When Ivo and I first moved to Barranco, we set up in a chic little apartment complex freshly built atop the local Sofa Café. Yes, Sofa Café is a café with sofas, and yes, that’s exactly as great as it sounds. For about a month, things were blissful. The sunlight glittered off the white walls and down into the open center garden. Songbirds sang in the mornings, doves cooed in the evenings. Occasionally our neighbors had really loud sex, but hey, knowing that the chick across the hall liked to be spanked seemed a fair tradeoff for not having to mow a lawn. But then… one warm morning… JACKHAMMERS.
For the next few months, from the crack of dawn till Ivo’s last angry phone call at about 7 pm demanding the receptionist tell the assholes next door to call it quits for the day, we were treated to the full, hellish cacophony of a soon-to-be steakhouse being built right next door. And I do mean literally right next door. After the flyers for the opening went out, Ivo and I emerged from our apartment, grumpy and scowling, and hulked our way about ten pavement squares to the right to judge the hell out of the new place.
La Cuadra de Salvador looked like a mini-fortress from the outside. As it damn well should’ve, we figured, after all the noise. A tall wall of bricks and fence posts surrounded the whole thing, so all you could see of it from the outside were just the tips of some bizarre, umbrella-like wooden contraptions and a massive, heavy black door with decorative iron hinges.
The valet guys were dressed sharp and on their game. A discrete word to their man inside, and the massive door swung open. “Crap.” I think we both simultaneously thought. “It’s beautiful.” Yup, it’s true. On its looks alone, La Cuadra was impossible to hate. As you walk into the open air dining area on the left, the tiled space opens up and gives you the first full view of these sort of these very modern, artistic interpretations of “trees”. Somewhat ironically, they’re situated in the courtyard of a stunning restored historical house that’s been converted to host larger parties of diners and private events. The sleek outdoor area is touched with just enough natural green though that everything comes together. If you go in the evening, the lanterns hanging at different heights from the wooden sculptures look like floating, golden lights.
Ivo and I have had a few meals at La Cuadra, both lunch and dinner. Like everywhere else we’ve been so far in Peru, La Cuadra seems a little perplexed when it comes to cheddar cheese: They’re on point, though, when it comes to other burger toppings. Those caramelized onions, oh baby. That’s not to mention their bleu cheese burger. If you go for lunch especially, the mini-burger sampler is where it’s at. Ivo is also nuts for one of the miscellaneous cow organ appetizers. It’s not my thing, but after so many years of exposure to “miscellaneous” meats, the only reason it’s not my thing is because it’s not spicy enough for me. Otherwise, it’s beautifully prepared and, according to Ivo, apparently French in origin (and doesn’t that make anything a little classier?).
Full disclosure though, the real reason we go to La Cuadra on the regular? The bar. The bar where you can murder a cold carpaccio or a round of who-cares-how-many-calorie sweet potato waffle fries while (if you go on the right nights) jazz performers turn the place into a sultry outdoor night club. The thirty-some foot, solid black marble bar overseen by guys who bartend as a career versus a job. Though we probably owe it partly to Ivo’s natural instinct for schmoozing, one of the head (I assume?) bartenders is especially open to a chat, if you want one. After about two to three decades in the biz – Ivo asked – he’s also got a bit of a penchant for just “making up” drinks on the spot. One especially rough afternoon Ivo requested a gin and tonic for himself and “something fruity” for the lady: the man busted out a gorgeous little red cocktail with at least three different fruits in it, two of which I can’t even name. Just in case you’re not a natural socialite though (read: not Ivo), my favorite fallback on the cocktail menu is the “Zamacueka”, which is every bit as fun to drink as it is to say.