Peruvian cuisine finds itself at the center of a growing international buzz. In this cosmopolitan city, entire streets and neighborhoods specialize in a single type of food. With its endless supply of exotic ingredients and chefs producing new twists on classics, Peru’s capital is slowly but surely becoming the foodie capital of South America. We explore ten of Lima’s top restaurants.
Character, humor and native dishes form the basis of this fine-dining empire. Hidden behind a nonchalant, colonial facade, this stylish and modern spot serves a creative criollo-Mediterranean menu. Astrid y Gastón is the signature restaurant of Gastón Acurio, Peru’s celebrity chef and creator of a burgeoning empire of fine-dining restaurants not only in Lima, but also other cities in both North and South America. High, white, peaked ceilings and orange walls decorated with colorful modern art create a warm and sophisticated environment. Specialties include spicy roasted ribs or the excellent noble robado fish served in miso sauce with crunchy oysters.
A tribute to Peru’s cuisine, El Mercado opened its doors in 2010 as the brainchild of top chef Rafael Osterling’s curiosity to experiment with new spins on traditional recipes. El Mercado tries to establish a permanent, respectful dialogue with its sources, the sea, producers, fishermen and farmers. The restaurant is a canopy-covered patio with rattan-backed chairs, where the wooden tables are set with charming retro print place mats. The large menu is presented on crude workmen’s clipboards adding to the market-like atmosphere. One of the most beautifully presented dishes is the ceviche pejerrey (silverside fish), small filets of pejerrey perfectly lined up in a bright yellow lime, aji amarillo marinate.
A minimalist restaurant owned by rising culinary star Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, Malabar has always ranked among the top five in Summum, Peru’s equivalent of the Michelin guide. Influenced in particular by Amazonian produce and cooking techniques, Schiaffino’s seasonal menu features delicacies such as crisp, seared cuy and Amazonian river snails bathed in a sauce made with spicy chorizo. Other stand-out dishes include tiradito (a refined ceviche) of sole dyed magenta using a medicinal herb from the Amazon, with tumbo juice from the Andean fruit in the marinade, served with tobiko (flying-fish roe). For an after-dinner treat, Malabar’s desserts are perhaps the lightest and most refreshing in Lima.
The ‘Witches of Cachiche’ celebrates 2,000 years of local culture with a menu that’s a taste of the cuisines of pre-Columbian Peru, with ancient recipes and ingredients included. The extensive menu presents classic Peruvian dishes, such as ají de gallina, but concentrates on fish, shellfish and fine cuts of meat with interesting twists and unusual accompaniments. In this sprawling old house with the several warmly decorated dining rooms, guests can taste a steak in pisco-butter sauce with braised mushrooms. Among the excellent desserts, several continue the indigenous theme, such as mazamorra morada (purple corn pudding and dried fruit). On top of excellent dining options, Witches of Cachiche is also home to various gastronomic festivals.
Known as the President’s cafe, this restaurant is on the list of the not-to-miss spots in South America. A Lima institution since 1905, this old-world dining hall has served practically every Peruvian president for the last 100 years and is considered a historic monument by the National Institute of Culture. Located across the street from the presidential palace, Cordano serves local specialties like tacu-tacu, a traditional Lima dish of beans and rice fried together in a crispy pancake called acorazado de bolsillo.
With a name that translates to ‘The Corner Joint You’ve Never Heard Of’, one might expect this to be a modest little hut. Instead, it’s a rather handsome and cozy two-story restaurant with high ceilings and a warm atmosphere. Head chef Teresa Izquierdo Gonzales has been cooking here for 30 years. Although her neighborhood joint may have become a little more polished and popular over the years, it hasn’t deviated from its mission of classic creole cooking. In this authentic, amiable and old-school Peruvian criollo restaurant, a good place to start is with a causa (a yellow potato torta stuffed with chicken, shrimp or tuna), or perhaps a palta rellena (stuffed avocado). The menu is long, portions are large and even the most discerning of foodies can’t go wrong.
Located within the compound of a 1,500-year-old adobe pyramid built by the original inhabitants of Lima, Huaca Pucllana is one of the city’s greatest dining experiences. This beautiful and serene restaurant with knockout views of the pyramid and secluded in the midst of Lima’s chaotic jumble, makes for a remarkable night out. The low hump of adobe bricks and excavation walkways are illuminated at night, and diners can take a tour of the construction and digs after dinner. The restaurant is handsomely designed in a rustic colonial style. The menu is creatively Peruvian, with fusion touches spicing up classic criollo cooking. Excellent appetizers include humitas verdes (tamales) and causitas pucllana, balls of mashed potatoes with shrimp and avocado.
Set inside a vivid red 1920s house with a modern interior and art deco details, Rafael Osterling’s warmly welcoming restaurant serves Peruvian fusion with Mediterranean influences. Pizza, prosciutto, figs, basil and pine nuts jostle on the starter menu with ceviche of sole, scallops and black baby clams, and tiradito nikkei, yellowfin tuna sashimi with yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit), mirin (rice wine), guacamole and smoky sesame oil. Some of the most recommendable mains include a stew of north Peruvian grouper cheeks with vongole, calamari and confit potatoes, and a Peruvian dish of rice and puy lentils with pan-fried foie gras, river shrimp, scallops and roast banana.
Everyone in Lima seems to be lining up to get into this upscale cevichería by famous chef Gastón Acurio. Fashionable, stylishly designed, and moderately priced, it represents the best of traditional Limeño cooking, but with an edge. The airy, plant-filled space has a chic, modern touch, with an angular, poured concrete facade, bamboo roof, turquoise chairs, and cement floors. The fish is always fresh and carefully prepared. The restaurant even features a cool cocktail bar with great pisco-based drinks like the cholopolitan. But owing to cevichería tradition, it’s strictly a daytime affair.