Restaurant Atahualpa is best described as a diamond in the rough. From the outside, this little place on Dardignac, a less-than-charming street in Barrio Patronato, appears nothing more than a hole in a cement wall painted lime green.
Photo by Mary Lide Parker
The décor inside is equally understated — plastic trees and flowers adorn the pale yellow walls, amongst 1970’s postcards of Peru. An old “Feliz Cumpleaños” banner has been hanging on the back wall for at least three months. Pale yellow and dark hunter green tablecloths cover the wooden tables, laid with humble yet charming settings. One companion made the comment “everything here is yellow” — including many of the main dishes.
At Restaurant Atahualpa, you feel the odd sensation that you could be sitting in someone’s house. Traditional Peruvian music plays through old, tiny speakers, adding to its homely feel. There will likely be only one or two other occupied tables, and, as a result, the service is attentive and personal.
José, the quiet and polite waiter that works there every day of the week, will bring you warm bread and a creamy green spinach sauce to start, and offer you the house wine — Misiones De Rengo Cabernet Sauvignon.
For what it lacks in excitement, Restaurant Atahualpa more than makes up for with the quality of its traditional dishes at very reasonable prices.
The creamy sauce starter, with bread, is delicious, though the color may appear offsetting at first. The rich, salty, garlic flavor will leave you licking the bowl clean. For lunch or dinner, try Arroz con Mariscos — rice with seafood, prepared with white wine and “the chef’s secret ingredients.” This colorful dish includes yellow rice, clams, squid and other “mariscos,” cilantro and subtle spices, as well as a garnish of freshly sliced onion and tomato. It is not spicy, but full of flavor — tangy, refreshing and also very filling. Ask for limón de pica and squeeze the little green limes over the contents of the entire dish for a zestier taste.
Portions are large and, unless you’ve got a big appetite, prepare for leftovers. If you care to share a plate, José will be more than happy to split the order at no charge. Arroz con Mariscos costs CP$3,200, and most other main dishes are in the CP$3,500 price range.
Depending on how ambiance plays a role in your dining choices, Restaurant Atahualpa could be either a cozy or unnerving dining experience. But if you simply enjoy delicious and authentic Peruvian food, at reasonable prices, it’s worth a visit.
Dardignac 246, Recoleta
Phone: +56 2 7354464
Monday–Sunday: 12:30–17:00, 19:30–23:00
Sundays and holidays: 12:30–18:00