many other restaurants do on the square. Limo’s reputation sees to it that there is steady flow of willing diners without the need for strong arm tactics, and reservations are always to be recommended.
The menu is broad and consists of Peruvian, Japanese and Peruvian-Japanese fusion dishes. There are no less than 25 different starters including hot and cold traditional Peruvian fare such as chicharron, deep fried yucca balls stuffed with Andean cheese, ceviches and tiraditos and a large selection of sushi rolls.
Once through the shadowy patio, up the stairs and past the small outside smoking area double doors open into three spacious and tastefully decorated areas: the Pisco Bar, main comedor or dining room and the long “balcony” area that overlooks the Plaza. Don’t be put off by the prospect of shivering through your saltado though as the cosy balcony area consist of lovely stone arched windows sealed with top quality joinery, protecting diners from the chill winds of an Andean mountain evening. If you want a coveted balcony table you are strongly advised to book in advance and specify your preference.
Warm and Welcoming
The vaulted, white-beamed ceilings throughout create a feeling of space without emptiness and the warm, deep red and purple décor with subtle wall and down lighters is rather reminiscent of a Virgin Atlantic Upper Class cabin at turn-down time. But the mood lighting, abundance of fresh flowers, modern art and relaxing chillout music make for a much more atmospheric ambiance than even Sir Richard Branson could hope for.
Staff dressed smartly in black with brightly coloured aprons matching the stylish designer menus weave amongst well-spaced tables and comfy white leather-covered chairs. Thick white linens, heavy cutlery and a selection of glasses for red, white and water complete the picture of reassuring professionalism.
A cheeky aperitif?
There is plenty of room in the sociable Pisco bar to pull up a high stool and start your evening with one of a great selection of Pisco shots or chilcanos – refreshing Pisco-based cocktails – all from 18 Soles (around US$6.50 or £3.75). If you are feeling a little more sophisticated there is a small selection of wines by the glass at 20 Soles each (US$7.25 or £4.25), and even a mini “benjamin” a quarter bottle) of decent Argentinian sparkling wine at 25 Soles (US$9 or £5.50) for the white and 30 Soles ($10.75 or £6.50) for the rose if you have something to celebrate or are just feeling in a decadent mood.
And while you sip your pre dinner drink of choice you can browse the extensive wine list which has a good selection of South American and European wines from 35 Soles (US$12.50 or £7.50) for a half bottle – handy of you are dining alone – and from 70 Soles (US$25 or £15) for full bottles.
Time to Tickle your Tastebuds
The menu is broad and consists of Peruvian, Japanese and Peruvian-Japanese fusion dishes. There are no less than 25 different starters including hot and cold traditional Peruvian fare such as chicharron, deep fried yucca balls stuffed with Andean cheese, ceviches and tiraditos and a large selection of sushi rolls. Prices range from 18 Soles (US$6.50 or £3.75) for the yucca balls up to 70 Soles (US$25 or £15) for a selection of four different types of sushi roll. A single sushi roll starter will set you back just 20 Soles (US$7.25 or £4.25) and comes with little dishes of pickled ginger, wasabi and soy.
The main course menu is extensive enough to satisfy most people’s tastes but not too big to suggest there should be any compromise on quality. It is more Peruvian than the starter menu with staples such as Lomo saltado – sauteed fillet steak with tomatoes, onions and coriander or Aji de gallina – poached chicken in a creamy yellow sauce flavoured with mild aji amarillo chilli and Pork adobo cooked in chicha (Andean corn beer) served with pureed sweet potato.
If you are feeling a bit more adventurous but still want traditional Peruvian flavours try the Alpaca fillet with quinoa risotto – known locally as quinotto – or that ‘must-try’ dish on everyone’s list – crispy confit of guinea pig. Fish lovers can choose from dishes such as grilled trout with cous-cous or seared tuna with miso sauce and sesame oil if you want to continue with that Japanese theme.
I have only tried two of the main courses to date – and feel the need to remedy that situation soon – but can vouch for the quality of the alpaca fillet with quinotto and the osso buco. Flavour-wise at least, if everything else is to the same standard then you shouldn’t be disappointed.
Prices for mains range from 40 to 62 Soles (US$14.25 or £8.50 to US$22 to £13.50) . Rather disappointingly for a restaurant of this standard, however, there are currently no vegetarian options.
Overall Limo ticks all the boxes and on balance is very good value for what you get. You will certainly pay less than you would expect for similar levels of culinary luxury in the UK, USA or Australia. The food, service, location and ambiance combine to give diners a memorable experience and even something to talk about long after they have left Peru.
Only one thing marred my last visit, which was the time it took to replace a main course that came complete with complementary foreign body. In fairness the staff did replace the meal (and did make a deduction from the bill when prompted), but it took so long that my companion’s food was cold by the time my replacement arrived. However, everything else was good enough for me to put it down to bad luck and I would be more than happy to give Limo another try.
Open daily from 11am to 10:30pm; Dinner reservations accepted for 7pm or 9pm
Address: 2nd Floor, 236 Portal de Carnes, Plaza de Armas, Cusco
Telephone: +51 (0)84 240 668