The Realities of Daily Life in Lima

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  • Indirect communication: that is the modus operandi here. As a direct person, I sometimes get tired of the indirect route. I like to ask upfront and not have to guess what is being asked. To the locals, being up front is rude. The twain shall never meet.
  • Formality: The Limenos are formal people. They like things to be formal. It ties in with being “respectful” which I think might be more important to them than being “nice.” They like to dress formally. They like formal. Have I made it clear? If you can add more gold and more formality, the better.
  • Class: Yes, they have classes here. Yes, there’s racism. This is not unique to Lima. I still find it annoying to watch people treating others differently simply based on where they live, or their accent, or what job they have. (Let me get off my soapbox… aaaaagh…)
  • Time: There is the standard comment that people are “late” for everything. If the invitation says 8 p.m., then people will show up at 9:30. But, time, in another sense that I find culturally different, is that Peruvians are night owls. Therefore many things are not open until 10 a.m. and some businesses aren’t even open for lunch on Sundays until 2 p.m.! Also, many restaurants close for a few hours in the middle of the day. Sometimes I like to eat dinner at 5:30 p.m., and there are very few dinner restaurants open at that time.
  • Paying upfront/business deadlines: I recently had a reminder of this cultural lesson. I like to pay for things upfront so when I had something custom made at a tailor shop, I paid upfront. This was wrong because it meant that the shop no longer had any incentive to get the job done or get it done in a timely manner. To top if off, when I got the item, it was not done properly.
  • Making a scene: Peruvians, due to their preference for indirect communication, do not like it when people make a scene. I told the tailor (see above) that I thought he had terrible service, that I did not want to hear his excuses, and that I would not recommend him to others. This was a scene. But, the tricky part here is… that they were embarrassed for me that I lost my cool. Not embarrassed for themselves for their sucky service. So it’s a no-win situation. One has to simply use the “withhold payment” method (see above) to ensure that you get what you paid for (or will pay for.).
  • Calling: Peruvians love to use the telephone. They call to double check that the email went through, they call to make sure that what one ordered online is actually what one wants, they call to tell one that things are not going to be ready on time, they call to tell one that things are ready on time, they call, call, call, call… and call. Eventually, you will too.
  • The weather: In winter, there is no sun. I’m not sure one gets used to it. One gets through it. This may be one of the things that is unique about Lima (maybe also San Francisco, Seattle…)
  • The air pollution and food poisoning: The air is bad. It’s clammy and almost everyone gets colds related to the clammy air or suffers from other lung related issues. It’s worse closer to the coast. Food poisoning or “intestinal” issues are sort of surprising considering the reputation of the Lima as a foodie city. But, it happens, and it’s not special to Lima. And it happens to the locals too.
  • Security: Yes, it’s a big city of nine million. (The photo is actually from a place south of Lima, but I like the security measure for one’s purse. Or is it for the chair?) What I miss most is being able to wear a backpack in peace. If you wear a backpack on your back, and you walk in a crowd, you will most likely find that the outermost pockets have been picked. That’s just the way it is. It might not happen. But it might. Also, when paying by credit card, don’t let the card leave your sight. Most restaurants will bring the machine to you, but once in a while, you will need to go to the machine (usually at the bar or cashier).
  • Traffic: Every city seems to want to win the “worst traffic” award. Lima too. Yes, the traffic is bad. It is what it is. I still think that the traffic in Dhaka wins for badness. It is rare in Lima that you will sit in one place for 90 minutes, swarmed by 500,000 bicycle rickshaws, all while being eaten by mosquitoes. In Lima, as the locals say, “se mueve” or “it moves” — which is true. The traffic is bad in Lima, but it does actually move, even if it’s only at five miles per hour. Glad that I could end this on a positive note.

 

Another time, I’ll write about the best things about living in Lima.

Top Ten Restaurants in Lima

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The artichokes at Jeronimo.

Six months ago, I posted my top ten restaurants in Lima (that one was based mainly on the insider knowledge. Shout-out to her!), but as I’ve been going to other restaurants on my own, here is an updated list. It is still based on the following: good food, good service–every time, all the time. I’m highly allergic to places that are so famous that it’s impossible to get a reservation (or use a reservation system that puts me right off my dinner). My list is of places that serve Peruvian and “international standard” food (as in, everyone serves a green salad). So, to the list!

  1. El Pan de la Chola (in the “international standard” cafe/bakery category): Still at number one, despite being a “bakery and sandwich shop.” Consistently delicious. Good service. Every time. They now have salad, and they have wine and beer. Try it for nighttime and enjoy the completely hipster vibe.
  2. Cosmé (also in the “international standard” but they also serve ceviche and other Peruvian dishes, and at night!): Still the unknown place I take out-of-town visitors. Still love the red cabbage salad. Best “secret” place as they seem to do zero publicity. Open at 6 p.m.
  3. Jeronimo (In the “international standard” category and world class): Yes, they use an annoying reservation system, but, go right when they open up at lunch, or sit at the bar. This was the first restaurant opened by Moma Adrianzen, who has since brought Chinga Tu Taco and Frida to the Lima food scene. Jeronimo is a world-class restaurant of the caliber that you would find in London, San Francisco, New York, Melbourne, etc.
  4. BEST NEWCOMER: Mérito (Venezuelan chefs making fusion Venezuelan-Peruvian): Straight in at number four. They have only been open for six months (it’s been an active six months) and their menu is fairly small. Delicious food. Great service. Only one dish was not perfection. The longest yuca fries I’ve seen in a long time. Lots of pea shoots pepper almost all the dishes.
  5. La Preferida (a classic Peruvian-Italian bodega, with game!): It would probably be number one but it’s not open for dinner.
  6. La Mar (Gaston Acurio’s cevicheria): Only open for lunch, till 5 p.m.
  7. El Mercado (Rafael Osterling’s cevicheria): Only open for lunch. Go at 12:15 p.m. and wait in line. The shrimp mini burger is superb.
  8. La Picanteria (a cevicheria): Only open for lunch. Located in the “some day I’ll be the hip area of town” Surquillo, just two blocks behind the central market.
  9. Osso: (Also, “international standard”, and yes, as event though it’s a steakhouse, they have vegetarian options and not just salad.) The location in San Isidro is so large that you will most likely get a table, even at night.
  10. Osaka (a Peruvian-Japanese “Nikkei” place with a uber-hipster locale in San Isidro): The tuna with foie gras keeps Osaka on the list (although I wish they would turn on the light — the mood is clearly wasted on me).
  11. La Isolina (brought to you by the sons of La Red cevicheria): Serves old-fashion home recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  12. La Red (the cevicheria that started it all): The legend. Only open for lunch.
  13. Taller Razeto (Italian): This would be higher on the list but it is located out in La Punta and it’s a journey to get out there. Still, some of the best pasta and pizza in Greater Lima.
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Foot long yuca fries from Mérito served with a vibrant Andean herb sauce.

And yes, again, I’ve been to Central, Maido, Rafael, and Astrid y Gaston. If you want to try a up-and-comer a la Central, try Statera. It’s the newest offshoot of Noma/Central style food. Foam, baby, foam!

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The edges of the octopus was crunchy like potato chips.

I eat regularly at a few other places, but as the food is not Peruvian (even if they have adapted some of their dishes to accommodate the tastes of Peruvians), I’m not including them on my list. Yet.

  • Dhaasu (zero fusion here, but using local ingredients).
  • Viet
  • Dae Jang Geum
  • JingXian

I’ve also finally activated an Instagram account for M’s Adventures: madventures.me #madventuresdotme

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Lemon merengue pie at Jeronimo. Not just tasty, but also inspired.

 

Secret Eco-Rooms With A View of Gocta Waterfall

fullsizeoutput_1ebNo that you have done Machu Picchu, you want to do the next big thing… Kuelap, the Gocta Waterfall, and so on. Then, the question is where to stay. The secret, secret, place to stay in Gocta… no, not that one… is… Gocta Natura. But only if you like “natural” and bohemian (and no WIFI). This small organization will give you ALL the FEELS. Warm, fuzzy, friendly. Gocta Natura has five cabins in the woods overlooking the waterfall. The price is per person and they employ a gourmet chef. Like I said, ALL. THE. FEELS. You’re gonna love it. If you like rustic, eco-friendly. If not, stay at the famous Gocta Lodge hotel located up the hill behind Gocta Natura. (Note: I have not stayed at either of the Goctas. This is just based on the rave reviews of someone I know who is “in the know”.). To see the waterfall up close, you can ride a horse for part of the hike, as it may be hot and sweaty. Then, once you have seen “the nature,” you get to go back to your peaceful cabin and enjoy gourmet cuisine.

fullsizeoutput_1ecThe closest village to Gocta Waterfall is Cocachimba. It’s got a village green and the village doesn’t seem to consist of more than the buildings surrounding the green. The Gocta Lodge is at the end of the village behind a high wall. To get to the Gocta Natura, you have to walk the path on the way to the waterfall. Cocachimba’s altitude is 4,000 feet above sea level, making this village a better place to sleep if you suffer from altitude sickness. Chachapoyas is at 7,600 feet (2,300 meters) and Kuelap is 10,000 (3,000 meters).

NBQ-zoYyUGKo-Kt9puXvQJLa8hJMnDM0VliVWZtYhqp7DvPBFXproGE46UnE18JMfilsFsfqY7WEt9GhZvu_wnxBSUFu7RY_o9VJLYF_1gZgZPUEf8fFZ3FhxUyTQfLmigOp6tMXuAJPVpiH8UGc9V9MGOnMi4BWRUWSXgmeXs5j4Iiod994erOl0CI7d_A1bUV19uNWUKn4yPVtwNaooyEboBogAbYI liked the drive up to the village of Cocachimba. Amazing views and amazing coffee. All along the road, locals were drying their coffee beans on tarps spread out in front of their houses. At one of the village restaurants, I had a delicious mug of coffee. When I asked what brand they had used, they explained that it was their own coffee, from their own beans, from their own tree. They weren’t showing off.

The photo of the fighting cocks was taken at a spot along the road to Cocachimba that had a spectacular view of Gocta waterfall. When I saw the location of the cages, I wondered why the owner of that house didn’t open a B&B in that location. I would think that tourists are a better source of income… and with fewer feathers?

Where to Eat Seafood in Lima

Recently, I got asked about suggestions for where to eat seafood in Lima.

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Eating seafood is an integral part of life in Lima. And no, it’s not all raw.

First, take the recommended fish of the day — it will be the freshest. Also, remember that salmon is not from Peru (in the highlands, they do have a lake trout which is similar). While they eat a lot of tuna here, it is more in the Japanese “Nikkei” style food, and most recently, in the rise of the Poke! Typical seafood dishes to try here are: ceviche (done in many ways but go with “el classico” — although now they do versions of ceviche with “pork rinds of seafood” = deep fried seafood) and tiradito (carpaccio of fish). The scallops are so tender that they’ll make you go weak at the knees (“conchas a la parmesana” is classic and resounding puts to bed any idea that seafood and cheese aren’t delicious together). Peruvians love soup of all kinds but I find many of them are too fiercely fishy for my palate. Most places will serve fish in various other styles including , “a lo macho” which is when the fish is served with manly red spicy seafood sauce — note: almost nothing in Peru is spicy like in Thailand — it’s just a touch of spice unless you eat one of the chili peppers).

Try some of these restaurants (and keep in mind that most cevicherias close at 5 p.m. or earlier as traditionally fish is only fresh for breakfast or lunch. I’m trying to think of when I’ve seen a Peruvian order ceviche at night). Lastly, Peruvians love franchising so don’t worry that many of these places are chains. I’ve listed the daytime places in relative order of “But, it’s RAW! And I’m willing to try it… but only one tine of my fork…” to “No AC and no ingles! Gotta talk to the local sitting next to me? Bring it on!”

“But, it’s RAW! And I’m willing to try it… but only one tine of my fork…”

El Mercado (considered the best restaurant by many) – international star chef and this place usually ranks on the “50 Best” list. Line up at 12:15 or make a reservation.

La Mar (by Gaston Acurio) – I like this place because it’s got it all. Also good lighting for photos. Go at 12:30 p.m. or 4 p.m. if you don’t want to wait.

El Segundo Muelle (a seafood chain)

El Seniorio de Sulco (old school place that old-time Limenos go to)

Francesco (very old school)

La Red – my favorite old school place – part of the legend in making the Lima food scene so great. Also, they have a good “lomo saltado” for those who don’t eat fish. The sons of the legend opened La Isolina (located in Barranco and open at night) which also has great food, including fish.

La Preferida (this is my secret place for fettucine pasta with a creamy seafood sauce)

 

“No AC and no ingles! Gotta talk to the local sitting next to me? Bring it on!”

La Picanteria – Internet famous. Good food too. One has to buy the whole fish by weight and then choose two methods of preparation. The inside of the restaurant is not scary but the location of this restaurant is in Surquillo right behind the market, so going there is probably by taxi. If you are the sort of person who visits the market (for photos and to try new fruits), then the restaurant is only two streets away (but hold your buddy’s hand when crossing the street, and look both ways).

La Leche – hidden gem in Surco and San Isidro.

Toke Pez (hole in the wall)

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If you want to eat seafood at night (most restaurants serve fish and seafood but serving ceviche at night is a sign of a modern restaurant catering to foreigners, or moving with the times since there is this thing called refrigeration):

Pescados Capitales – a chain of high-end seafood restaurants

Las Brujas de Cachiche – open late and has everything Peruvian on the menu

Cosme (also one of those secret places not on the “50 Best” lists). Not many fish dishes but they do ceviche, tiradito, and a cooked fish of the day dish.

 

Lastly, eating seafood in Lima may spoil your ability to eat seafood in other places.