A Palestinian-run joint that is more than just an upscale kebab shop, Khalifa will have you licking the plate clean, especially if you order one of their fantastic platters: almond or lentil rice in perfectly small quantities with kibbeh, warrak, tabbuleh and baba ganoush, high quality shawarma chicken and lamb and thin khubz bread. It is all pretty authentic, and the decor – Quranic verses translated on Arab designs – and music – devotional chanting – make for a mix of religious clientele jostling with the indifferent.
By far the most famous restaurant in Bogotá, Andrés Carne de Res is a huge space in Chia, on the outskirts of the city, which has also opened up a more accessible branch downtown, simply called Andrés DC. The decor is wild, with all manner of paraphernalia hanging from the ceilings of the multi-floored building. There are assorted characters that dress up and potter around, poking or staring at customers. The hostesses move around purposefully with their clipboards and earpieces, juggling VIP expectations with the hoi polloi. We never actually got a proper table after waiting more than two hours (with a reservation made an hour or so before that), so settled on our lot – a small table on the side of the bar, with limited views and very much removed from the action.
The vegetarian platter was excellent, cocktails are supercharged, and music is loud – but Andrés CR is famous as a steakhouse first and foremost. The selection of dishes, sides and beverages is the hugest I’ve seen of any restaurant in the world, and the menu can be daunting; you may end up ordering according to your budget and appetite as prices are eye-wateringly high. Go in a group, and take the opportunity to hit the dancefloor, especially if you’ve paid the $10 cover charge on weekends just for the privilege of entering.
Conjoined with a Rasta boutique, Nativo serves up wholesome vegetarian food, with just enough meat dishes to count on one of Mickey Mouse’s hands. Their veggie choices, however, are numerous and can be difficult to choose from. We tried the veggie burger ($3.50) and the Rasta crepe ($4) in which the pesto flavours and grilled mushrooms stand out; ingredients are fresh and herbs are liberally used to lift the combos. Artisanal beers are a good accompaniment, courtesy of the Bogota Brewery Company. Reggae and Roots music emanate from the speakers in the shop, and service is quick and friendly – watch out for the owners’ cute kids running around.
Famous for serving anticuchos (skewered beef hearts), rachi (stomach lining), choncholí (intestines) as well as regular chicken breast, the Doña has a famous recipe to keep the lines long and the crowds coming. The secret is in the seasoning, an Afro-Peruvian garlic-pepper with ají panca. The portions are generous on flimsy plastic plates accompanied by soft potato sancochada and some cooked choclo(maize).
These traditionally undesirable internal organs and cuts were components of peasant and slave food, of course; local historians trace the anticuchos to the neighborhood surrounding the Acho bullring in Lima where animal organs were salvaged in a knacker’s yard like car parts. These streetside stalls are now famous stops on the gastro-tourist’s map, and even Anthony Bourdain made his way here a little while ago too.
Pay for your food opposite the large grill in the tiny cubby-office and give your ticket to the barbecue-queen; a couple of desserts are also available.
Other notable anticuchos spots:
Doña Pascuala: corner of calle Santa Rosa & Angamos, Surquillo.
Doña Delia: corner of calle Héctor Velarde & Juan Torciguera.
La tía Grimanesa: Junction of calles Enrique Palacios & 27 de Noviembre, Miraflores.
Absolutely excellent Indian food in a beautifully lit dining space run by Jay Patel, one of the only Gujaratis in the city. This is not a tribute to the menu of a typical British-Indian curry house, like Guru just down the road; dishes here are more varied than that. Prices are certainly high due to its unique position, but if you stick to the tasty vegetarian dishes and remember that portions are quite generous, you can keep that bill on the lower side of S/.80 per person.
For exquisite tapas and larger meals with a fine selection of tipples, Sophie Bistro is an atmospheric wine bar with its roots firmly in Spain. The music and lighting is just right, with friendly personal service and a huge menu spanning all types of Creole and Spanish favourites. Classy local clientele and a formidable chef make this a place to drop into if you need an intimate date night in Miraflores. Clink clink.
Inside the beautiful colonial building of the Dédalo Arte shop is a spacious courtyard that feels like another world: garden sculptures and plants are sold here, along with some excellent coffee, cakes and pastries. The café con leche is as good as the cappuccino, and we had a fresh little carrot cupcake with cream-cheese icing. Unmissable, and only a hundred metres or so from the Barranco coastline.