Lima – Leading a Revolution in Food
Lima has become one of the world’s must-visit dining destinations. It’s topography, ranging from 20 meters below sea level to 4100 meters above it, the combination of the Andes mountains, the Amazon river and the Pacific Ocean, and its Inca/Spanish/Japanese/French and Chinese history have made it one of the most exciting cuisines these days.
Ceviche dishes – cured raw fish – have become well known outside Peru. But there are any number of seafood that Peruvians cook with: mussels, crab, abalone, razor clams, and octopus. Equally delicious are the alpaca steaks, the great many varieties of corn and the large number of potato dishes!
The varied gastronomy is due to influences from wider Asia, France and Canada – you’ll see a lot of salmon on the menus. There is a large variety of places to eat ranging from good home-cooking franchises like Tanta to two of the Pellegrino’s 2017’s top restaurants in the world.
Ever eaten beef heart? It’s a favorite street food among the citizens of Lima, with vendors grilling it on charcoal and selling it on the streets. One such vendor, Tia Grimanesa, was in such demand for her anticuchos, as they are called in Peru, that there was always a crowd spilling over into the street waiting for the delicious snack. So she opened a shop. And people still queue up to get them! Since you’re on vacation, you won’t mind the wait. Join the fun.
If you like casual, homecooking…
Let’s start with Tanta restaurant. There are several in of this welcoming franchise in Lima, great for a casual lunch or supper. Tanta prides itself on providing an experience like you are eating at home. Its adverts declare proudly: Tanta is your living room, dining room or terrace. We celebrate food and its diversity as a family, especially Peruvian home cooking prepared by our mothers and grandmothers.
The menu has mouthwatering dishes like artichoke pie; potato tortilla with free range eggs and toasted bread, and fish cut in thin Japanese style slices. Everything sounds exotic, but it is actually incredibly comforting home cooking – only possibly just a tad more delicious than your mother or grandmother ever made!
A great lunchtime place
For something a little bit more upmarket, try La Mar, a snazzy cevicheria where the waiters bustle around placing your orders on iPhones. The traditional lunchtime dish is – you guessed it — ceviche: raw fish cured in a “tiger milk” of lemon, garlic, fish stock, ice, garlic, celery, salt and chilli.
A must visit on the sea
Venturing closer to the beach is the idyllically located La Rosa Nautica. It’s been going since 1983, and has not lost its appeal with locals or tourists. This pretty blue and white restaurant is right on the pier, on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Facing you is the cliff on which Lima sits. It’s magnificent, especially in the day or at sunset.
There is a set menu every day or you can choose a la carte. An example of a set menu on Wednesday is oven cooked baby goat, with tacu-tacu, mixture of rice and mashed lima beans, garnished with yellow chilli peppers and red onion sauce. There’s plenty of seafood to choose from and on a Saturday or Sunday the menus comprises octopus, squid, fish kebabs, scallops with vegetables. Be prepared for a long lazy afternoon.
Another long lazy afternoon
Be prepared to spend a long lazy day in El Mercado, a beachfront cebicheria. Not to be missed are the pisco sours. You can eat lunch and dinner there as the menu is large: sushi, simple sandwiches and many types of ceviche.
For a bit of ancient history mixed with contemporary
In the Miraflores district is the Brujas de Cachiche (or the Witches of Cachiche). This restaurant celebrates pre-Colombian Peru. That means ancient recipes such as ají de gallina. It also has a great selection of fish, shellfish and meat. One of Lima’s timeless favorites.
Another restaurant specializing in pre-Colombian and regional recipes is El Señorío de Sulco. Well known gastronomic historian and cookbook author Isabel Alvarez researched and put together the recipes in this restaurant. Her son Flavio Solórzano is now the head chef, and his knowledge about this ancient cooking equals his mother’s.
A location that you will never forget
For another incredible setting, you must try the Huaca Pucllana restaurant, situated oppsite in a great adobe and clay pyramid in the Miraflores district. This structure was an important ceremonial and administrative center for the advancement of Lima Culture between 200 AD and 700 AD. Today, it is one of the very best restaurants in Lima, using local produce for its classical and contemporary recipes. The menu is simply gorgeous: Try the salad of langoustines with spinach and toasted almonds, or one of the many options for ceviche. Ask for a table outside so that you can enjoy the magnificent view, whether in sunlight or lit up at night.
One of the world’s top restaurants
Coming in at number 5 in the world’s top restaurants is the simply named Central. Run by Virgilio Martinez and his family, the menu is sophisticated and interesting. On one occasion the tasting menu consisted of pig’s jowl, leg of goat cooked sous-vide for 20 hours, and tuna cured in oil.
Another top restaurant is Maido, which means ‘welcome’ in Japanese. The menu is colorful Peruvian-Japanese and the décor stylish. The chef stated as a dishwasher before learning how to use knives properly and only then learning how to cook rice and make sushi. Highlights from this menu are a fish hotdog (sic!) and sea urchin rice.
Pretty much wherever you eat in Lima you’ll find good food, even in the lower budget categories. The incredible biodiversity of the land and the harmonious mix of cultures, has created a cuisine that is refreshing, delicious and unique. We’ve listed a few places we like, but there are many others. We encourage you to experiment and would love your feedback!