The slaves were excellent cooks and contributed substantially to Peru’s unique Creole cuisine. Blacks are still regarded as among the country’s finest cooks, which is a good reason to go to a restaurant in Lima called El Rincon que no Conoces.
The proprietor is a black woman, Teresa Izquierdo Gonzales. In 1978, Izquierdo opened a modest sweet shop. As she added more substantial fare, the sweet shop expanded into a restaurant. Today, it is a top destination for Creole cuisine.
The name means “the corner you don’t know.” But the restaurant, which is located in the district of Lince, is far from unknown. On Wednesdays, when a Creole buffet replaces the regular menu, the tables are full.
As you enter, the restaurant appears deserted. Stairs at the back lead to the airy second-floor room where the buffet takes place.
The first time I went, friends introduced me to Izquierdo, a portly woman who walks with a cane. That day, the food, served from heavy earthen pots, included olluquito (an Andean potato) with dried llama meat; cilantro rice with duck breast; fish escabeche with panca chile sauce; stuffed peppers and potatoes; yellow chiles filled with tuna; carapulca, which is a combination of dried potatoes, pork and chicken; frejoles, spelled with an initial e in Peru, and many other dishes.
Unfortunately, I was under the weather that day and could eat only with my eyes. The next time, I made up for that with plate after plate of delicious food.
Highlights included ocopa (potato) with a sauce of peanuts, chile, and a mint-like herb called huacatay; a stuffed red rocoto pepper; marinated pig’s feet, dried potatoes with an interesting smoky taste; turkey pipian with rice; the beef dish seco de carne, the traditional chicken dish, aji de gallina; spicy tacu tacu, which is a combination of beans and rice browned in a skillet, and creamy canario beans spiked with chile.
As I sat down, I was brought a plate of what I thought were two small dinner rolls. These turned out to be light, tender empanadas filled with beef.
A pisco sour comes with the buffet, and you can order additional drinks such as cinnamon-scented chicha morada, the purple corn drink, which goes well with highly seasoned food.
These are excellent, but the one not to miss is picaron, a bunuelo-like deep-fried pastry accompanied by rich, dark syrup made with chancaca, which is unrefined sugar. Although the yeast dough contains squash and sweet potato, it is amazingly light.
If you are not in Lima on a Wednesday, go to El Rincon anyway. The regular menu offers a wide choice of Creole dishes, and there are specials each day, all cooked to Izquierdo's fine taste.
El Rincon que no Conoces, Bernardo Alcedo 363, Lince, Lima, Peru. Tel: 471-2171.The restaurant is open for lunch only. The Creole buffet takes place each Wednesday.