Another offering from acclaimed chef Gastón Acurio, Panchita centres around traditional Peruvian dishes, or, to use the Peruvian term, ‘criollo’ cooking.
Panchita is a stunningly decorated restaurant, utilising many traditional Peruvian design elements but with such a stylish and modern twist. Think colourful striped fabrics, fluorescent poster style graffiti signage, and traditional hand painted bulls on display.
The traditional painted statues of bulls, pigs and men, stand on shelves that surround the lounge and bar at the front of the restaurant. This gives the bar it’s own space and also makes for a fantastic display as you arrive, and also a great view from the restaurant too. Surrounding the restaurant, painted on the walls are sayings and song lyrics painted in the bright graffiti style artwork I mentioned earlier.
You can spend a long time looking in every nook and on every wall, and finding new items or decorations you had never noticed before.
Whilst the decoration and displays are full of colour and flair, the actual design of the restaurant is polished, modern and stylish with lacquered wood, natural (and darker) colours and sleek lines throughout. The two styles of design work fantastically well, with the bright colours softened (in a good way) by the natural woods, and the minimalist lines are funked up by the flashes of bright blues, pinks and yellows.
Centre stage is a clay oven where bread, meat and chicken are cooked ‘a la leña’ (wood-fired). This is a delight to watch, and to smell, as you sit at your table waiting for the deliciousness about to be served up.
I was kindly invited the week following my birthday for a meal with two of my English students as a belated celebration. So, we toasted with cocktails as we browsed the vast menu…
My choice was a fruity, chilcano style drink flavoured with camu camu (an Amazonian fruit which has become a new favourite of mine). It was so refreshing, with the perfect balance of sweet and citrus melded together.
Prices of the food are wide ranging and the variety of dishes is abundant. Come with any budget and any craving and you are sure to find something to suit you! From tapas style side dishes and anticuchos to sharing platters and huge stews.
Whilst browsing our options we received a beautifully warm selection of breads (S/7 pp) that had been freshly made in the clay oven not long before, along with a herb flavoured butter and a chilli spread for companionship.
One of the breads was made from papa amarilla (yellow potato) and it was served like a mini loaf of bread. It was so light but at the same time buttery and slightly chewy like a good white bread should be.
Not long after we received our starters; a small feast of corn based dishes.
We started with the Tamal Marthita (S/24). For those of you unfamiliar with it, a tamale is a corn based dough that has been cooked (boiled or steamed) inside a leaf or corn husk, and can contain different fillings such as meat or cheese.
This version was actually a quinoa tamale that was spiced and it was juicier than any tamale I had eaten before. It fell apart extremely easily and you could clearly see the grains of quinua holding the tamal together. It came served with a salsa criollo, a typical Peruvian garnish of raw red onion, limon juice, chilli and coriander.
Second up was the Trio de Tamales (S/29).
Three smaller sized tamales of different flavours and colours. My favourites were the yellow tamale filled with shredded meat and the green filled with cream cheese. These were satisfyingly thick and creamy in texture and slightly sweeter than the orange tamale.
Lastly arrived a rather huge Pastel de Choclo; a cake made from corn that is sweet and usually served with a meat filling that includes raisins (S/29).
We were expecting just a slice of a much larger ‘pastel’, like you would in Tanta, however we found ourselves serving up individual portions from an immense ovenproof dish that had been brought to the table piping hot and smelling delicious. Very homely and, without a doubt, quintessential comfort food.
I also highly recommend the Papa Rellena (S/22) I had on a previous visit.
Mashed potato filled with ground meat and shaped into a potato form before frying to make a crispy outer layer. It’s actually one of the best that I have tasted here in Peru, and luckily you get two of them in the serving. If you’re feeling generous you can share them, or if not you can indulge in two of those fried and creamy wonders all to yourself!
There is also an option for S/28pp to lose yourself in the unlimited salad bar right in the centre of the restaurant, but I think with the all the dishes on offer on Panchita‘s menu, the salad gets a little forgotten.
Perhaps salad would have been a good option because by now we were feeling slightly full, although we were still excited for what was to come….
I had been told that the anticuchos here were excellent so I had ordered the chicken liver to try. Anticuchos are traditionally beef hearts skewered onto a stick to make what we English call a kebab (not the turkish kind…), but in this case there were different kinds of ‘organs’ like sweetbreads, or in my case liver, and then plain meat kebabs/skewers (also under the anticuchos heading) like chicken, swordfish and beef. These all came served with papas doradas (roasted, golden potatoes), large Peruvian corn and chilli sauces.
I ordered mine ‘three quarters’ which is more than I would normally order if it was a steak, but with chicken livers, I find, they soften more and more the longer they are cooked. These were cooked perfectly; soft and creamy almost like a pate. The potatoes were beautifully crispy on the outside, although not overly fluffy in the middle like a classic English roastie (which obviously cannot be beaten….). However, they were still a lovely accompaniment in terms of the difference in flavour and texture that they brought to the dish. This was the same with the corn, which gave lovely refreshing bursts of contrast to the rich pieces of liver.
I also ordered a small side of Tacu Tacu de Frejol Canario (S/19) – a dish made from rice and beans (in this case canary, or white kidney) cooked and fried together in a large patty. It came topped with a fried egg and a side of salsa criollo.
Very delicious in flavour, but not as moist as I would have hoped. It kind of crumbled instead of mashing together, which was disappointing as that softness is what I love about the texture of tacu tacu. Yes, maybe my eyes are bigger than my stomach but I literally cannot get enough of the stuff. Any excuse…
The two ladies I was dining with both ordered the ‘Pollito de Leche Entero‘ (a small, whole chicken roasted in the clay oven ), which came served in a cast iron skillet, with a side of garlic and herb roasted potatoes.
The chicken had succulent and juicy flesh, but a gorgeous golden skin which I believe is paramount in a roasted chicken, no matter the oven you cook it in.
This was a much larger dish than either of them had expected and a steal at only S/49 for such a huge serving. I think they wished that they had just ordered one to share!
However, this seems to be the theme with Panchita; large dishes big enough to share. So just make sure you know this before you order way too much food for the table to handle!
This was also true the last time I came, but luckily my friend and I shared the Tacu Pobre (a ‘huge’ favourite of mine – S/56), and we were glad we did, because the portion was very large! This particular tacu tacu was made from black beans and as is traditional with ‘a lo pobre’ was topped with a fried egg and fried plantains. The slight difference here was that it was also served with slices of ‘chuletas milanesa’ (breaded and fried pork chops or cutlets), when normally you would see a thinly fried steak or perhaps a chicken ‘milanesa’ instead. This made for an interestingly different dish and one I would definitely order again.
I do like this style of dining with large ‘ideal-for-sharing’ dishes in Panchita, although my waistline probably doesn’t agree, because they are perfect for tasting and trying dishes you may not necessarily order alone. You can make your dinner family-style and order 3 or 4 dishes and share amongst yourselves, making it a Peruvian feast for everyone. Traditional home cooked dishes served family style seems very appropriate anyway!
Sadly, there was absolutely no way that I could order a pudding, but I did notice the giant portions of picarones with a side of chancaca syrup that were flying out of the kitchen. A very popular option it would seem!
I highly recommend Panchita as a place to come if you are visiting Peru and want to try some local dishes, or if you are craving a home cooked meal without the hassle of cooking for yourself! Either way, Panchita will have something for you; tourist or native.
Panchita // Calle Dos de Mayo 298, Miraflores (a small amount of parking is available but there is valet parking too)
Their menu can be downloaded from their Facebook page.
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