In Cusco there is a humble yet elegant Japanese restaurant called Kintaro. It is found in the colonial center of the city, Plateros 334, second floor. The staff assists an international clientele from Monday to Saturday 12-2:30 for lunch and dinner 6 and after.
To get there you enter a colorful passageway into a handicraft market. About ten steps inside, on the right hand you can see a door of deliberately aged wood, brown in color with Japanese script. You cross in and find wooden stairs leading up through a passageway lined with beige cloth. At the end of the stairs you enter the restaurant.
A large room awaits, decorated with harmonious modesty and divided into two spaces, one with tables and chairs and the other with pillows and tables close to the ground. You choose which you prefer, whether to sit on the chairs or on the pillows like you see in Japanese movies.
A young woman from Cusco came up, bringing David and I the menu. She greeted us courteously and gave us a welcoming smile. She left for a few minutes and then came back with small, rustic, pottery cups colored stressed black and filled with a hot tea of toasted barley.
It was so comforting and softened with its flavor my whole palate. While we looked at the menu and enjoyed the tea the señorita came back with a deep, Japanese spoon for our soup, chopsticks and a fork just in case. She laid them on the table delicately making an elegant presentation.
David ordered for us a chickenkatu roll and for himself a teriyaki don while I ordered curry udon. We waited for some 10 minutes after having ordered. While other diners received their dishes the room was filled with enticing scents. Though it looked simple, the wooden tables contrasted with the window frames and the doors of intentionally stressed wood and, with the scents, became elegant.
While we waited, David told me that in Japanese food they pay a lot of attention to the presentation to create an esthetic delight of vegetables, rice and some meat. When the chickenkatu roll came out, it was wonderfully arrayed on the plate and a delight for the eyes. Each piece contained a portion of sushi rice wrapped by seaweed, what we call cochayuyo here, and in the center a small piece of a breaded chicken cutlet. The combination of the sushi with the strong flavored wasabi and a bit of soy sauce was so exquisitely flavored it showed you a whole world.
Miso soup came after the sushi and it was also spectacular. It looked flat and flavorless, compared with out Cusco soups, but it tasted flavorful yet delicate. It was made from a fermented soy product called miso
By the time our main dishes arrived, I had fallen in love with Japanese cuisine. However, when I tried my curry udon I became even more converted. It was spicy but delicious, with a combination of carrot, ground sesame seed, green onions, and the thick noodles that floated in the soup. They all gave it a beautiful touch that was unique for me and very tasty. It was perfectly balanced for my taste.
The salad they served us was on first glance looked simple: lettuce, tomato, toasted sesame seed with a dressing of soy sauce and sesame oil. It looked cute and fresh, but in the mouth it was spectacular. You could distinguish each flavor separately and note their combination.
After having enjoyed these well decorated and elegant dishes, Kintaro had won me over. Eating there was a enjoyable and pleasurable experience. The attention may have been a bit slow, but after I had eaten I was left with a big smile on my lips.