Those visiting Peru often use Lima as a hub for transportation to Cusco. Those people need to seriously consider spending more than a night in Lima. Not only does the city have a vibrant culture and history, but it boasts one of the most exciting culinary scenes in the world. Twenty years ago, Lima would have hardly registered on any foodie’s radar but Peruvian cuisine has taken the world by storm and has made this capital city the hot spot for anyone that likes good food.
The flavors of the ocean, amazon, and the Andes, mixed with various local and Asian influences have created some of the best food I’ve tasted. From the ceviches, chiles, steaks, roast pork, grilled chicken, giant corn, pisco sours, and countless other things, I could speak highly of Peruvian cuisine forever.
In fact, that is about all I can say. As much as I enjoy visiting the historical sights of a city, I was so enamored with the restaurants and food of Lima, I basically spent my entire four day stay eating my way through this delicious city. I went to multiple restaurants a day and sampled as much of the cuisine as I could. Only problem? Not enough days and not a big enough stomach…
Getting around Lima
One word. Uber. Uber’s footprint is far and wide in Lima now. Uber taxis are everywhere and it is CHEAP. From the airport to our Airbnb in Barranco was 50 soles. I didn’t even bother learning the public transport system because why would you when you can take an uber from Miraflores to Barranco for 12-15 soles? ($4-5). Even better, if you’re willing to ride with other people, Uberpool exists in Lima as well and this is even cheaper. Depending on the demand, we had 20 minute taxi rides for 8 soles sometimes ($2.50) for two people!
Peruvian cuisine has made it in to the mainstream in recent years. Here are some of my friends
They say this is Peru’s national dish, and I’d be pretty happy with that. It’s certainly what Peru is most known for. Raw fish and other seafoods are cooked in lime juice mixed with fresh onions, corn, cilantro, and chiles. The fish essentially is “cooked” in the lime juice.
Usually served as a starter, many of the restaurants in Lima served such a huge portion of this stuff, it doubled as a meal in itself. Ceviche can be compared to Japanese style sashimi. Both use the highest quality of raw fish, but one is dipped in soy sauce, whereas the other is cooked in lime juice producing drastically different flavors but similar textures of food. This is perhaps why Japanese-Peruvian fusion is the hottest trend going around Lima.
Chinese-Peruvian fusion food. Lomo saltado was well known to me before visiting Peru. It’s steak cut into thin strips, cooked with onions, peppers, cilantro, soy sauce, and french fries, all served over rice. It’s Peruvian comfort food and something I ate almost on a daily basis when I was in the Andes region (largely because they didn’t have much ceviche).
Pollo a la brasa
Perhaps what Peruvians most commonly eat is Pollo a la brasa (Rotisserie Chicken). However, Peruvian chicken is cooked with a exotic blend of spices not found anywhere else and served with a spicy green ahi sauce. Any fan of grilled chicken will love the stuff here. I’d compare it to the Peri peri chicken I had so often in South Africa.
Beef heart cooked over an open charcoal grill. Doesn’t sound appetizing for the average gringo but when done right and with the right blend of spices, this stuff tastes exactly like steak and is the epitome of solid street food.
Chicharron (Lima and Cusco styles), Aji De Gallina, Causa, Quinoa soup
After eating my heart out, sometimes with 4-5 meals a day, I present my list of my favorite restaurants in Lima.
La Mar Cebicheria
Landing in Lima early in the morning of our first day in Peru, we were tired but hungry and ready to take on the deliciousness that lied ahead. Located in Miraflores, the trendy and upscale neighborhood that all tourists will find themselves in at one point, this place is the go to spot for all dishes with seafood. Frequented by tourists and locals alike, this was the perfect first restaurant to sample the local fare. The menu is diverse with all sorts of offerings but we opted for the mixed seafood ceviche and the ceviche Nikkei, a Japanese-Peruvian fusion dish to start.
The portions here, and we soon learned for the rest of the country, are absolutely huge. Each “appetizer” is probably enough to be a meal for most people. We got a seafood rice entree to share but couldn’t even finish half of it before bringing it back to the apartment. As this is “upscale” dining in Peru, ceviche cost between 40-60 soles, and mains were 40-70 soles.
This little gem of an apartment was easily one of our favorite meals in Peru. It’s located in the trendy and hip neighborhood of Barranco (just south of Miraflores), and serves up home style cooking. It came highly recommended from our Airbnb host who seemed to know all the hotspots around Lima, and it happened to be highly ranked on Tripadvisor as well. It certainly didn’t disappoint.
Like most meals we had in Lima, we had ceviche and Pisco sours to start. The pisco sours were divine, some of the best we had in Peru, and the ceviche was so flavorful with insane amounts of fresh fish and lightly fried octopus. For our main, we shared a 700g shortrib cooked in a cilantro and chile sauce. The portions here are massive. Our airbnb host warned us that the portions were big and she was not lying. In fact, I’m not sure how anyone could order their own main as every other main we saw come out of the kitchen were equally as large. Nevertheless, the food here is absolutely delicious and I’d highly recommend it. Safe to say we did not finish our shortrib and took that home, adding it to our leftovers from La Mar
We just happened to be staying in Lima at the same time as La Mistura food festival. I had no idea what this was at first, but soon learned that it was the largest food festival in South America with hundreds of vendors and hundreds of thousands of people. I also learned that many of the vendors that get to offer their food at this festival, also won smaller festival competitions. So only the cream of the crop made it here. No other reason needed for me.
We took a taxi here from Miraflores, paid the 26 Soles entry fee to enter before having to wait in another line to buy tickets. Tickets are purchased based on how much soles you want to spend. As we were about to eat a 13 course tasting for dinner later that night, we didn’t want to go crazy at a food festival that we got to at 2pm. Nevertheless, I just sucked it up and got 70 soles worth of tickets (~$21 USD) for two people.
Our first order of business was to visit the various Asado tents set up roasting whole pigs. I could smell the lechon from the freeway and I knew before I even entered it would be my first stop. Nothing like seeing the outlines of a pig being roasted to ultra tender deliciousness. The lines were long but moved quickly and 16 soles later, I had a huge portion of roast pork, crackling, beans, yuca, chiles, and onions. My girlfriend and I wolfed this down quite quickly before moving on to another roast pork spot.
This food festival is absolutely massive and there’s no surprise people from all over South America (and the world) come to sample its delicious fare. Trying not to gorge ourselves in the deliciousness was difficult and we ended up some pisco sours, ceviche, ceviche leche tigre, anticuchos, desserts, and juices. By the time we were done eating, it was already 4:30pm and we had a 13 course dinner reservation 3 hours later. Safe to say, we were never hungry for breakfast during our time in Lima!
Video showing the madness
The top rated restaurant on lima’s tripadvisor, Maido is the ultimate brainchild of what peruvian and japanese cuisine can produce. There are options for a la carte dining, or their famous Nikkei tasting which includes 13 courses of different fusion dishes. Nikkei means the Japanese diaspora, and Peru was one of those destinations so the name of this tasting is well suited.
While the restaurant had a normal menu, we opted for the fancy tasting menu of 13 courses. I’m not a huge connoisseur of fancy meals at fancy restaurants but I figured to eat a top 10 world restaurant for relatively cheaply could be worth it. I was impressed but the sheer precision and attention put into each course as their presentation was spot on perfect, and our waiter gave us detailed explanations.
All 13 courses (+Pisco sour) pictures of Maido tasting:
Maido, Centrale, Gaston y Astrid, and a few other places make up the nouveau fine dining class of restaurants in Lima. They are the most expensive restaurants in the city, but compared to other top rated restaurants in the world, it’s quite a bargain. The Nikkei experience cost 400 soles per person (~$120 USD) without alcohol.
I never thought of Peru as a destination for high quality steak until I came to this place by Renzo Garibaldi. Located far out of the city center (about 10km), it takes a while to get to. Located in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a bank and a grocery store, this place was far out of the typical tourist stretch. Nevertheless, Osso has a nice restaurant, with an open kitchen and a nice atmosphere.
This place really knows how to cook everything from succulent steaks, to flavorful chorizo. They’re famous for the wagyu tartare but at 12pm, it was a bit early for me to consume raw beef. Instead, we had the chorizo and beef slider appetizers, which were both incredible. For the entrees, we got the flank steak and the ribeye to share. The ribeye was bursting in flavor as the fat and was so perfectly juicy and flavorful. The flank steak, a less prized cut in the steak world was every bit as delicious.
As it was Sunday, the owner Renzo was not here, but I was still able to see their kitchen and talk to the chefs. All in all, I’m still dreaming about the steak from Osso Carniceria.
Sangucheria La Lucha
I’m a big fan of slow cooked pork. Throw in crispy pork skin and I’m totally set. Chicharron, or fried pork, is a very popular dish in Peru. Different regions have different styles. Lima is of the sandwich variety, whereas Cusco is of the on a plate with corn and potatoes. I’ve had both and while both have delicious, tender, and substantially well flavored pork, the sandwich variety is more my style.
Lucha is a Lima staple. Locals and tourists queue up for their delicious sandwiches that consist of fried pork, skin, unions, cilantro, mint, and spicy ahi sauce. This little sandwich packs so much flavor. I’ve had many pulled pork sandwiches in my day but the onions, mint, and ahi sauce added another layer of flavor complexities that I ended up eating two. For breakfast!
Huaca Pucllana is perhaps one of the few sights we saw during our time in Lima, but also because there was a restaurant there with views. These ruins were excavated in the last century and sit in the middle of the Miraflores district of Lima. Not to be confused with the Incan ruins around Cusco that Peru is so famous for, these ruins are step pyramids that belonged to the Lima civilization along the coast of Peru before the time of the Incas.
There is also an upscale restaurant here with views of the ruins. We did a night tour of the ruins (about 1 hr) before sitting down for a meal overlooking the ruins. I didn’t think the food was particularly life changing but it was still top notch, much like all the food we had in Lima. Nevertheless, overlooking the ruins as we ate was worth the experience.
This place reminds me so much of Nandos chicken in South Africa. It’s a well known, established chain in Lima with multiple locations and the locals love it. They serve Peruvian style rotisserie chicken and they serve it damn well. Make sure to get the spicy green sauce as that is what sets this style of chicken apart from others. Locals told me I had to come here, which funny enough, would have been the same thing many South Africans would have told me about Nandos. This is a great quick, no frills, delicious food.
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