My favorite restaurant in Peru was Danica. Mind you, claiming the top spot on my list of restaurants in Peru is quite an achievement. Peru’s restaurant scene, particularly Lima’s, is crowded with contenders. Many others bring celebrity chef credentials, expensive decor, a selective wine and cocktail menu – just as in any metropolitan city, but for me, Danica had the dishes – both savory and sweet – that kept brought me back. Danica has two locations – one in San Isidro (the primary business district in Lima) and a second in a fairly quiet but accessible, predominantly residential street in Miraflores. I was unaware of the San Isidro location at the time, so I can only speak to the Miraflores location. Eclectic and small, it may lack the gravitas of a celebrity backing, but Danica never disappoints.
Danica deems its cuisine to be Peruvian-Italian fusion, which is totally apt. Their menu is comprised of creative pastas, risottos, and salads that highlight the traditional produce, seafood, and seasonings of Peru with plenty of cheese, pasta, and cream – not major players in traditional Peruvian cuisine.
My favorite (savory) dish was their rendition of lomo saltado risotto. Danica is not innovative in its conception – you’ll find the dish at restaurants throughout Peru, but their execution was superb. If you can’t handle salt, I wouldn’t recommend the dish (anywhere in Peru), but I love salt, so it was perfect for me. The rustic stir-fried beef and peppers broke the rich monotony of the creamy rice. I also had an amazing pumpkin ravioli in a mushroom broth. The pasta was delicate; the sweet pumpkin and mushrooms balanced one another. I didn’t leave a single bite. Other raviolis, steak, and seafood pastas were sampled by my colleagues, and not one had a single critical comment.
For me, the pasta and risotto was reason enough to eat at Danica; Danica’s desserts were reason to return. I think it’s a universal truth that when reality greatly exceeds expectations, it becomes much more memorable. Expect decent and receive excellent – it becomes a sublime memory. Expect excellent and receive just about excellent, and you’ll be satisfied, but not necessarily a point of future discussion.
The sublime experience is exactly what happened when I, unaware of the quality, did not order but tried a colleague’s dessert. I tried quite a few of Danica’s great desserts, but none compared. Knowing that my hyping this one up may detract from your future experiences, I’m almost hesitant to talk much about it, for fear of taking away the excitement of discovery for you.
Nevertheless, I’ll share it: a white chocolate and banana blondie served with homemade butter pecan ice cream and butterscotch sauce. I ended up eating most of my colleague’s dessert. Oops. It was so good I had to come back and order it again – this time to eat single-handedly. Going back to what I was talking about, the second time I ate this dessert, it was objectively as good as the first time, but the experience wasn’t unexpected, so it didn’t have quite the impact as that first bite. Still, that warm, cake-like banana blondie laced so thoroughly with white chocolate that it’s hard to believe those two flavors aren’t always paired together, moistened by the nutty, melting ice cream and accented with the intense homemade butterscotch is a food memory I won’t soon forget.