11 Must-Try Dining Experiences in Lima, Peru

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Over the past decade, Lima, Peru, has risen to become an international food destination. Chefs are elevating traditional dishes like ceviche and beef heart skewers (anticuchos) to new heights while also expanding on the tradition of Peruvian-Japanese fusion called Nikkei cuisine, which marries Asian and Latin American flavors. By sourcing the best local ingredients and employing molecular gastronomy techniques and presentations, they have created a cuisine that holds its own against the highest-Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. Here are 11 places you must try on your next visit to the capital of Peru.

El Mercado

Even if you’re not looking for this famed spot in the moneyed Miraflores neighborhood, it will catch your eye with its throngs of loyal congregants waiting for a table. Celebrity chef Rafael Osterling has transformed the casual hole-in-the-wall cevichería into an experience, with mid-century-modern touches, lively music and greenery. Start with the house favorite, the conchas a la parmesana (broiled scallops with pisco, cream cheese, and Grana Padano), and be sure to focus your meal on the dazzling ceviche — the nontraditional grilled options are pretty fantastic. Don’t skimp on the other seafood, though, as everything on the dazzlingly large menu will be some of the best food you eat in Lima.

El Mercado
Avenida Hipólito Unanue 203, Miraflores. Tel. (51) 1-974-779-517

Central

Dining room at Central
Dining room at Central - César de Rio

You might have heard celebrity chef Virgilio Martínez’s name from TV shows like “Chef’s Table” and lists like the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. But if you get to experience his menu of almost 20 courses based on ingredients found at Peru’s various elevations, you’ll come to feel as if you understand his heart and soul. With his sister Malena, Martínez scours his beloved country for its most essential edible ingredients, then uses his findings to create small plates based on specific landscapes, with names like Marine Soil and Land of Corn. For example, a recent dessert showcased cacao in its many forms: house-made bean-to-bar chocolate, cacao-husk-infused ice cream, cacao-fruit jelly and milk chocolate mousse topped with a granita made from coca leaves and fresh herbs. The über-modern, spacious interior and impeccable service complete the meal.

Central
Avenida Pedro de Osma 301, Barranco. Tel. (51) 1-242-8515

Isolina

This boisterous yet comfortable tavern offers a pleasant respite after you’ve spent the day admiring the colorful street art and shopping the stylish boutiques in hip Barranco. Chef José del Castillo, whose family owns the equally well-known La Red Restaurante Cebichería, focuses on distinctive criollo cuisine, which mixes West African and Spanish cooking, served family style, like tacu tacu (a sautéed rice-and-bean patty) and cau cau (tripe and potato stew). Indeed, Isolina has even been included on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Expect to wait with a pisco sour in hand at the entrance to the restaurant, then gloat as you’re led to your table in either the light-filled bar section or the homey area upstairs, which offers premium views of the house-made desserts on display.

Isolina
Avenida San Martín 101, Barranco. Tel. (51) 1-247-5075

Osaka

Lima’s residents know how to party, as evidenced at this clubby restaurant in the tony San Isidro neighborhood. The flashy exterior will make you feel like a celebrity on the red carpet, and the spotlit, dramatic interior is perfect for Saturday’s date night. But don’t think it’s all about the atmosphere. Osaka specializes in Nikkei food, and this restaurant is one of the best. Find traditional nigiri livened up with Peruvian ingredients like quinoa, as well as Peruvian proteins united with Japanese staples like miso and yuzu. No wonder so many of Lima’s chefs have gotten their start here.

Osaka
Avenida Pardo y Aliaga 660, San Isidro. Tel. (51) 1-222-0405

El Pan de La Chola

Bread from El Pan de la Chola
Bread from El Pan de la Chola

This Miraflores mecca draws tourists and locals alike for its artisanal breads, pastries and sandwiches (including an enormous avocado toast). But don’t expect to sample traditional Peruvian fare. The bakery, owned by engineer and actor Jonathan Day, who learned his craft at San Francisco’s Tartine, features European-style delicacies made with the best ingredients using natural fermentation. Day, whose nickname is La Chola, makes some of the most outstanding sourdough, focaccia and croissants we’ve tasted, and his airy, light-filled café is the perfect place to hang out with a cup of coffee and a pastry until you’re ready for lunch.

El Pan de La Chola
Avenida Mariscal La Mar 918, Miraflores. Tel. (51) 1-221-2138

Maido

Nigiri from Maido
Nigiri from Maido - Jose Cáceres

Attracting diners from around the world, this Miraflores destination will awe you with both ambiance and cuisine. The name of the game here is Nikkei, and chef Mitsuharu “Micha” Tsumura takes you on a journey through more than a dozen composed plates with a molecular gastronomy bent. In Tsumura’s hands, ingredients like rockfish, chorizo and even guinea pig are transformed into works of art that are almost too beautiful to eat. Almost. Sit at the sushi counter to watch the chefs in action, or enjoy the grand dining room, which exhibits the best of Japanese-style minimalism with its stunning ceiling covered in hanging, multicolored rope.

Maido
Calle San Martin 399, Miraflores. Tel. (51) 1-313-5100

Astrid y Gastón

Dining room at  Astrid y Gastón
Dining room at Astrid y Gastón - Astrid y Gastón

Peru wasn’t always an internationally known food destination, famous for its diverse and delicious ingredients. Enter celebrity chefs (and husband-and-wife team) Gastón Acurio and Astrid Gutsche, who began championing Peruvian food rather than imported fruits, vegetables and proteins back in 1994, when they opened Astrid y Gastón. For example, humble guinea pig gets the royal treatment when served Peking style as a bao, and ceviche becomes its own tasting menu served as a “trilogy” of three distinct varieties. The restaurant has always been a white-tablecloth establishment, but in 2014 it moved to Casa Moreyra, a 300-year-old hacienda in San Isidro with oodles of old-world charm.

Astrid y Gastón
Avenida Paz Soldán 290, San Isidro. Tel. (51) 1-442-2777

For Dessert and Coffee

Ice cream from Crem Dela Crem
Ice cream from Crem Dela Crem - Crem Dela Crem

Pasteleria San Antonio

Peru has so many treats to try while you’re traveling, and this old-school pastry shop makes them all impeccably well. While also serving sandwiches and pizzas, the sweets are the real stars here. Before you order, check out all the goodies in the dessert cases to decide what looks best, then grab a table in the adjoining room. Some of our favorites: alfajores (shortbread cookie sandwiches with manjar blanco, also called dulce de leche), passionfruit semifreddo and lucuma ice cream. Never heard of lucuma? It’s a native fruit that tastes like maple syrup, a delicious surprise.

Pasteleria San Antonio
Avenida Vasco Núñez de Balboa 770, Miraflores. Tel. (51) 1-626-1303

Tostaduría Bisetti

Now that you’re in the land where coffee grows, you’ll want to head to the best café around. Since the 1950s, that’s been Tostaduría Bisetti, in hip Barranco, which was opened by Rómulo Bisetti, a Peruvian whose family hailed from Italy. In other words, long before specialty coffee was available around the world, this Italian-style roaster and café was focusing on sourcing high-quality Peruvian beans, roasting them to perfection and serving them in espressos, lattes and cappuccinos. Now grandson David Torres Bisetti runs the show, offering not only coffee drinks and desserts but also coffee-tasting events, acoustic concerts and more.

Tostaduría Bisetti
Avenida Pedro de Osma 116, Barranco. Tel. (51) 1-713-9565

Crem dela Crem

Since 2015, this Barranco shop has been scooping some of the best gelato in the city. Co-owned by three friends, who either trained at Le Cordon Bleu or worked at Astrid y Gastón, the tiny café focuses on traditional Italian flavors like fior di latte and gianduja, with Peruvian staples like granadilla (a type of passion fruit) and lucuma con alfajores thrown in for good measure. If you’re not in an ice cream sort of mood, try the impeccable lemon pie, piled high with meringue. Note that you order and pay in the adjoining pastry shop, then circle back to choose your flavors. If it’s a nice day, sit outside on the benches or in the park across the street.

Crem dela Crem
Parque Municipal 109, Barranco. Tel. (51) 1-396-2124

Bar Inglés

You’ve probably had a pisco sour, but have you had a pisco sour in the place where the drink may have been invented? It's hard to know if that's the truth or the stuff of legend, but this luxe bar in San Isidro’s Country Club Lima Hotel is famous for Peru’s most beloved cocktail, served here by one of the many dapper, bow-tie-clad bartenders. Regardless, the British gentlemen’s club atmosphere and solid drinks are the ritziest way to start off an evening — or end one in style.

Bar Inglés
Calle Los Eucaliptos 590, San Isidro. Tel. (51) 1-611-900

By Megan Giller Hideaway Report Contributor
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