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Old Peruvian favorite still satisfies

If your daily dose of rice and beans is getting old, maybe its time to set your sites south of the equator for some authentic Peruvian cuisine at the long-time San José favorite, Machu Picchu.

To kick off the gastronomic journey, patrons at Machu Picchu are greeted at the door by a giant stuffed-animal alpaca, but don’t let its soft fur and general adorableness distract you. The real Peruvian flavor is further inside.

Machu Picchu offers pretty much everything in the way of traditional Peruvian food.  The menu is chalk full of seafood, corn and plenty of potatoes. The drink menu also offers the imported Cuzqueña beer as well as the all-popular Peruvian cocktail, pisco sour. 

Made from grape brandy, bitters, egg whites and just a touch of cinnamon, Macchu Picchu’s pisco sour packs a punch. The tart and foamy drink goes down easy, and if you’re not careful you might find that you’ve finished your giant glass before the appetizers even arrive.

Macchu Picchu's Tiradito

Macchu Picchu’s Tiradito, a traditional dish prepared with raw sea bass, corn, parsley and cilantro in lemon juice and a yellow pepper sauce.

Lindsay Fendt

Already tipsy, we started with the typical raw seafood dish, Tiradito. Prepared with thick slices of sea bass doused in lemon juice and yellow pepper sauce, this chilled appetizer was a perfect launching point. The fish was salty and soft, balanced out with a smattering of crunchy corn and a kick of cilantro.

Next we chose what the menu called “shrimp stuffed avocado,” but what would be more accurately described as “shrimp and avocado in sauce.”  Though misleading and not really in-step with traditional recipes, the deliciousness of the warm, creamy sauce made up for the misnomer.

While the appetizers were delicious, nothing could have prepared us for the main attraction. Our waiter brought out the seafood-packed Parrillada Macchu Picchu in flaming glory – literally, it was on fire – and I could feel my stomach begin to stretch at the site of its sheer mass.

The Parillada is a no-frills kind of meal, but a fancy presentation isn’t really necessary with a colossal mountain of seafood and grilled meat: The taste does the talking. The amount and variety of sea souls on the platter were almost too numerous to name. 

The shrimp were huge, the potatoes were crispy and the octopus and calamari were an ideal amalgam of spongy and juicy.  At the bottom of the platter, the sea bass seemed to soak up all of the juices from the top layer, leaving a deliciously soggy filet. The steak and chicken also did not disappoint, making the perfect compliment to the heaps of seafood.

With the massiveness of our main course, we were unable to find even a shred of space for dessert. But for those who opt for a more reasonably-sized entrée selection, Macchu Picchu has several Peruvian desserts, including one of the nation’s favorites: a caramel-like merengue called suspiro limeño.

Dessert or no, the heaping portions at Macchu Picchu are sure to put you into a food coma, but no need to worry. The restaurant’s friendly staff will be happy to call you a taxi, and the front entryway alpaca will be there to see you out.

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