Previously glossed over by tourists in favor of Machu Picchu, Lima has rightly become an international food destination in recent years. Drawing attention for an influx of new chefs who are combining the incredible array of Peruvian ingredients with the country’s culinary history, Lima’s restaurants are now recognized as some of the best in South America. Here are the top spots to dine out on Peruvian fare in the capital city.
In a city renowned for seafood, this locale provides some of the best, introducing beautifully simple preparation to allow the freshness of the fish to shine through. Though they offer a full menu, the best option is the five-course tasting, which changes daily and ranges from the traditional ceviche (raw fish prepared with citrus and spices) to a uniquely Peruvian take on octopus salad. First-time patrons to this hidden spot will be greeted by the owner upon entry, and encouraged to sign one of the walls when leaving. The range of signatures and the absence of white space available to sign shows the popularity of Costazul, both with locals and tourists.
For the high-dining aficionado, Virgilio Martinez’s Central is worth a visit to Lima in itself. Voted one of the best restaurants in Latin America and having earned a spot as one of the best in the world, Central combines the biodiversity of Peru into remarkable gastronomy. Reservations quickly run out a month in advance, as diner’s are treated to either an 11 or 17-course tasting menu that highlights Peruvian ingredients. Dishes are arranged according to elevation, from scallops harvested at sea level to veal and quinoa of the Andes. For a culinary tour in one meal, prepared by one of the best chefs in the world, Central is a must.
Astrid y Gastón represents the standard of fine dining in Lima, earning a nod as one of the best restaurants in Latin America. Gastón Acurio and his wife, Astrid, often credited with the rise of Peruvian cuisine, create expansive tasting menu options and a-la-carte dishes in the incredible Casa Moreyra, an 18th century hacienda. Meals at the locale are bound to be the experience of a lifetime, with the option of a staggering 28-course menu that lasts around three hours. Instructing patrons on how to enjoy each bite, and pairing food with a collection of South American wines, Astrid y Gastón is particularly accommodating to travellers, encouraging a new appreciation of Peruvian cuisine. This could certainly be described as more of a once-in-a-lifetime experience than a meal, so is totally worth a trip.
A trip to Lima would not be complete without ceviche. While it has long been served from roadside stalls and markets, the national dish has transitioned to brick-and-mortar establishments that represent the country’s history of street food and introduce new twists. Sankuay, nicknamed ‘Chez Wong’ for chef Javier Wong; is a ten-seat restaurant that combines both traditional Peruvian ceviche with Chinese influences. There is no sign and no menu, with Chef Wong deciding first and second courses based on the catch-of-the-day. With an open-air kitchen, patrons can see Wong slicing fish for the traditional flounder and octopus ceviche and stir-frying with a wok over an open flame. Sankuay is remarkable as both meal and spectacle.
Another street food favorite of Lima is anticuchos, beef heart skewers marinated in garlic. Much like ceviche, vendors selling this Lima speciality have moved from push carts to linen-topped tables over the decades. After selling anticuchos for twenty years, Mario Farfán opened Tío Mario’s in the city’s bohemian Barranco neighborhood. Simple, delicious, and served relatively fast, Tío Mario’s has a following that stretches out the door on some nights, with patrons eagerly awaiting the tender beef hearts served with a side of roasted corn and potatoes. For a complete Peruvian experience, enjoy a glass a chicha morada, a purple-corn concoction reminiscent of a grape soft drink. Adventurous diners may also try the whole-roasted cuy (Peruvian guinea pig).
This Limeño take on the sandwich is easy to overlook, but very much part of the city’s best dining. Located on the edge of Parque Kennedy in the Miraflores district, this open-air sandwich bar is incredibly popular, evident from the lines wrapped around the counter. A proper meal at La Lucha includes a sanguche (try the chicharón – crispy fried pork with potatoes), some of the best french fries in the city, and a delicious fruit-drink sourced from Peru’s array of tropical vegetation. Try the frozen pineapple or the Peruvian guanabana, a fruit that combines citrus and creamy flavors. La Lucha, perfect for a meal on a budget or a post-bar stop, is one of Lima’s best.
La Lucha Sanguchería, 3 locations throughout Lima – see website for details