By Lauren Barragan
To travel is to experience a taste of other cultures, foreign to one’s own. At Como Sur we believe that taste is more literal than not. To travel is to eat. It’s to explore the local cuisine and ingredients of a region and experience it in whatever capacity it is intended to be. In a place as deeply rooted in its history and agriculture, as Cusco, one should be prepared from the get go to see the food from a perspective as sacred as the valley it rests near: the farmer.
At Senzo restaurant, modestly tucked away in the Palacio Nazarenas hotel, they have captured all of the essence of the land they are engulfed by. The hotel itself, once a convent for the Beatas of the Order of Barefoot Nazarenas, has the stories of these women so deeply embedded in the walls, one can feel the history upon walking through the doors. The hotel honors the concept that Senzo strives to make as the focus, which is keeping everything local and as fresh as possible, by hosting an herb and vegetable garden in their courtyards. Guests and patrons of the restaurant can walk through and see, touch, smell, even taste the herbs that are literally being picked for their thoughtful and delicately created meals.
Senzo’s chef, Virgilio Martínez, held one major concept close to his heart while structuring the very base of this restaurant: Cusco. In a city visited by people from all over the world to witness all of its natural beauty, Martínez knew he wanted to share all that Cusco’s land has to offer in the purest of forms. As a result he has established a fine dining experience that is as far away from feeling pretentious as anyone has ever been able to do here. The bottom line in keeping a meal this perfectly executed, down to earth, is that every single ingredient used in Senzo is locally sourced within the Andean terrain. Nothing is imported into the restaurant and everything grown is the product of love and respect for the local land, as well as the beautiful relationship Martínez and his kitchen staff have established with every grower of the products they utilize at Senzo.
Some of the exquisite dishes on the menu include a black quinoa ceviche, served with a Tiger’s Milk sauce that creates such a bright, summery flavor to perfectly contrast the warm and earthy hints from the quinoa itself. Also worth tasting while there is trout dish which is plated as a work of art, that Picasso himself would have given a standing O for. The delicate slivers of fish vortex together on the plate, drawing your eyes to an almost army-like appearance of onion, yellow peppers and cushuro, marching off the plate in perfect formation. The cushuro, a local algae, literally tastes like a breath of sea air on your tongue. Even the desert stayed true to the theme and title of the tasting menu, “Diverse Terrains”. The restaurant served up an ice cream that had been infused with palo santo wood served on a bed of toasted quinoa, as well as a palate cleansing flight of bites that included Eucalyptus infused white chocolate.
Senzo is, without a doubt, a tour of the local land from start to finish. With every bite, you can not only taste but feel the passion that lay within the man who harvested the ingredients with care, all the way to the chef that has created each pleasurable bite with both the farmer and the diner in mind. And with a land so filled with unique flavors, above and below the earth, that is literally called sacred, anyone who has passion for food must get to Cusco to be a part of the excursion Senzo takes you on.