Normally when we visit a new city we tend to head straight to tripadvisor to help us decide on where we should go for ‘special meals’ (to beak up the monotony of budget eats like avocado on bread). While in Lima we were extremely lucky to have spent our time with two passionate foodies (one being a chef) who are well acquainted with the ever-changing gastronomic scene of this buzzing city. Initially we were only meant to stay for 5 days – a week tops – but once we started feasting we knew we couldn’t leave so soon. Our friends kept mentioning this delicious food and that amazing restaurant that we had to try and so 5 days turned into 17 and every meal ended up being a special one.
Looking at tripadvisor’s list of 1168 Lima restaurants, I knew I had to write this post. Most of the places we went to aren’t even in the top 20 (in fact we only visited about 7 in the top 100) but we thought they were worthy of a taste. In my opinion, no tripadvisor list beats the inside knowledge of born and bred food-loving Limeños.
I guess my favourite part of the whole Lima food experience; aside from the impressive food of course, was the service. Lima wins hands-down in this category, no matter how expensive or cheap the venue is. I wasn’t expecting it at all, so I was even more impressed. I loved that every meal came with too many condiments, and you could ask for more without being charged extra (or judged – Peruvians love their condiments). Tipping (usually 10%) is expected, but also deserved, so I never felt any resentment.
Some of the places you should try while in Lima:
LA LUCHA’S SANGUCHERIA
It’s rare that I visit an exotic country and seek out their national sandwich. Sandwiches for me evoke mundane and overpriced thoughts. Luckily our Aussie friends raved about this place for 2 months prior to our visit, as we drove throughout culinary scant Chile. It’s not a sandwich bar as you know it and it’s bloody good value. The bread is crispy fresh and the fillings are incredibly hard to choose from. Some of our favorites were lechon (young pig), chiccharon (pork deep fried in its own fat) and asado en su jugo (tender beef cooked in its own juices). The meat really shines when it’s smothered in multiple sauces so don’t be afraid to try them all. We loved tártara (mayo, hardboiled egg, parsley and garlic) and traditional salsa criolla (thinly sliced red onion macerated with lime juice).
BANANAS SNACKS & BURGER
This is another epic sandwich bar and also a local institution. It doesn’t look like much, but on a Sunday afternoon it’s the place to go for generous servings, cheap food and fillings that melt away Saturday night sins.
Yet another sandwich place (you can see we really got into them). This has been around for forever and is another local favourite. There are some interesting combinations, like teriyaki chicken with cream cheese, avocado and sesame seeds.
According to theworlds50best Central Restaurant is currently the number 1 restaurant in Latin America and number 15 in the world. It’s certainly the best restaurant we’ve ever eaten at. Read the full spiel on our unforgettable 17-course degustation experience here.
ARABICA ESPRESSO BAR
Beware: Peruvian coffee is STRONG. Some brews have left me with heart palpitations and sweaty palms, something which I’ve never really experienced before. It might have had something to do with the oversized Chemex pour-over I had straight after I finished my espresso. If you can handle it, this place is cozy and relaxed and the perfect place to enjoy a cuppa.
We had lunch here straight after having those coffees at Arabica so it was hard to give my complete concentration to this meal, but I do remember loving it. It’s a relatively new establishment inspired by Amazonian ingredients and theres been lots of hype created around it by the Lima foodie community. It has also been recognised by theworlds50best in the global selection category. The interior is really, really cool. We were lucky enough to be in Lima during Lima Food Week (16 – 29 March 2015), which is where a bunch of restaurants (both affordable and pricey) offer patrons a set 3-course meal for lunch or dinner at a significantly reduced price. A good way to try some of the fancier joints. We opted for the Lima Food Week set menu at Amaz and we were more than satisfied with the delicious and imaginative jungle fare. It set us back 59 soles each (25 AUD).
Peruvian’s love their fusion cuisines. Possibly the best example of this fusion is Nikkei (Peruvian + Japanese). The sushi rolls are called makis and are simply phenomenal. So much more creative and flavorsome compared to your average sushi roll. There’s a lot going on in each maki so if you love the simplicity of sushi and sashimi you might not appreciate these fusion rolls as much.
This is another Nikkei restaurant but a little more high end. We still can’t agree on which one we liked better, Edo or Hanzo, so do yourself a favour and try both. As well as the incredible makis we tried the hand rolled soba noodles and pork belly fried rice. The noodles in particular were memorable, some of the best Asian noodles I’ve ever tasted.
If you love food and you visit Lima then you’ve probably heard of or will eventually hear about a guy called Gastón Acurio. He is the owner of the famous chain of international fine dining restaurants known as Astrid Y Gastón (number 18 in the world according to theworlds50best) but he is also the owner of so many more establishments. Tanta is one of them. It’s honest and delicious and it’s where you can find good quality Peruvian classics like tacu tacu (Peruvian ‘leftovers’ dish with rice and beans) and lomo saltado (beef stir fry with rice and chips). Even if you’re bursting at the seams you have to try the dessert Suspiro de Limeña. It’s both the most delicious and the richest dessert I’ve ever tried (one spoonful is enough so make sure you’ve got others to share it with).
Tanta has multiple locations but you should see the one at Larcomar. It’s a fancy shopping centre and an all round cool place to hang out for the afternoon. You can’t even see it at street level because it’s set literally in the side of Lima’s famous cliff coastline. (You’ll find many of Lima’s prized restaurants in shopping malls – usually a shopping mall is the last place I’d want to eat a good meal but its something you’ll have to get used to).
Victoria Bar is a really cool bar set in huge casona (colonial house) in the heart of Barranco, Lima’s bohemian and arts district. Here you can try all sorts of delicious chilcanos – Peru’s signature cocktail made with their national liquor, pisco (better than the pisco sour in my opinion – goes down a lot easier).
Tio Mario, also in Barranco, sells the ever-popular anticuchos de corazón (beef hearts) shish-kebab style. I was a little skeptical at first but they were actually delicious and a must eat while you are visiting Peru. Because heart is an organ made of muscle, it tasted more like steak than offal. But a special kind of steak – lean and juicy, with fantastic texture.
Here we also tried piccarones, Peru’s take on the classic doughnut. I don’t know if you can call anything deep-fried ‘healthy’ but the dough is made primarily of sweet potato and pumpkin so I’m going to guess it’s a little healthier than the average doughnut. These ingredients mean they are a rich orange colour and their free-formed hand pulled shapes are authentically rustic. Straight from the fryer they are crispy and light with a chewy interior. I really enjoy the flavour that the tiny fennel seeds sprinkled throughout the dough give. They are usually served with a dark chancaca syrup.
According to the locals, this newish restaurant is also a great place to try piccarones. We didn’t get to try them because they were all sold out (must be good eh?) so make sure you get there early. We did try some delicious cremoladas though – I recommend the chicha morada (their national purple corn drink) and chirimoya (custard fruit – read more about these delicious creamy fruits here).
For all things seafood – look no further. This place is ALWAYS packed and you usually have to wait for a table. But I didn’t mind. When we arrived and put our names on the list we were swiftly offered samples of refreshing chicha morada and/or pisco sour while we waited and watched various plates of mouthwatering food in generous portions be delivered to hungry patrons.
Trying ceviche (raw fish cooked in lime juice) here is a given – it was delicious and refreshing and the fish oh-so tender. It comes with camote (sweet potato) and choclo (the huge Peruvian corn), which balances out the acidity of the fish nicely. The Peruvian version of seafood risotto/paella was another hit.
While in Lima you might come across some interesting biscuits known as Chaplins – their flavour is similar to a waffle ice cream cone but harder and not as sweet. They don’t sound too good I know but we stumbled upon a delicious ice cream flavour here where they were featured nicely (forgot the name of it – sorry!).The crumbled up Chaplins go just the right amount of soggy in this blissful combination, trust me.
If you haven’t heard me harp on about the mind-blowing fruit that is lucuma – read this first. Then go to Sarcletti and try it as an ice-cream. It pairs perfectly with their dark chocolate truffle ice cream if you’re looking for a two-scoop fix.
Let’s face it. Roast chicken in Australia is average, at best. So when you travel thousands of kilometres across land and sea and you see rotisserie style chicken on every other corner you feel your heart sink. We had tried this type of chicken at times in Bolivia, when desperation hit. It was good. But nothing to write home about. I felt disappointment towards our friends who suggested on multiple occasions that we grab a roast chook for dinner, especially since their culinary radar had been spot on every other time they took us out for a meal. I should never have doubted them. Pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken roasted over coals) or pollo a la leña (roasted over a wood fire) is another must eat in Peru and Glotons is a good place to try it. The potatoes they use on the side are my favourite out of all the chicken joints. And more importantly, there is a good selection of delicious condiments. Try the pollo a la leña sandwich (the bread they use is a winner).
Loved these. Read more about these Peruvian empanadas and how they compare to what the other Latin American countries are offering here.