Despite my food sensitivities or wanting to stay in my comfort zone, I always try to immerse myself in a culture’s cuisine when I travel. And while Cusco may have some of the best Peruvian food in the country, it’s a luxurious French restaurant that stands out among the rest. If you’re looking for a fine dining restaurant to celebrate a special occasion or simply seek reprise from all of that guinea pig, then you should definitely make a reservation at Le Soleil Restaurant.
Part of the reason we decided to travel to Peru was because of the Inti Raymi Festival. Inti Raymi, or the festival of the sun, is celebrated in Cusco every year on my birthday which falls on the winter solstice.
And while I definitely wanted to enjoy a fancy dinner for my birthday, I also wanted to dine somewhere that wouldn’t be insanely crowded or overpriced. Insert Le Soleil Restaurant, a French restaurant that seemed like the perfect birthday dinner.
Arthur Marcinkiewicz, owner of Le Soleil in Cusco, hails from France and like the rest of us, he fell in love with Cusco immediately. Art was a successful businessman prior to his life in Peru. He had a successful and prosperous career that took him around the world. Instead, his heart yearned for something different–a trait many of us wanderlusters can relate to.
Arthur longed to bring something different to Cusco. A culinary experience that would stand out amongst Cusco’s standard Peruvian cuisine. His goal was to add to Cusco’s repertoire of fine dining options to the visitors and locals of Cusco. With the help of Art’s vision, Le Soleil Restaurant’s guests usually fall into these two types: tourists that seek a break from corn or chicharrones and individuals who long to experience France without having to actually go there.
Lucky for us, Le Soleil Restaurant is located on Calle San Agustin, a 5-minute walk from Novotel Cusco where we were staying. The colorful Incan flags and stone walls had been programed into our heads for days. However upon entering Le Soleil, it was like we entered into another world. The look was undeniably French with its minimalist design and white linen tables. Still, the restaurant paid homage to its home with Spanish-colonial wooden accents.
As we had hoped, the restaurant was fairly empty this particular evening. Not because of the quality (it is the top dining experience on TripAdvisor after all). But because most were enjoying Inti Raymi at home or in the streets.
It might have been my birthday, but we opted out of cocktails and French wine. Mostly because of Cusco’s high altitude (which symptoms worsen with alcoholic beverages). We also had an early next morning visiting Machu Picchu.
So instead of shots of vodka, we had shots of pumpkin soup! The chef treated us to specialty appetizers: hot, pumpkin coulee served with an almond crostini and topped with Andean flowers. The fruity bite of the crostini complimented the savory crunch and pumpkin perfectly.
Naturally, we couldn’t go to a French restaurant without some escargot. 3 pieces of savory and buttery snails apiece served with fresh bread really transported us to a small bistro in France. It was only until after dinner that we remembered we were actually in Peru.
My husband enjoyed the Canard a l’orange, a famous French duck dish. The duck was served with gratin dauphinois (aka potatoes au gratin) and sautéed fruits and vegetables. It was an excellent combination of sweet and savory with the duck being very tender.
I’m usually not a lamb fan, but when I saw that the lamb shank cooked sixteen hours, I knew it would be divine. The additional smoked lentil puree and pear puree with lavender sold me too. Art instructed me that each sauce had its own very distinct taste. A bite of lamb with either sauce produced one, distinct flavor. But pair the two and it was an entirely different tasting experience!
Finally, we finished our evening with their specialty crème brûlée. The dessert list includes chocolate fondant, lemon pie, mousse and a fruit salad, but the crème brûlée was their crème de la crème so to speak. Served with after-dinner tea, it was the perfect piece of light sweetness after a decadent dinner.
Our 2-hour trip to France amidst the city of Cusco might not be what you imagine when you plan a trip to Peru. But our luxurious evening here was one of the highlights of our 5-day stay.
If Cusco isn’t on your itinerary, Art is opening up a sister French restaurant in Lima! Be sure to stay tuned so that you can enjoy this French cuisine in either of these two, historical parts of Peru.