Five years ago, I visited Lima for a weekend. My friend and her family, are my experts on Peruvian food and culture. She turned the weekend into a Peruvian food tour. Now that I have lived in Lima for a few years, here are my recommendations for a three-day food tour of Lima. Of course, if you plan your travel here around reservations at Central or Maido, then do that or go to one of the other places on my list of 100 places to try. This list is focused on showing your visitors some of the variety and best of “nueva andina” cuisine.
El Cacaotal, Jr. Colina 128A, Barranco: Closed on Sundays. Grab a coffee or hot chocolate at this premiere chocolate “library” of Peruvian fine chocolates.
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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- La Preferida (a classic Peruvian-Italian bodega, with game!): It would probably be number one but it’s not open for dinner.
- La Mar (Gaston Acurio’s cevicheria): Only open for lunch, till 5 p.m.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- La Isolina (brought to you by the sons of La Red cevicheria): Serves old-fashion home recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- La Red (the cevicheria that started it all): The legend. Only open for lunch.
- 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.
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!
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).
- Dae Jang Geum
I’ve also finally activated an Instagram account for M’s Adventures: madventures.me #madventuresdotme
Recently, I got asked about suggestions for where to eat seafood in Lima.
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)
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.
I’m likely to get flack for my top 10 list… When I go out to eat, I look for good food, good service, good ingredients, reliability and consistency. I have not yet been to 500 places but here are my current top 10. And, yes, I have been to Central, Rafael, Astrid y Gaston, and Maido.
- El Pan de la Chola
- La Preferida
- La Mar
- La Isolina
- La Red
- La Mora
- La Segunda Muelle
- Frida (best newcomer)
This list may change as I get to Don Doh and other places of fame.