Chance Cuisine Encounters in Cusco

The appetizer at Natural Terra. We didn’t get pictures of anything else because we were too busy eating delicious food. 
We wanted to splurge for dinner after our exhausting hike through Cusco’s trail of ruins, so we looked through Lonely Planet and Google reviews for huge portions and finally settled on Quinta Eulalia. It served traditional Peruvian food, including cuy (guinea pig) and grilled meats, and supposedly also boasted huge portions. Unfortunately it was also not open for dinner, something Stoytcho and I found out when we got there, tired and ravenously hungry.
The restaurant owner next door spotted us and invited us to his establishment, Natural Terra. After the llama ladies* and the encounter with the sheepherder woman earlier in the day, we were wary. But we came over to look at the menu and liked the entrees, while the prices were on par with our budget for the night.
The restaurant owner turned out to also be our chef and waiter, a one man show in Natural Terra’s tiny space. In perfect English, he introduced himself as Pierre and guided us through the menu and recommended what would be best based on the freshness of tonight’s ingredients. We ordered an appetizer and two mains, and he got to work in the kitchen.
While preparing our food, Pierre asked us about our travels in Peru. We explained our trip around the world to him, and he got really excited. It turns out Pierre was also a world traveler. He grew up in (I believe) Brussels, with a European father and Peruvian mother. He eventually returned to Peru with his mother and while he runs Natural Terra (and cooking classes in the morning), he has tried to get away and see the world whenever he can. “It’s good but difficult, “Pierre told us, “because every time I leave I have to close the restaurant for a few months, and then my rankings on websites falls.” We suggested he try becoming a traveling chef, like the amazing one we’d had on our Galapagos cruise, but he just shook his head. “No, I want to be free when I travel. You don’t really get time to see things if you’re working like that.”
Pierre brought us the appetizer first, a potato dish in a rich, creamy, and slightly spicy sauce. It was melt in your mouth delicious, and I’m pretty sure we would have licked the plate if the spoons hadn’t managed to get most of the sauce off of it already. Then came the alpaca saltado and lomo saltado, both grilled meats tossed with fresh vegetables. Full of umami flavor and grilled in a slightly sweet and salty sauce, both dishes were amazing after a day of hiking. Of the whole experience, all I can say is that Pierre’s cooking was perfect.
We saw Pierre the next morning while setting off for the Salkantay trek, and he recognized us and waved hello. We decided Natural Terra should be the restaurant where we celebrate the completion of the trek. But alas, it was not to be. When we did come back after the Salkantay, Natural Terra was closed (we tried visiting on two different days), and we didn’t see Pierre around town. Perhaps he’s off traveling on his own trip around the world.
P.S. If you do want to try Pierre’s cooking while in Peru, check out Natural Terra’s Facebook page. You should be able to reach him there and ask if he’ll be open.
*Who are the llama ladies? You’ll have to wait for a future post to find out!

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