By Patrick Hieger
There are those rare occasions when we are forced to open ourselves up to a lot of criticism, complaint, and just straight frustration. Updating the list of the essential 26 restaurants in Lima is just such an occasion. With chefs whose restaurants top the World’s 50 Best list to street level cuisine that should be considered world class, creating this list doesn’t come without its share of difficulties.
However, through a process of speaking with both locals and local experts, keeping a keen eye on the restaurants that everyone’s talking about, and doing a whole lot of tasting on our own, we give you the 26 essential Lima restaurants that you should trying, locals and tourists alike. Remember, there’s a comments section below, and we’d love to hear from you. Did we flat out miss something, or totally miss the mark on one that we included? Let us know. We’re always game for updates.
Astrid y Gastón
Back in March, Gastón Acurio finally inaugurated the long-awaited new home of his temple to Peruvian fine dining, and with it he brought a whole new experience in Latin American cuisine. If you find yourself hungry for a snack or some stunning cocktails, make your way to La Barra, for dishes like BBQ Ribs, or even a ceviche with touches of dry ice. If you’ve got four hours to spare, be sure and experience the tasting menu at the hands of Acurio’s chef Diego Muñoz. Though AyG slipped a few spaces in this year’s World’s 50 Best ranking, rest assured that the food has never been better.
In just under four years, chef Virgilio Martínez has taken what he describes as a neighborhood restaurant in Miraflores to levels of success that restaurants four times as old only dream of. As the highest climber at this year’s World’s 50 Best ceremony, from #50 to #15, the restaurant has become a world-class destination for innovative fine dining. With a brand new Mater Iniciativa menu that scours the highs and lows of Peru for ingredients like mountain algae, Central offers a taste of Peru unlike any other.
Peru has already seen its local favorites like ceviche, anticuchos, suckling pork dishes and a variety of other local favorites take over the hearts and stomachs of diners literally across the world, but another wave will soon hit everyone in the form of Nikkei. Where Japanese cuisine meets the Peruvian larder, you’ll find chef Mitsuharu Tsumura leading the wave of this wildly flavorful and completely unexpected cuisine. Nikkei is Maido, and Maido is 100% Nikkei.
Despite the setbacks that Franco Kisic and his cousin Monica were forced to endure in the first year that IK has been open, they’ve managed to make the restaurant one of hottest new destinations for fine dining in Lima. With easily the most beautiful interiors in Lima, and a menu that Monica has been handcrafting since her arrival back in March, IK has already become a powerhouse in the Lima dining scene.
Where do chefs, foodies, journalists, and even locals go to get their fix on Peruvian classics? Well, a lot of places, but La Picantería is an absolute must-try for anyone visiting Lima for the first time. Embodying the spirit of the classic ‘picantería’ or traditional diners of Peru, La Picantería gives off a very laid-back impression, although the food is anything but. Huge flavors pair with vinyl, picnic-style table cloths for an experience that is entirely local, yet absolutely unforgettable. Best in Lima? We didn’t say it.
Although Hector Solís may not get the same international attention that his contemporaries like Acurio, Schiaffino and Martínez get, the chef / owner of both La Picantería and Fiesta has been a pioneer in the Lima that international diners know and love today. Fiesta brings classics from the north of Peru into a sleek dining room that’s open for lunch and dinner. For the best of Peru with a proper touch of class, Fiesta is a Miraflores must.
When you step into Osso, you might think you’d stepped into a meat lover’s dream in Brooklyn. Simply designed, simply appointed, and entirely focused on the best meat possible (think 100-day aged Wagyu), even Argentines would weep at the sheer quality Renzo Garibaldi is cooking and selling. And that’s not to mention the desserts he offers with bacon in them. After a new remodel, Osso is now open for lunch and dinner. If you’re brave enough, order ahead for the meat-laden 10-course tasting menu.
La Lucha Sanguchería
If you can judge a city by the quality of its sandwich shops, you would be hard-pressed to find a more delicious city on the planet than Lima. While La Lucha does serve up sandwiches other than the ‘Lechón’ (suckling pig), there’s really no point in ordering anything else…unless you get the pavo ahumado, which we’ve heard described as “sex on a roll.” La Lucha’s sandwiches are so moist and juicy that they’ll drip down your arms like a melting ice cream. Topped off with some ‘zarza criolla,’ you might think you’d died and gone to hog heaven. With locations around the city, you won’t have to go far to get your sandwich fix.
One man, in his house, cooking one menu per day, no substitutions accepted–that’s Chez Wong, and that’s what all the hype is about. Bourdain and Ripert declared it was some of the best fish they’d ever eaten. Visitors from far and wide scramble to get the lunch-only reservations that are some times booked for days on end. And Javier Wong manages this humble diner all by himself, continuing to wow guests with his freshness, quality, and massive flavors.
Because LA 73 was open long before its owner Juan Armando Lengua-Balbi Espinosa and his wife and daughter tragically passed away late in 2013 in a car accident, the shock of the loss was a huge blow to Lima. However, the fan favorite in the hip Barranco neighborhood continues to live on in their memory, serving up new spins on Peruvian classics. Chef Daniel Sologuren does dishes like tamales with shrimp and salsa verde, impossibly soft pulpo al olivo and, of course, great ceviches. On the border of hip Barranco, make this a late-night stop or an early afternoon hangout.
Al Toke Pez
When holes in the wall start to garner as much attention as other larger, more noted restaurants do, you know they’re cooking up something special, which is the case for Al Toke Pez. With a focus on the freshest seafood available served in a variety of Peruvian styles, from straight-up deep-fried to freshly-marinated ceviches, this unassuming neighborhood spot is a must-visit for seafood fanatics. The daring and hungry should opt to reserver ahead for the Hagane experience.
To meet chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino in person, you’d never assume he’s the type for crisp linens, expensive plates and the type of class that never goes out of style, but his original ode to all things Amazonian is just that. From fruits to fish, vegetables and herbs that can only come from Peru’s Amazon, Malabar is a showcase of a very different side of Peru.
La Mar Cebichería
Not just another in a long line of wildly successful Gastón Acurio joints, La Mar is to ceviche what Argentina’s La Cabrera is to steak–an absolute homage. With an interior that draws on beach vibes and a no-fuss dining room, the ceviches, the causas, the whole fried fish and, of course, the chilcanos, are allowed to take center stage.
Next to ceviche, and possibly an arroz chaufa or a lomo saltado, anticuchos are one of the must-have elite that no visit to Lima can go without. And, it’s safe to say that if you’re going to eat anticuchos, you must absolutely visit Grimanesa. She’s been grilling up her skewered beef heart in special sauce served with a side of potatoes for years, and she is as beloved by average locals as she is by Peru’s best chefs.
Chef Jaime Pesaque definitely takes the cake for being the most understated Peruvian chef who’s slowly building an international network of restaurants to bring Peru to the masses. Although he has restaurants in the U.S., Spain, and China, his Lima-based Mayta is where he still calls home. There, Pesaque serves updated Peruvian fare in a hip, relaxed setting, though don’t assume it’s just more of what you can get elsewhere around town. Innovation remains at the forefront of all of Mayta’s dishes.
Pan De La Chola
Englishman Jonathan Day has managed to create one of the most-talked about “must-trys” in Lima, but he’s not serving up ceviche, leche de tigre, or even pisco. He’s serving the best bread in the city, with a solid cup of coffee to match. From fresh-squeezed juices to a staggering variety of breads including sourdough, croissants, pastries, and more, you might find yourself heading over for more than just breakfast.
Parque Amistad / Misturita
Though the culinary world descends on Lima every September for Mistura, the country’s (and the continent’s) largest food festival, not everyone can be there. Lucky for them, there’s Misturita, which serves up classics from Mistura year round. Get your lechon at El Chinito, exceptional tamales at Tradición Barranquino, loads of ceviches, foods from the Amazon, and loads more from the corners of Peru.
Pedro Miguel Schiaffino doesn’t only do white tablecloths and tasting menus. At Ámaz, diners can get a trendy take on the Amazon with dishes like shrimp steamed (and served) in bamboo, or plantains filled with cheese and beef. They also happen to have one of the best bartenders in the city, Luis Flores, who’s exotic cocktails featuring Bolivian gin and Singani have been winning him a lot of awards as of late. For a lazy lunch or a night of cocktails and intriguing bites, look no further than the Amazon.
Now you’d be hard-pressed to argue that there’s anything more classic to Peru than ceviche, but pollo a las brasas does rank high in the list of must-have national dishes. Throw a stick and you’ll hit a shop selling the golden roasted chicken, always served with loads of sauces and spices, but per our tastes, we’re going with El Pollón. Drive up or sit down, a roasted chicken feast awaits.
One look at Matria’s menu and you might think the restaurant was having a bit of an identity crisis, what with ceviches, pastas, and pizzas on the same menu, but just like Lima, it’s a melting pot of flavors. Chef Arlette Eulert Checa is a long-time disciple of acclaimed Lima chef Rafael Osterling, and also has a knack for pairing her plates with craft beers. Keep tabs on the monthly beer pairing dinners, and get a taste of the up and coming market in Peru.
As a Barranco staple for more than 40 years, before the neighborhood began getting its current praise, Mi Peru offers a legitimate taste of classic Peru. Given that the decor looks as though it’s remained the same since day one, classic is always on the menu. You’ll want to order the concentrado de cangrejo, as some of our contributors have claimed it’s changed their lives.
Though it’s not actually in Lima, the architecture at James Berckemeyer’s brand new, Mediterranean-focused hot spot is worth the visit alone. With a menu that includes mud-oven pizzas, pastas, and a variety of of meat preparations, La Ladrillera gives diners the option to taste more than standard Peruvian fare. Dishes like the roasted baby chicken and the pastel de choclo have been described as “fucking amazing.” Need more endorsements?
Twist Burger Bar
Yes, we’re including a burger bar in Lima. And yes, it’s owned by an expat. But damn, the burgers are sensational. Located in the heart of up-and-coming Barranco, Twist is as simple as it gets–burgers and beer. With handcrafted burgers that come with toppings like bacon and onion rings, as well as a cooler full of local craft brews like Cumbres and Barbarian, the burger could just become the next big thing to come out of Lima.
Picking a cevichería out of Lima is like picking the shiniest needle out of a stack of needles. But, when a chef as well known as Rafael Osterling does ceviche, you know it’s going to be sensational. With a focus on sustainable, perfect products, you might pay a tad more than the typical cevichería, but Osterling never disappoints.
Tucked away in San Isidro, Lima 27 is one of Lima’s more understated modern dining experiences. Led by chef Carlos Testino, Lima 27 offers a mix of Peruvian cultures, from Italian to classic comfort food, as well as Asian and Spanish touches, without being simply another fusion restaurant.
Surquillo Market #1
As Lima’s biggest produce, meat and fish market, it’s safe to say there’s a focus on high-quality ingredients. Walk around on any given day and you’ll see an array of fruits from all corners of Peru, freshly-cut meats, and fish so fresh it’s still flapping. Get past the produce stands and you’ll see loads of small restaurants, nay, stalls, dishing up classic Peruvian fare. For a safe bet, head to stall 32 for a giant bowl of caldo de gallina, a rich chicken broth full of noodles, sautéed vegetables, egg, and chile. Just one of the many treats you’ll find, Surquillo market is full of surprises around every corner.