This vulture is your friend
Claim to fame: The legendary chocolate cake, large enough to feed a family
Reason to go: Surprising food with a side of feel-good
To look out for: In a nod to sustainability, 4000 colorful, recycled bottles hang from the ceiling.
It’s fun, it’s casual, it’s delicious. Cosme is James Berckemeyer’s brainchild, a neighborhood favorite in posh San Isidro. Housed in a former greenhouse, the restaurant has been styled as an homage to recycling, its logo is inspired by the gallinazo, a local vulture and symbol of Lima that is crucial for the environment. Bathrooms are plastered with blown-up aerial pictures of water management plants. But don’t expect to be lectured on global warming or food waste. This is a non-fussy local joint. Staff is helpful and down-to-earth, and the vibe is laidback. And while the menu looks elementary enough, the flavors are everything but simple.
A tiradito swimming in a delicate leche de tigre hides a bed of silky avocado slivers. Fried quinoa sprinkles provide a nice crunch. The ceviche comes with an unexpected twist: it’s both hot and cold; the fish is lightly fried and presented with a spicy leche de tigre you’ll want to spoon until you see the bottom of the bowl. If the grilled sweetbreads are on the menu, be sure to order them. The arroz Cosme is a fine example of chef Berckemeyer’s skillful inventiveness. It looks like an adventurous mixture of techniques and textures but the combination of rice, beans, pork, fried plantain and ají topped with a poached egg has the unmistakable ring of a simple, yet super tasty home-cooked meal. A curried catch of the day uses Peruvian ajíes to spice up a precisely cooked fish. A veal rib served over lentils is an explosion of flavors thanks to patient cooking and a bit of serrano ham.
The bar is delightful and unpretentious (no mixology braggadocio here), yet still perfectly intriguing. Homemade sodas, flavored with everything from lemongrass to cardamom, are popular, maybe because guests are encouraged to spike them with pisco. The caleta (whisky and ginger beer) will arrive tucked in a brown bag as if to recreate the mischief of having a bit of forbidden fun.
Desserts deserve special attention. You might wisely choose a home made ice-cream sandwich or a lúcuma fondant but the the limón de convento (a deconstructed lemon pie inspired by a colonial dessert) will probably be a favorite. The chocolate cake is expressly oversized so that visitors will end up taking home the delicious remains. A sweet souvenir of a lovely meal.