Peruvian food has a personal and very treasured place in my heart. Having traversed the Inca Trail and tasted authentic Peruvian food on a daily basis (cooked by our exceptional porters who not only cooked but carried all staples), it was the time I was properly introduced to ceviché, quinoa and all sorts of tasty dishes that my hungry Inca-hiking belly swallowed up. It was also the time my mom and I, on a train ride from one side of Peru to the other, drank (one too many) Pisco sours because they’re just so damn good! When I heard a Peruvian restaurant was opening in Cape Town, with an allotted Pisco bar for our absolute drinking pleasure, I may have squealed once or twice with excitement.
Bernard and I visited Cape Town’s latest buzz word: Charango. A beautifully finished and tastefully decorated space that exudes cosmopolitan style (a little different to the Peru I might have seen and experienced, that’s for sure). We went as any keen Capetonian foodie might – ready to eat and savour and then pass criticism. The place, having only been open a week at the time, was already packed to the rafters. Were it not for our booking – on a Tuesday night – our table would not have been laid. New taste sensations are exciting, and when done properly, even more so. Although I think the owners missed the mark on authenticity (Peruvian food with a Japanese influence is not quite what you’ll find at an eatery in Lima) they have managed to execute on ambience, flavour and friendly efficiency that cannot be overlooked.
We started with one of my all time favourite starters: flamed edamame beans with chili, garlic and maldon (R45), paired with the zesty house ceviche, a dish of fish, butternut, corn, chili, coriander and aji limo leche de tigre (R65). Ceviche has fast grown in popularity in South Africa as more places have cottoned on to its excellence. Fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices with herbs and spices, it’s a light and zingy start to any meal. Choose from various versions of ceviche (‘new style’ ceviche with grapes and Asian slaw) or tiraditos made with variations of beetroot and jalapeños (R85). Interesting, if not quirky, but packed with flavour.
You absolutely cannot set foot in South Africa’s first pisco bar and walk out without trying a Pisco sours. A Peruvian cocktail neatly packed with Pisco, lime juice, xylitol, egg whites and finished off with a dribble of bitters (R45). Although South African Pisco is used instead of the real deal, the cocktails are a refreshing accompaniment to the food offering. Opt for the traditional recipe or Charango’s renditions: orange and buchu sours, chili and chocolate sours or rose and cardamom sours (all R50).
Open for lunch and dinner, make sure you book your table in advance – right now this place is pumping. Arrive early to sit at the bar while you wait for a table, order starters to share and then dig in to the Peruvian BBQ. It won’t be a disappointing night out, we can promise you that.