I know that it is the general convention that dishes, food, is best tasted at the source. I think that does some disservice to the diaspora and fusion food that has evolved over the millennia. That said, here is a list of food that I often crave. Actually, for many of the dishes, I prefer in their newer form. But, then again… some I prefer at the source.
Ceviche — I like the classic old fashioned version. The Peruvians love fusion. They are a fusion and so is their food. So now one can find “warm ceviche” and ceviche not made with fish.
Danish hotdog — I prefer them in Denmark. The actual hotdog is special, the ketchup is different, the dog is served with crunchy fried onions… New York pizza — also, one of those things. Some say that the New York pizza is like a Neopolitan pizza from Naples, Italy. We shall see… Hamburger — Some of the best I’ve had are in the United States. American beef and lack of gristle in the mix. Banh mi — I’ve had good ones outside of Vietnam. Pho — Also, good in the certain parts of the United States. Very bland in other places. Korean BBQ — If one sticks to the pork belly, then it’s fairly easy to get good Korean barbecue in many countries. I think that many people think that bulgogi should be made with a high grade of beef and grilled at the table. Traditionally, bulgogi was created to use bad cuts of meat that required marinating. Usually the slices are so thin that grilling at the table dries them out. Some places use good cuts of steak and then one can dip them in sesame seed oil and salt. This is a delicious way to eat barbecue. Chicken wings — Oddly, some of the best barbecue wings I’ve had were in a pizzeria in New Mexico. Dim sum — can be good in many places outside China.
Laksa — so far the best I’ve had, and even some of the mediocre, was in Singapore and Malaysia. What can I say?
Most of all, the food of other lands transports you to them.
The city of Trujillo, an easy hour flight north of Lima, is a great weekend destination. Trujillo is called the city of eternal spring. In the depth of Lima winter, I went looking for some spring. Flying up on a Friday evening, the pickup from the airport was easily done by the hotel located on the central square. The airport is located 20 minutes from the city and you even pass one of the tourist sites on the way in — Chan Chan — before passing a modern mall and convention center.
The archaeological site of the Huaca of the Moon and the Sun is a mere 20 minutes outside of the city so easily visited. The new site called “El Brujo”, is only 63 kilometers to the north but due to the road conditions, it takes 80 minutes. I’d recommend going to these two sites in one day, with lunch in the coastal town of Huanchaco, eat at Big Ben.
Then go for a walk along the Huanchaco malecon (boardwalk – sidewalk) and take your selfies with the reed boats, “caballitos de totora” — reed horsies, so called because the fishermen ride astride the boats, instead of sitting in them. Back in Trujillo, enjoy, on Saturday evenings, the free marinera (a type of dance) performances in the main square, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Join in! Then walk down to one of the famous restaurants for dinner. The photo of the Waldorf salad is from the famous restaurant with the balcony, El Celler de Cler.
On Sunday mornings, the main square is blocked off and the town dignitaries walk about in a procession. This is a good time to get photos of the square. Later, go to Chan Chan.
When you buy pottery reproduction souvenirs, make sure that the item is stamped as a reproduction so that you aren’t accused of buying cultural patrimony. The reproductions are some of the highest quality I’ve seen, as souvenirs go.
Then back to Huanchaco for lunch. The whole malecon is shoulder to shoulder with restaurants. Try the special “aji de gallina” of this area, made with crab. Or stick to ceviche which will be some of the best you’ve had.
Poke, pronounced “poh-key”, is a Hawaiian raw fish salad, usually made with tuna. In Hawaii, this salad is made with raw tuna cubes, soy sauce, onion, garlic, sesame seed oil, and chili flakes. With endless variations.
Poke is similar to carpaccio (Peruvian style from Santo Domingo above), tartare salad (the one in the photo has a poached egg on top), or donburi (similar to donburi, poke is served with rice — and in Hawaii with a side of crisp iceberg salad and Korean bulgogi).
Here in Peru, I’ve had poke in Jeronimo’s (see photo above)and I expect to see the appearance on many more menus in the future. Lima has all the necessary ingredients: fresh fish, Japanese cultural influence, and a flourishing gastronomic scene.
*** Updated January 29, 2020 *** I get a lot of questions about the “must eat” restaurants in Lima. Lima is a gastronomic tourist’s South American destination. So here is the list, from the fanciest (as in they are listed on the list of 50 best restaurants list) to some that I recommend, including breakfast places. Or you can go according to this list from Eater. All these places (even La Grimanesa–see photo above) are not hole-in-the-wall places, and some are downright white tablecloth fancy-pantsy. Michelin has not bestowed any stars here yet (Michelin only recently moved into Asia and North America — Michelin was a company just trying to get their customers to wear out their tires by going for drives…).
3: Maido (it’s Japanese-Peruvian), Ca. San Martín 399, Miraflores
4-7: La Mar, Av. La Mar 770, Miraflores, is a cevicheria which is part of Gaston Acurio’s empire, as are: Astrid y Gaston, Madam Tusan, Panchita, Tanta, Papachos, Los Bachiche (Italian-Peruvian and no longer part of his empire-sold to an Italian) and his newest place, La Bodega.
8: Cosme (best secret), Tudela Y Varela 160-162, San Isidro
9: Malabar, Av. Camino Real 101, San Isidro
10: El Mercado (also a Rafael Osterling restaurant), Hipólito Unanue 203, Miraflores: get the shrimp mini burger. It’s the most unusual dish here…
11: Osaka (Japanese), Av. Pardo y Aliaga 660, San Isidro: I wish they would turn up the lights but the single best bite of food that I had in 2016 — was here.
12: amaZ (Amazonian food), Av. La Paz 1079, Miraflores
13: El Seniorio de Sulco (on the malecon with a view of the ocean), Malecón Cisneros 1470, Miraflores
14: La Isolina, Av San Martin 101, (serves heritage Peruvian dishes): as it’s in Barranco, go during a summer lunch time. From the son of the lady who started La Red.
15: La Grimanesa (the only slightly hole-in-the-wall place), Ca. Ignacio Merino 466, Miraflores (practically across the street from La Mar). These are the award winning beef hearts on skewers. If you are going to do it, do it here.
16: Chez Wong (known for cooking in his home). Ca. Enrique León García 114, Santa Catalina
17: El Pan de la Chola (go for breakfast or for a light dinner), Av. La Mar 918, Miraflores. His newest location in Calle Miguel Dasso serves completely different breads etc. Jonathan Day, opened a pizzeria on Avenida La Mar in June 2018 just down the street from his flagship location.
32: El Rocoto: named after the famous large picante red chili from Arequipa.
33: Maria Almenara (for breakfast) or lunch, or dinner.
34: Blu (gelato), in Barranco
35: Paseo Colon, Av. Pardo y Aliaga 697. Like a TGIF or Friendly’s of Peruvian food.
36: Aji555, Av San Luis 2879, San Borja (delicious and Thai — really!!!), started in the ‘hood but moved to San Borja (and the prices reflect this).
37: Cafe Mozart (Italian and Euro flavor)
38: Spizza (in San Isidro). Great Italian style pizza. The best.
39: Taller Razeto, in La Punta.
40: La Mora (also for those who like a good northern European style meal or schnitzel) is a chain with reliable food and more cozy European cafe feel.
41: Las Vecinas, in Barranco, just down the small street by La Isolina. A cafe which is pet-friendly and eco-friendly. And they serve eggs for breakfast, and all the way till 2 pm!
42: Don Cucho’s, in Pachacamac. It’s way out by itself, an adventure to find, and sprawling. ****closed**** but, apparently the employees opened their own place somewhere nearby.
43: Tzu Chifa, Larcomar Mall, Miraflores. It’s elegant, got great views of the ocean, and the food it Chinese.
44: Jian Xing, in the old Chinatown or “Barrio Chino” downtown. A restaurant with the same name is on the new Chinatown (Aviacion). This place in downtown is not fancy like at Tzu but it’s economical.
45: Arirang, Calle Las Orquídeas 447, San Isidro. Authentic Korean barbecue.
46: Tambo Rural, Kilometer marker 52, Panamerican highway, south. Fresh bread out of the oven, stuffed with olives and cheese. Plus coffee so local that you might not understand the accent.
47: Juicy Lucy, Av Mariscal La Mar 1328, Miraflores . Go for the name alone. It’s burgers.
48: El Batan, Km. 198.5, Carretera Panamericana Sur, Chincha Alta. The MOST delicious lomo saltado to date. It’s located at a gas station in the middle of a town.
49. Amorelado, ice cream shop across from La Mar. Just because you will need something to do while you wait for your table at La Mar… try the lucuma. Then you can tick that off the list.
50. 500 Degrees, on Av. Camino Real. They have breakfast from 7-12. Then lunch. It’s a sunken patio. The juice is good, the salads are good.
51. La Ciccolina, Cusco. It’s upstairs from a courtyard. One of Gaston Acurio’s kingdom.
52. Fiesta Gourmet. The original place. Now they also have La Picanteria.
53. Amoramar, Garcia y Garcia 175, Barranco. For the love of seafood. The large restaurant is hidden behind a wall on one of the residential streets of “the other part” of Barranco as in the non-touristy part. The food and drinks are good. It’s a bit pricey, and some dishes are slightly off (too salty, etc.) but overall, it’s worth recommending.
55. Bao, José Domingo Choquehuanca 411, Miraflores (go west from La Mar and turn on Jose’s street). Not completely authentic but, who cares? It’s got hipster vibe. Also in Calle Manuel Bonilla off of Parque Kennedy.
56. Jeronimo, Av Mariscal La Mar 1209. Apparently one of the top places to eat. Shhh, don’t tell anyone. Completely international class food. The beef short rib was great if you are a meat lover. The grilled artichokes were a delightful surprise (scrapping the flesh off the leaves with fingers slick with garlic butter…) Also, the Poke (“poke-A”) bowl is passable for those who miss Poke.
57. La Cucharita. Also tapas, across from Jeronimo.
58. Morelia, Calle Atahualpa 196, Miraflores. Home made pasta, nice salads, and crispy flatbread pizza.
59. Mantra, Avenida Alfredo Benavides, 1761, Miraflores. Third best place to eat Indian. (Massala is not on the list.)
60. Puku Puku, Narciso de la Colina 297. Premier cafe with biodegradable straws.
61. La Linterna: The location in San Isidro is a family place where many of the local families walk over. The pizza is flat Peruvian style and the food is much like I imagine a Peruvian Italian grandma would serve.
62. Rasson. Calle Gral Mendiburu 1007, Miraflores. The name is the reverse of the last name of the siblings who opened this place. They also own La Panka. Rasson has lots of space. Comfy food. I liked their warm choclo with cheese, their grilled mushrooms, the anticucho of chicken breast was juicy (and healthy), the brownie dessert was excellent, and their “waters” with fruit infusions and lots of mint leaves are good as well. And they have SWEET POTATO FRIES!
63. Pan Sal Aire. Almirante Miguel Grau 320, Barranco. The best pizza so far. Service is slow but the atmosphere and the pizza is great. Too bad they use canned mushrooms. One of the few places with fancy breakfast. The interior is quite stylish and you can take your upper crust friends here. But, why, why, use canned mushrooms?
64. Homemade. Revett 259, Miraflores . They serve breakfast all day. It is homemade and organic. And yes, everything is homemade.
65. Franklin, Avenida Alvarez Calderon 198, in the Roosevelt Hotel. Very American food including pastrami.
66. La Milanesa Verdadera, several locations. It’s chicken fried steak. Also have salads and veggie options.
67. Antica, several locations. Good pizza, good pasta, good salad.
68. Quisso, Av. Paseo de la República 5250. Open 1-3 PM, 5-11 PM. The name is combo of “queso” and “guisso” which are are the words for cheese and stew. It’s a raclette restaurant (the first in Peru) but the idea is typical Peruvian fast food (burgers, hotdog and fries) with a raclette-melted ooze of cheese on top.
69. Dondoh, Av. Los Conquistadores 999, San Isidro. According to some, the best sushi place in town (Maido is in it’s own class).
70. Fuji, Av. Paseo de la República 4084, Miraflores. Apparently a favorite with the Japanese. It was good and they have a menu all in Japanese. Probably the most “authentic” Japanese food in Lima.
71. Punto Italiano, La Molina: Good Italian food.
72. Matria, Calle Gral Mendiburu 823, Miraflores: one of the few restaurant owned by a female chef.
73. Frida, across from Matria: Chef Moma of Jeronimo and Chinga Tu Taco’s Mexican restaurant, opened in August 2018, and a raging success.
74. Los Dos Hermanos Coreanos: on Aviacion. Korean and quite authentic.
75. Statera, Av Mariscal La Mar 463, Miraflores. Described as “like Central but bigger portions.”
76. La Pizza de la Chola: Chola of El Pan de La Chola’s third iteration. Italian style artisanal pizza but the oven uses gas after a bit of wood for show. As of May 2019, they now serve breakfast.
77. Las Tres Suecas, Av. Gral. Córdoba 1193, Miraflores: Three Swedish ladies have opened this little corner of Scandinavia, right around the corner from Avenida La Mar.
78. Dhaasu, Avenida Republica de Panama 245, Barranco. Delish food! Indian food has arrived in Lima! This place opened in early October 2018 and it’s blowing up Instagram. The line is going out the door. Luckily, the owner, Rish, and his Peruvian girlfriend, Camilla, both speak excellent English, and Spanish, so they can explain “what is hindu food?”
80. JianXing, Avenida Aviacion 2619, San Borja: across the street from Viet. This place serves authentic Chinese Chinese food, not Chifa. Not sure if this is true when not with a Chinese speaker…
81. Siete Sopas, Av. Arequipa 2394, Lince (Open 24 hours; seven days a week): This is a soup restaurant from the chain La Lucha Sangucheria. They have three soups each day. They always have “criolla” and “diet” (chicken soup) and then the day’s soup. It’s advertised on the wall outside so you can see the soup of the day from outside (or just have it memorized like some of my friends… “today’s Tuesday, so not MY soup day.”). As of May 2019, they have a second location in Surquillo.
82. Bangkok, José Bernardo Alcedo 460, Lince: This is the other Thai restaurant with Thai owners (a factoid that seems to be important to some). Some of the dishes were nothing but their papaya salad and green curry were good.
83. Carnal, Calle Elías Aguirre 698, Miraflores: steak. This is where the Juicy Lucy chain was born. Same owners.
84. Mérito, Jr, 28 De Julio 206, Barranco: Venezuelan chefs making delicious food. Biggest yuca fries…
85. El Mexicano, Calle Manuel Bonilla 248, Miraflores: Lots of sauces.
86. Sushi Pop, Calle Manuel Bonilla 112, Miraflores: Surprisingly good burger (Angus) and so on.
87. Guru Kebab & Curry, Av. Alfredo Benavides 4518, Surco: Second best Indian. Sit down restaurant.
88. Maria Panela, on La Mar. It’s Brazilian. It’s a cute little place. Not amazing but I did like some of the food. Did I mention it is cute? The owner is friendly.
89. Las Reyes, corner of Mendiburu. Third restaurant from La Red, La Isolina…
90. Boca y Vaca, on Dos de Mayo. It’s a steak house but has everything on the menu.
91. Kaikan, Ovalo Guitierrez, from the same people who brought you Noruto. Cute manga figures and the place is like a Fridays or Chillis of Nikkei food.
92. Enkai, from one of the former chefs at Maido. The hottest new place to go!
93. Monstruo, Nicolas de Pierola 113, Barranco: sandwiches and juice. Open since the 80s. Open from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m.
94. Bingsu, in downtown and Jesus Maria. Korean style shaved ice dessert. Yum.
95. Cafe A Bistro, Av. Augusto Pérez Araníbar 2193, San Isidro, brunch and other things. Located next to a gas station.
96. TipTop, Av. Arenales 2499, Lince: open since 1953. A drive-in diner where you can still get your food on a tray attached to your car. Delicious soft serve. Go to this location.
97. La Traviata, small Italian place with a really good caprese salad.
98. La Casa de la Nonna Lina, Av Brasil 3898,Magdalena: Some of the dishes were acceptable. Not bad. Spacious interior.
99. Siete, Jirón Domeyer 260, Barranco. It’s got a dark Madrid cosmopolitan feel. Food is good.
100. Troppo: Calle Los Libertadores 199, San Isidro. Best pizza dough in town. Excellent pistachio gelato, tiramisu, meatballs, pasta, salad, ricotta, and bread.
Obviously, I’m not including the places I’ve been where the food was awful or mediocre.
When entering a restaurant in Lima these days, the waiter will automatically ask if you have a reservation. Even if the restaurant is empty and it’s 5 p.m. So what do you do? How do you get to eat at the places that are a MUST? Like Maido, recently ranked as the number 1 — No. 1 — numero uno restaurant in the world by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants?
What indeed. What’s the secret? Go at an off-hour. Walk in at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. and promise to be done by 7 or 8. Maido doesn’t even open for dinner until 7 so try going at 3:30 p.m. at the end of their lunch hours or be at the doors waiting to get in at 12:25, five minutes before they open for lunch (try a Saturday or Sunday when Peruvians would normally eat lunch at 1:30 or later). Or at a place like La Mar, which serves lunch (they are not open for dinner) until 5:30 p.m., try going at 4 p.m. for an early dinner or “linner” as the kitchen is still open until 5:30 p.m. For other places, try going on a Monday or Tuesday night. If it’s a famous breakfast place like El Pan de la Chola, try eating there at night (when you might actually feel like having a glass of wine or beer — which they always have on the menu — but you perhaps don’t want at 9 a.m.).
Or you can plan your visit around the restaurant visit. Make the reservation and plan your visit around it. Perhaps this is the solution for places like Central. It’s possible that you are super well-connected, but for the rest of us, try one of my tips.
Or, go to one of the lesser famous places but with equally delicious food (a chain — horror! — like La Seguende Muelle, or La Preferida) or my secret, Cosme. The current trend in gastronomy is a wee bit too fancy for me, but then I don’t like hype over foam and tiny portions. The exception is Statera. Easy to get in to and the owner worked at Central for two years.
Note: Most of the photos are from Astrid and Gaston, including the Guinea Pig Peking “Duck” Style (object in photo appears larger than in real life).
Three years ago, when I first ate in Lima, I did not foresee that I’d ever be able to call Lima home. But, after the first 48 hours of constant eating, and the subsequent many visits, eating modern classics (ceviche classico) and trying less famous dishes (pejerrey roe sandwich), my cultural advisor (and friend), said to me one day, “you’ll just have to move here so we can try more dishes.” So I did.
My original posting was written in 2014 but, three years later, I still include the same places in the food tour. I include a photo from El Pan de la Chola, as I did not include that in my original posting, but it is part of my current food tour of Lima for my visitors.
That said, I start with including photos of a “criollo” or “creole” soup of meat, noodles, and fried egg (can be had in lots of restaurants. The addition of a fried egg to a dish tends to make it “criollo”). Plus an uber modern dish of sushi made with raw tuna and foie gras (from Osaka restaurant). The photo doesn’t do it justice. You will just have to go there and try it. You may feel the earth move.
Food in Lima. I finally created a book with some of the foods I’ve tried on my many visits to Lima these past few years. Buy it here, on Lulu, if you wish. It’s just a little book, 7×9 inches, so it will fit in a bag easily (that way I can carry it around with me).
In reality, since my first visit, when I first had the classic ceviche as seen in the photo, all of my visits to Lima have been “food tours.” Some day, I’ll even get to Mistura, the food festival. I will, I will!
**** March 2015 — this blog posting got translated and re-blogged on a luxury tour site: in Spanish and in Portuguese. Thanks to Intiways for finding my blog and teaching me the correct Spanish translations! ****
Peru’s cuisine is the megastar on the international food scene. Lucky for me, I have a friend in Lima who took me on a personal food tour. Here are the highlights of a weekend eating tour of Lima. Buen provecho!
Friday night: Eat at Brujas de Cachiche. It might be my new favorite restaurant (their franchise, the Brujas de Cartagena is not a good copy — go to the original). Brujas have a white table cloth area for more formal dining or dates, a lounge with low slung comfy chairs for chatting with friends, a nightclub area upstairs, and a wine cellar for private dining amongst the amphorae. The menu is huge and includes an array of Peruvian cuisine, both traditional, and presented as “taster” platters. The decor is festive and because Limenos eat dinner late, you can eat a full dinner at 11:30 at night.
Try the pisco sour and the pisco maracuya (passion fruit). The “ceviche asiatico” with seafood is a visual and gustatory blend of the traditional Peruvian ceviche and Japanese (from the Peruvian Japanese community) sashimi. From the Peruvian Chinese community, you could try the “lomo saltado” or stir-fried beef which includes French fries as one of the stir-fried vegetables (of course, the potato is from here so meals include both rice and potatoes!). Try “picarones” for dessert. They are donuts.
Saturday noonish: After some coffee or espresso (lots of Peruvian Italians here too), make your way to the Plaza Mayor or main square. It’s very attractive and perhaps you’ll catch the changing of the guards at noon at the presidential palace. From there, wander over to Cordano’s a restaurant frequented by civil servants, inexpensive and with the feel of an Italian bistro. Try the “causa” which is a mashed potato lasagna or mash with many layers. Don’t be put off by my literal translation. The potatoes used are special yellow potatoes and they are mashed and flavored. It reminds me a bit of the Turkish meze, Jordanianmezze, or Bangladeshi bhorta. Perhaps, have a pisco sour at the place where it was invented? It was invented at the Hotel Maury.
Saturday lunch: After visiting the Church of San Francisco and the Palace of Torre Tagle (with the famous overhanging balconies), head over to the Museum of Food which is housed in the Old Post Office. While this museum could do with a Gaston and Astrid (the internationally acclaimed chef pair) restaurant and shop, the displays are interesting. In the museum, you will learn about “pollo a la brasa” or rotisserie chicken, and the cultures that influenced Peruvian cuisine including “Oriental, European, African, and Moorish” (Japanese/Chinese, Spanish/Italian, African, and Arab/Middle Eastern).
Then, with whetted appetite, grab a cab (yup, there’s an app for that) and head to La Red for lunch. This restaurant was started by a lady who wanted to serve ceviche to the mechanics who worked in the garages located in this part of town. Now, of course, the area is gentrified and the restaurant is run by the lady’s sons. Try “chicha,” a corn drink which tastes like mulled wine without the alcohol. Try the “ceviche classico” here. At 32 soles ($12), I would eat this every day if I lived nearby.
Also, try the “ocope” which is like “papas a la huancahina” which is one of my favorite potato dishes (it’s a spicy deconstructed potato salad which is served with hard boiled eggs and olives). The ocope sauce has vanilla and peanuts in it which makes it a utterly new sort of flavor in a savory dish. Also, try the “chupe de camarones” which is a hearty seafood soup served with a fried egg on top. I really liked the “tiradito” which is a modern ceviche with sliced fish and Peruvian sauces on top. I also had juice of the “aguaymanto” fruit. Pricy but nice.
Saturday early evening: After a siesta, go to Parque de Miraflores for street food. I had, I think, “mazamone morade” which is sort of like a warm tapioca pudding. Like warm jam.
Try a “sanguche de chicharron” and a “sanguche de jamon del pais” both of which are pork sandwiches (sanguche is how they’ve peru-sonalized the word sandwich) from the famous “sanguche” chain. Also try their french fries called “papas huayco” which are a specific type of thick cut fry (recall that the potato was invented in Peru). Having such a specialty fry is like Five Guys in the U.S. where each store tells you, daily, the provenance of the spuds being fried.
After gawking at a wedding in the cathedral (they have weddings every hour to make sure that the audience can catch at least one on their way to dinner), have a juice of the “lucuma” fruit which is one of those divine juices that reminds you of why fruit is nectar.
At the Larcomar mall (a modern, clean, and safe hanging garden style mall built on the rock face of Lima’s coast), I tried some of the galactically famous Gaston y Astrid’s desserts. I tried the national dessert (well, one of them), “suspiro limeno” which is like a “fool” in England or a mousse of dulce de leche (caramel). I also tried a chocolate mousse with maracuya fruit on it (the tartness of passionfruit goes well with chocolate).
I rounded off the evening with a “cafe tapade” which is sort of watered down teensy coffee served in a teensy cup. Very wee. In my notes, I also wrote that I had a “palta fuerte” but I have no idea what that was. Good, whatever it was.
Sunday: Eat pollo a la brassa, or rotisserie chicken, at one of the famous restaurants (can’t recall right now, had the word chicken in it), and enjoy a full meal for four people, giant bowl of fries, sauces, and a heavy-weight salad with beets, carrots, and avocados, for around 100 U.S. dollars.
There is so much more, but perhaps I’ll mention them another time. Enjoy!