Panchita is the latest Gastón Acurio creation in Lima. The emphasis here is on traditional Criollo dishes, which are served in large portions. They call Panchita an anticucheria, though that might be a bit of a stretch. While in general I like most of what Acurio puts out, it is hard to get an honest review of most of his restaurants because most everyone in Lima is so blinded by his star power that they accept whatever is put on their plate for gold. He makes Peruvian food that is acceptable for the international crowd and the restaurants can stand on their own in any city in the world. That said, I almost always have a good meal at any of Acurio’s restaurants.
This goes for Panchita as well. The menu is large and almost every standard criollo dish is there. Beef and pork in many forms makes up most of the menu. A wood burning oven slow roasts much of the meat. Criollo cuisine is, in general, rather simple and vary only moderately by region across Peru. Usually the best takes on these dishes are at small huariques along the coast or even stalls in the street which have withstood the test of time and serve their generational recipes unchanged for decades. Acurio makes the dishes internationally friendly and serves them in above avrgae size portions, though they have the price to go with them.
For example, the tequenos, an excellent finger food, come out like a sort of like a trendier, Peruvian spring roll. Each one is stuffed with a sort of ground up criollo favorite filling like Lomo Saltado or Aji de Gallina. The Anticucho’s are good and come with three sauces to dip and are bigger, but they’re not as good as on the street from Tia Grima. Tallarin Saltado is good and comes in a massive family style dish, but not as good as from a standard chifa. Lomo Saltado, ribs, slow roasted prok, arroz con pato (rice with duck)…all good, they just don’t compare with the street. There’s even a burger on the menu.
The cocktail menu, like Gaston’s other endeavors, is superb. There is a long list of new Pisco based cocktails, like the Chicha Colada (a pisco based pina colada that adds chicha morada, or purple corn juice). The restaurant space is big and open with a wood fired oven taking up one side. It’s clean, casual, appealing, and friendly. Everything is good and I’ll definitely come back, but for my favorite Criollo recipes I’ll hit the street, which, by having seen his excellent show Aventuras Culinarias, I’d say Acurio does too.
Av. Dos de Mayo 298
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.