Thursday, January 22, 2015

Kusikuy

Kusikuy means happiness in the Quechuan indigenous language of Peru, and is also the name of a restaurant along the steps towards San Cristobal Church in Cuzco, Peru.But more intriguing is that they have cuy on the menu.  What is cuy? It is guinea pig, my friends, and a common protein eaten in this region of the world.  Of course, Keith had to try it.


Mixed reports online listed different opening times.  We arrived a little after 12pm and found the doors locked.  Since we had spent the whole morning walking up and down various stone steps, I was pooped, and suggested we just sit and wait.  About 45 minutes later, the doors opened and a stout woman with a large smile escorted us inside.  The interior was gorgeous with warm woods everywhere and windows to an interior courtyard that let all the natural sunlight in. You could see steps leading upstairs to the second floor, which was the residence of this family-owned restaurant.

Our server spoke little English, but right away mentioned if we wanted to order the cuy, to let her know now as it takes about an hour to prepare.  So, without hesitation, Keith said "Si! Al horno, por favor."  (Yes! Roasted, please.)  She smiled and scurried away to tell the cook.


She returned right away with menus and suggested we order drinks and an appetizer, since we'd be waiting a while until the cuy was ready.  Keith ordered a local beer, while I chose the limonade - the famous Peruvian sweet lime drink that I'd fallen in love with.  We also decided to order the Avocado Salad as a starter.  Large fresh chunks of avocado were piled on a plate with diced carrots, peppers, and slices of tomatoes.  It was topped with a dollop of mayonnaise, and served with fresh salsas and local sauces on the side.  This salad was quite tasty, and refreshing to have some non-starchy vegetables for a change.  We ate it with some fresh baked bread slices, and were glad to have something in our stomachs.



When the hour was up, our server returned with Keith's cuy al horno (roasted guinea pig) all dressed up in fanfare. "For pictures!," she said. I was a bit shocked to see the whole animal - feet, claws, teeth, and all! We snapped our shots while she waited, and then she took the plate away to chop up the critter for Keith. She brought the plate back with the head cut off and the body cut into two pieces. Keith expected it to be cut up a little more but was happy to dig in as is. The owner soon came over to greet us, and could tell we were foreigners.  He gave Keith instructions by miming and proclaiming: "Eat with hands! Dip - sauce."


Keith rolled up his sleeves and went to town. The meat tasted like a leaner rabbit, with little substance around the ribs. Most of the meat was in the thigh area. The skin was very tough - thicker than pig skin. The flavor was ok, with a little gamy aftertaste. The extra sauces helped to liven it up. The cuy was served with fresh giant Inca corn on the cob, potato croquettes, and a meat-stuffed pepper called Rocoto Relleno (this version was better than the one Keith ate earlier in the week in Aguas Calientes). It was a large portion of food - enough for two people to share.  I did not have a pet guinea pig, but I did have pet hamsters when I was a child. No way could I eat my poor childhood friends! 


For my main lunch - I was not as adventurous as Keith, so I ordered the Anticucho de Pollo - grilled chicken kebabs.  They were a generous portion of tender white meat heavily seasoned with their local chili powder.  It was served with potato croquettes and pasta salad. 

The owner came back to check on us and was shocked, and almost proud, to see Keith's plate of picked bones.  He smiled and asked how we learned of his restaurant.  We told him we read about it on the internet.  His face lit up, and he started speaking more quickly in Spanish.  My limited translation lead me to conclude that he was happy to hear that, as they don't get as much business as other restaurants located along the main plaza area of Cuzco, so just recently started advertising online with travel sites.  It was good feedback for him to hear that his strategy was working.

Hopefully, this post will aid in Kusikuy retaining business from travelers, as it is definitely a worthwhile stop.  Service was friendly, the food was fresh and unique, and the ambience was charming.  Just be sure to allot yourself enough time if you plan to order the cuy.   Not sure this would be a regular meal if we lived in Peru but it was worth the experience and the story.

Total Rating: 4.23
Food: 4.5, Price: 3.5, Service: 4, Ambience: 4.5, Accessibility: 4

What I ate:
Avocado Salad

Anticucho de Pollo
grilled chicken kebabs

Plus Keith ate:
Cuy al horno
roasted guinea pig


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