My humble country has been experiencing a tourist boom of such proportions that the first thing that pops into my mind when I see another article, blog post or story on the subject is Zoolander’s Mugatu. We’re so hot right now! When travel lovers find out I’m from Peru, they invariably start gushing about it. The first thing people usually ask me about is Macchu Picchu. Frankly, I can offer them little advice on how to get there. Last time I ventured around those parts, all you needed to do was hop on a train and purchase a ticket at the entrance. The process is a tad more complicated now, to say the least.
The second thing they’ll ask me about is restaurant recommendations. This is where I truly shine.
Fans of the podcast are well aware of my almost annoying obsession with food. Part of it may stem from the fact that my hometown, Lima, is THE food center of the universe (sorry, no argument) and has been named the world’s leading culinary destination for five years in a row. I can go on and on about where to stuff yourself silly in Lima but I’m simply going to list the places I’ve visited or will visit on this trip. I haven’t yet gone to a few of these so check back for updates!
I almost had a complete meltdown when I went to get avocado toast at this quaint coffee shop and bakery and heard that their order of avocados hadn’t been delivered yet. I understand that the first half of that sentence makes me sound like an insufferable hipster. (Side note: I may be an insufferable hipster.) Thankfully, the manager double-checked to see if that was the case and found a pair of avocados to throw my way. It may sound dramatic for what’s become a food trend punchline. But this avocado toast is sublime in its simplicity: hearty bread, freshly seasoned avocados and a touch of olive oil. The cafe also has a small but well-crafted menu of sandwiches and pastries.
Sushi in Lima? Why, yes! Not only does our Pacific bounty provide the fresh fish needed to make exquisite rolls, but the Japanese-Peruvian community is so large it’s created its own type of cuisine called Nikkei. You can find your usual spicy tunas, salmon, and california rolls here but it also offers several with a Peruvian twist. Unfortunately, I was too caught up in conversation with my high school friends to take good pics. My bad.
We also have an enormous Chinese-Peruvian presence and they too have invented a culinary fusion called chifa. A chifa craving abroad is a terrible thing to suffer from since it isn’t the same as eating Chinese take out in the States. My entire family has been raving about this restaurant, claiming it was the best chifa in Lima. They were not exaggerating. I pretty much died and went to food heaven when I took a bite of their chancho al ajo (garlic pork). Other standouts include pato al sillao (sillao duck), arroz chaufa vegetariano (vegetarian fried rice) and pollo de cinco sabores (5 flavors chicken).
Those with a sweet tooth will want to head to this new bakery in Miraflores’ La Mar Avenue, which has become a corridor of fantastic eateries in Lima. Rumor has it that the service is a bit slow, but if you’re willing to chill and wait or want to take their desserts home it’s worth it. I had a piece of Passion Fruit Pie that felt like a decadent indulgence. The filling was a tangy mousse that celebrated the natural flavors of the fruit instead of hiding it under a bucket of sugar. The bakery also offers sandwiches and coffee.
This is actually one of the oldest cafés in Lima and a place I return to every time I’m in there. My go-to is a butifarra, a sandwich that consists of jamón del país (a special type of Peruvian ham) and salsa criolla (red onion and ají mixed with lime juice). Their fruit juices are delicious as well and you can also find a variety of sandwiches and breakfast fare.
Gastón Acurio is Peru’s premier celebrity chef, having gained recognition for such upscale dining destinations like Astrid & Gastón. His newest venture though has him coming back to his culinary roots. Barra Chalaca is a humble love letter to Callao, Peru’s most important seaport and a gritty-yet-historic neighborhood. The menu is small and focused mostly on ceviche, though I pretty much passed out from delight over its Tallarín Saltado de Pescado.
Dudes. DUUUUUDES. If you can only go to one Lima restaurant, make it Isolina. Though it’s been Named one of Latin America’s 50 Top Restaurants by the prestigious San Pellegrino List, I can’t help but think the local should be straight at the top. Rustic, quaint and with no frills is how you can describe both its decor and cuisine. Isolina transports customers to your grandmother’s Lima, specializing in the kind of traditional comida criolla that my parents reminisce about. Standouts include papa rellena, arroz tapada and seco. Each dish is meant to be shared family style so bring your appetite and a few friends that like to indulge.
Other Notable Restaurants and Cafés