Rafael Osterling (www.rafaelosterling.com) is a Lima culinary name on par with Gaston Acurio and a growing number of restaurants to match the celebuchef.Satellites of his Rafael restaurant in Lima have opened this year in Bogota and Puerto Madero (Buenos Aires) amid lots of hype, so his Cuzco restaurant, Bistrot 370, has opened relatively under the radar. If you were in Cuzco and weren’t looking for it, you probably wouldn’t even know it was there. While I new it was opening sometime this year, it wasn’t until I happened to look at a stylish menu posted in the street to realize that it was already opened (the official opening was in mid December 2008).
The small restaurant is Osterling’s tiniest by far and it’s on the second level of Calle Triunfo that leads up towards San Blas from the Plaza de Armas. Everything is in one narrow brick walled room. Upon entering the bar is to the right and a dozen tables with white tablecloths to the left. A large gold mirror hangs at the dining end, while large windows make up much of one wall and look out on to the street. While it is not over the top, it is the most elegant thing in Cuzco.
While Osterling’s Rafael in Lima serves mostly Criollo and Peruvian coastal cuisine touched with splashes of the Mediterranean that the chef learned in the kitchens of Europe years before and has become known for, this restaurant is decidedly New Andean. Most of the ingredients are organic and come from within the Sacred Valley (quinoa, trout, sauco, crayfish, aji peppers).
You can live alone on the starters here. There are plenty to choose from like a generous sized Trout Tartar or the chefs take on the Peruvian classic Pulpo al Olivo, which braises the plump octopus with chimichurri and adds a purple sauce of kalamata olives. On to the main courses. The Lomo Saltado is their signature dish. The Chinese Peruvian fusion dish is bathed in Pisco and dark beer and works quite well. Instead of a typical Aji de Gallina, Osterling changes it around a bit in his Aji de Camarones. Instead of chicken, he adds prawns. Instead of a boiled egg, he adds fried Cordoniz hens eggs, along with Serrano ham. The dish is served in a bowl, with rice on the side rather than the entire concoction sitting on the rice. Trout in a Madras Curry is another hit.
The rest of the menu doesn’t disappoint. The wine list, mostly Argentinean and Chilean, is well chosen. Cocktails, especially their Bistrot Sour that combines Maracuya and coca leaves in the form of a Pisco Sour, are creative. Desserts are all made fresh and there is a fine selection for how small the restaurant is.
Calle Triunfo 370
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.