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Peru’s Ultimate Dining Destination: Astrid & Gastón

Peru’s Ultimate Dining Destination: Astrid & Gastón


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Astrid & Gastón was named one of the best restaurants in the world for four consecutive years

Peru is famous for having diverse culinary offerings that are very distinct from region to region.

Just last year in 2014, Peru was named South America’s leading culinary destination, the third time the country’s won the honor. Peru is famous for having diverse culinary offerings that are very distinct from region to region. Each region offers locals and travelers alike its own type of cuisine, perfectly catering to the adventurous and hungry traveler who is open to sampling a little bit of everything.

Among those restaurants that continue to bring Peru culinary fame is Astrid & Gastón, a restaurant that earned itself the #4 spot on our list of the 101 Best Restaurants in Latin America & the Caribbean.

With the notable achievement of four consecutive years on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Astrid & Gastón is a pioneer of Lima’s blossoming culinary scene, and a major reason for the international recognition of Peruvian food. Though the restaurant's founder, Gastón Acurio, retired from active management of the place last year, he and his wife, Astrid Gutsche, continue to oversee a fine-dining (and occasionally casual-dining) empire stretching from Madrid to San Francisco to São Paulo (including an impressive seven restaurants in Lima alone and several more in development). The menus at Acurio’s Lima original comprise experimental dishes in which traditional items are transformed into new and different offerings. One of the standout dishes is the famous cuy pekinés, in which guinea pig is cooked in the Peking duck style and served with rocoto chiles and a purple corn crêpe. Desserts follow the same creative cooking style, combining local Peruvian fruits with syrups, cakes, and ice cream for creations like lúcuma (a tropical fruit) ice cream served with raspberry compote and crème brûlée foam.


Peru’s Ultimate Dining Destination: Astrid & Gastón - Recipes

(CNN) -- Paris perhaps? Or maybe New York, Rome or Tokyo?

Naming the world's greatest gourmet city is the kind of confoundingly simple challenge that foodies could spend all night fighting over.

Yet now there is a new candidate for the title, one that until recently few associated with haute cuisine but which has been taking the gastronomical world by storm: Lima.

Since the turn of the millennium, the Peruvian capital has been the epicenter of an increasingly acclaimed culinary renaissance.

A generation of creative young chefs trained in some of the top culinary schools around the globe have returned to Peru to start applying their new skills and techniques to the Andean nation's vast reservoir of traditional recipes.

The proof is in the elegantly plated pudding.

In the 2017 edition of San Pellegrino's ranking of the world's 50 best restaurants, Lima is the only city that actually gets two eateries into the top 10, with fifth-placed Central and eighth-ranked Maido.

Lima's top restaurants also have another advantage while dining in such highly rated restaurants in Europe or North America might cost the equivalent of a monthly mortgage payment, here you can even get away with spending under $100 for a single meal.

The roots of Peru's gastronomic excellence are not hard to identify.

Its cuisine is a literal melting pot of flavors and traditions from every corner of the globe. The country has seen significant immigration from nations as varied as Spain, Italy, France, China and Japan.

Then there are the vital influences of the vibrant Afro-Peruvian community as well as distinct indigenous cultures from the coast, mountains and vast rainforest.

Adding to the mix is a spectacularly diverse natural pantry. Thanks to its tropical location and huge variation in altitude, Peru has just about every kind of ecosystem -- and food crop -- imaginable.

The Andes and Amazon are home to countless kinds of exotic, little known but utterly delicious herbs, fruit and vegetables while the frigid Humboldt Current means Peru's Pacific fisheries teem with myriad seafood species.

Here, we run down 12 of the best restaurants Lima has to offer.

Currently the undisputed brightest star in Peru's culinary universe, Central has been repeatedly ranked Latin America's best restaurant.

Chef Virgilio Martínez's philosophy reclaims the pre-Colombian tradition of barter and exchange between communities from the coast, mountains and rainforest, featuring ingredients from altitudes as high as 12,000 feet to below sea level, in other words fish and seafood.

That approach is not new in Peruvian gastronomy although no one else has done it to the level of acclaim of Martínez, who features in CNN's "Culinary Journeys" series.

From the high Andes, Martínez will serve guests a selection of Peruvian potatoes garnished with muña, a kind of Andean mint, and alpaca heart shavings.

At the other end of the altitudinal spectrum, who knew that scallops, spiced up with Peruvian rocoto peppers, could be turned into a crust with a meringue-like texture?

Booking will need to be made weeks, and possibly even months, in advance.

Central, Santa Isabel 376 Miraflores Lima +51 1 2428515

2. El Señorio del Sulco

One of just a tiny handful of restaurants with the ultimate location on Lima's Malecon, the clifftop boulevard overlooking the Pacific, this restaurant is famed for its repertoire of hearty Peruvian "criollo" classics, the coastal tradition that blends Spanish and native influences.

Come hungry and ready to try traditional recipes such as ají de gallina, a kind of Peruvian chicken "korma," or beef huatia, a pre-Colombian technique involving slow cooking by burying the meat with large stones taken from a fire.

El Señorio de Sulco, El Malecón Cisneros 1470, Miraflores, Lima +51 1 4410183

3. Astrid & Gastón

No listing of Lima restaurants would be complete without Astrid & Gastón, the eatery that spearheaded Peru's gastronomic rebirth when it opened its doors in 1994.

The flagship project of chef Gastón Acurio and his German chocolatier wife Astrid Gutsche -- herself once named the world's best pastry chef -- who he met while studying in Paris's Cordon Bleu culinary school, is now housed in a spacious 17th Century palacio decorated in modern, minimalist style.

Acurio remains the father of contemporary Peruvian cuisine, having both championed the country's rich tradition of home cooking and been the first to tweak it with haute cuisine flourishes on an international stage.

Astrid & Gastón offers a tasting menu that is a tour de force as it takes diners on a brisk journey across Peru's exhilarating history and geography.

4. La Picanteria

Another of Lima's highest-ranked restaurants, this one offers cuisine from Arequipa, Peru's picturesque third city nestled in the southern Andean foothills.

There, "picanterias," which typically only open for lunch, are a way of life, with dishes ranging from seafood to the decidedly meaty, especially chicharron, aka fried pork, a Peruvian classic.

Dishes to look out for include the beef ribs, a crab parihuela or stew, and the rocoto en chupe, a soup a little reminiscent of a chowder using one of Peru's hottest native chili peppers.

La Picanteria, Surquillo, Sta Rosa 388, Distrito de Lima +51 1 2416676

Describing Osso as an upscale steakhouse doesn't do the place justice. This specialist in all things beef actually started out as an exclusive butcher's shop.

Initially chef Renzo Garibaldi began inviting friends to enjoy a private grill around the carving table as he experimented with aging different cuts, some for up to three months.

With the enzymes breaking down the meat and imparting complex layers of flavor, he started getting requests from strangers keen to share the experience.

The chef's table remains open, although you may have to book months in advance. Garibaldi has also opened a second branch, in the central district of San Isidro, which will save foreign visitors the trek to his original eatery in La Molina, off the beaten track on the eastern fringes of Lima.

Osso may be the least authentically Peruvian restaurant on this list, but it might also just be the best place in South America to enjoy a steak.

Osso La Molina, Tahiti 175, La Molina, Lima +51 1 3529915

Osso San Isidro, Av. Sto. Toribio 173 y Vía, Av. Central 172, San Isidro, Lima +51 1 4697438

The subject of much critical acclaim and some high-flying culinary rankings, chef Rafael Osterling is heading in a new direction.

That means that instead of providing a tasting menu of a dozen or more tiny but elaborately worked and often experimental portions, he's shooting to give diners a filling three-course meal, but one with all the flair you'd expect of a world-class chef.

The current menu includes very Peruvian items such as "tiradito," a kind of fish carpaccio, made with tuna and flavored with avocado and palm hearts, and duck (a staple along Peru's northern coast) braised with black beer and served with sweet rice.

Rafael, Calle San Martin 300, Miraflores, Lima +51 1 2424149

This is the highly rated locale of Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, a chef particularly known for his use of exotic ingredients from the Amazon.

Malabar is also home to a bar that's been ranked in the world's top 10, should you be in the mood for an aperitif before your meal.

These days Schiaffino, like Osterling, is a little more focused on satisfying his customers than garnering critical plaudits, offering "casual cuisine, with a simple spirit and the warmth of home."

In practice that doesn't, however, mean anything less than spectacularly original fare, from smoked paiche, the largest fish in the Amazon, served with black chili sauce and yucca puree, to grilled octopus with lima beans and parmesan shavings.

Malabar, Av. Camino Real 101, San Isidro, Lima +51 1 4405300

If Peru has a national dish, then it's ceviche, the fresh seafood salad marinated in lemon juice and sold in specialist restaurants, cevicherias, even in the Andes.

No cevicheria is more famous than La Mar -- the name translates to "the high seas" -- the second flagship eatery of Gastón Acurio. Like all cevicherias, La Mar doesn't just offer a variety of ceviches, but also numerous other versions of Peru's many original fish and shellfish classics.

A bottle of white wine is a perfect accompaniment but the classic Peruvian way to eat ceviche is washed down with a local, very cold lager.

La Mar, Av Mariscal La Mar 770, Miraflores, Lima +51 1 4213365

9. Chez Wong

If ceviche has a doyen, then it is Javier Wong. He actually started this restaurant out of his garage, although these days you'll need to book weeks in advance for his informal lunch-only restaurant behind an unmarked door in an unfashionable neighborhood.

Wong prepares all the dishes himself and, unlike most, uses only a single fish, sole, for his stripped-down version of this Peruvian classic. He then adds slices of red onion, salt, black pepper, diced chilies and the lemon juice that cures the chunks of raw fish.

It's a sign of his true mastery how such a simple recipe can be so utterly delicious. He also cooks all kinds of other seafood delights too, without a recipe and frequently off-the-cuff depending on his mood.

Chez Wong, Enrique León García 114, Distrito de Lima +51 1 4706217

10. 1087 Bistro

This is a new project from a rising star of Peruvian cuisine, Palmiro Ocampo, whose CV includes a stint at Copenhagen's Noma, once ranked the world's best restaurant.

The tasting menu reveals the same avant-garde philosophy of his Danish mentors, rooted in the seasonality and sustainability of locally sourced ingredients while also revering Peru's own complex traditions.

You can also order a la carte. Dishes are experimental, elaborate yet also austere, and come with titles such as "el Trueque," a reference to the pre-Colombian tradition of barter that still survives in rural Peru, and even Trepanation, the cranial surgeries once practiced by the Paracas people along the southern coast.

1087 Bistro, Av. Los Conquistadores 1087, San Isidro, Lima +51 977 741 746

The name means "welcome" in Japanese and this restaurant from chef Mitsuharu Tsumura is the apogee of Japanese-Peruvian, aka "Nikkei" cuisine.

This fusion dates back more than a century thanks to the Andean nation's large community of immigrants from the Land of the Rising Sun. Maido is, according to the 2017 San Pellegrino rankings, not just Latin America's second best restaurant but also number eight in the world.

The menu runs from conventionally exquisite Japanese sushi classics to original creations such as cau cau, a pre-Colombian potato stew, but served with sea snails.

Maido, Calle San Martin 399, Miraflores +51 1 4462512

This is Schiaffino's other restaurant, intended to be more economically accessible than Malabar. It's also explicitly dedicated to recipes and ingredients from across the Amazon basin.

Considering how vast and biodiverse it is, you might wonder how cuisine from the world's greatest tropical rainforest has managed to largely fly below most foodies' radar.

At Amaz, this is rectified with Schiaffino's sophisticated takes on all kinds of jungle staples, from juanes (chicken, rice, olives and egg cooked together wrapped in a giant leaf), to cecina and tacacho, aka smoked pork with a kind of hash brown dumpling made from plantains.


How Gastón Acurio Transformed Peru Into a Culinary Destination

Every community in Peru is built around three central locations: the church, the plaza, and the local mercado. The market is sacred in its own right—an integral part of everyday life where vendors peddle everything from scaled cherimoya fruit and football-shaped cacao pods to quinoa by the pound or slide steaming plates of paella-like arroz con mariscos and freshly tossed ceviche over counters to lines of hungry customers. Many of these vendors have devout followings their stalls might bear their names or display their portraits. Walk through enough of these markets, however, and you’ll start to notice the same man pictured at their side: Gastón Acurio, Peru’s most famous chef.

Over the past 15 years, Acurio has built an empire around Peruvian food—to the tune of over 40 restaurants in a dozen countries—and established himself as one of Latin America’s most prominent celebrity chefs. His Lima-based restaurant Astrid & Gastón, has repeatedly appeared on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and last year the organization gave him the Diner’s Club Lifetime Achievement Award. His cevicheria La Mar now has outposts in six cities, from San Francisco to Buenos Aires Tanta, a homestyle Peruvian restaurant has expanded as far as Chicago and Madrid. To have him stop by your stall in the mercado and snap a photo with you is the ultimate vote of confidence.

Diners flock to Acurio’s restaurants for all types of Peruvian cuisine—whether it be street food classics like grilled cow’s heart skewers at Panchita in Lima or a 15-course tasting menu at Astrid & Gastón, home to Andean staples like cuy (guinea pig) and delicate coastal tiraditos (fish carpaccio with Peruvian chile sauce). His restaurants feel like a classroom: the menus are encyclopedias of Peruvian cuisine, and the waitstaff is ready to educate guests. It’s that dichotomy which has made Acurio, instantly recognizable by his beaming grin and mess of dark curls, so loved within Peru—it’s just as natural to see him hosting his television show La Adventura Culinaria in a crisp white chef’s coat, as it is to see him slurping down a bowl of chilcano fish broth at a local mercado in jeans.

But ask any Peruvian what makes Acurio so important, and you’ll learn it’s not just about the restaurants. For the past three decades, Acurio has been on a mission to put the country back on the map for travelers.

A dish featuring scallops from Paracas.

Courtesy Courtesy Gastón Acurio

Astrid & Gastón, which is housed inside the 17th-century Casa Hacienda Moreyra.

From the 1970s through the late 1990s, Peru was embroiled in a violent domestic conflict that stretched from the heart of Lima to the fringes of the Amazon, punctuated by a recession in the mid-➀s that caused hyperinflation and further instability. Ongoing reports of violence and domestic terrorism were a deterrent for many visitors—and for locals, a reason to leave. “Peru was in a very bad economic, political, and social situation,” says Marisol Mosquera, a travel specialist who has been arranging tours to Peru for over 20 years with her company Aracari. “No one was coming [before the ➐s].”

At 28, Acurio left Peru for Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. When he wasn’t learning the art of French cooking, he’d whip up Peruvian dishes for his classmates: aji de gallina, made from shredded chicken thickened with a creamy, egg yolk-yellow aji amarillo (yellow chile pepper) sauce wok-fried lomo saltado, a soy sauce-based stir fry of steak, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and thick-cut french fries and of course, ceviche—delicate, raw cuts of white fish mixed with slivers of red onion and chopped chiles, and tossed in fresh-squeezed lime juice.

"I wanted to prove to our people that we weren’t condemned to imitate others’ cultures, others’ cuisines—we have a beautiful cuisine that deserves to be celebrated around the world."

Surprised by the positive response from his classmates, Acurio began to see his culinary heritage with a new sense of purpose.“[Peruvians] are a mix of indigenous cultures, the Spanish colonizers, and the many immigrants who have come to Peru—Italian, Japanese, Chinese—and our food is a reflection [of that],” says Acurio. “When we speak about our food, we’re speaking about our families. For a long time, Peruvians had been trying to hide our multi-cultural origins. We thought we needed to be more European—that our mixed background would deny us of opportunities. ”

He returned home to Lima in 1994—with his German-born wife in tow—and opened Astrid & Gastón with fellow Cordon Bleu alum Astrid Gutsche. Peru was drawing less than half a million tourists annually, and Lima was little more than a stopover for catching a flight to Cusco to visit Machu Picchu. After briefly featuring French dishes on the menu, Acurio and Gutsche switched the focus to local ingredients. “I wanted to prove to our people that we weren’t condemned to imitate others’ cultures, others’ cuisines—we have a beautiful cuisine that deserves to be celebrated around the world,” says Acurio. “There were no tours in Lima at the time, and I knew one of the best weapons that we could use to convince people to visit our country was the food.”

Where To Eat in Peru, According to Gastón Acurio

In 2005, 1.6 million tourists visited Peru a decade later in 2015, the country received 3.5 million annual visitors, a mix of cross-generational trekkers, and Lima-bound food lovers. The growth in tourism to Machu Picchu has been so vast, so rapid, that overtourism has become a major talking point, and in 2016 the government began implementing measures to limit visits. At the end of 2018, there were 4.4. million tourists arriving to the country annually—an 800 percent increase from 1994, when Acurio first returned home.

At the Belen market in Iquitos, Peru, vendors sell produce and proteins straight from the Amazon.

As Lima continued to stabilize throughout the early 2000s, Acurio continued to open new restaurants before taking his temples of Peruvian cuisine abroad. “We knew that if we opened Peruvian restaurants all over the world, beautiful restaurants with beautiful seating and beautiful plating on beautiful avenues, that they would become embassies of Peruvian culture,” he says. He began reaching out to other Peruvian chefs on the scene—Flavio Solorzano, Jose del Castillo, Pedro Miguel Schiafino, and Rafael Piqueras—and asked them to join him in his mission. “For chefs, there are always egos, vanities, competition, and jealousy—but we decided as a community of chefs to take Peruvian cuisine to the world.”

Their efforts inspired young Peruvians who had been training in the U.S. and Europe to return home and help forge the path. As tourism numbers grew, Peru’s culinary accolades began piling up. In 2012, Peru was named the World’s Leading Culinary Destination by the World Travel Awards, a title it has continued to receive every year since. (Italy, France, Spain, and Japan have all remained runner-ups.) In 2013, Astrid & Gastón scored the top spot on the inaugural Best Restaurants in Latin America list by World’s 50 Best, a list it has since remained on. “[Peru] was the first leading culinary country in South America,” says French restaurateur Daniel Boulud. “I remember opening my restaurant in 1993, and following his opening, guests from Peru were proudly telling me about Astrid & Gastón.”

At the end of 2018, there were a whopping 4.4. million tourists arriving to the country annually—an 800 percent increase from 1994, when Acurio first returned home.

One noticeable change in the last decade has been an openness among travelers to experience destinations “nobody had heard of 10 years ago,” says Jordan Harvey, co-founder of Knowmad Adventures and a South American travel specialist. “[In the past], some may have overlooked Peru as a place only for history and adventure buffs, and the spotlight food has put on Peru is causing them to look again,” says Harvey. “Once they start to plan, they uncover the many layers of the country and end up planning trips that fold those in.” Some visitors now swap Macchu Picchu for a four day hike to the Incan ruins of Choquequirao, a visit to the 6th-century settlement of Kuelap and the free-leaping Gocta Falls (the third-tallest in the world), or even a trek across the glacial Cordillera Blanca mountain range.

The tourism board believes Peru will attract 7 million tourists by 2021, and other Latin American countries like Colombia, Chile, and Brazil are now hoping to write a similar story. “I see Chile making a strong push to sew food and wine into the narrative of Chilean travel,” says Harvey. ”But no country that I know tells quite as fascinating of a tale through their food as Peru.”

Acurio, now 51, currently runs a culinary school he founded in the lower income neighborhood of Pachacutec, and is working on opening a second in the neighborhood of Pamplona. (He hopes that such projects will inspire the rest of the country, including the government, to take a cue and do more of the same.) More than 300 young chefs have already graduated from the first school, with many going on to culinary internships abroad.

A new generation of Peruvian chefs have arrived, too. Virgilio Martínez, Pía León, and Mitsuharu Tsumura, are all names Acurio would like to pass the baton to. “They are now using this platform to do even a better job than we did,” he says. Tsumura’s Maido and Martínez’s Central Restaurante

in Lima currently hold the first two spots on the Best Restaurants in Latin America list. At Maido, Tsumara serves Japanese-Peruvian fusion, known as nikkei, with dishes like sea urchin rice and a riff on cau cau stew that swaps the usual tripe for sea snail. Central’s diners go through a tasting menu that features ingredients found at different altitudes in Peru, from 65 feet below sea level to more than 13,000 feet above. Regular menu items include sea bubble algae and yuca charcoal.

Mil, the latest restaurant from Virgilio Martínez, sits 12,000 feet high in the Andes beside the Moray Incan ruins.

Gustavo Vivanco Leon/Courtesy MIL

The food scene is expending beyond Lima: Martínez just opened the highly anticipated Mil, 12,000 feet high in the Andes. The space was a former breeding center for vicuñas (a relative of the llama known for its soft wool), beside the still-unexplained Moray archaeological site (the ruins, a set of concentric terraces with different microclimates at each level, are believed to have been used for growing various crops in one place—fitting, given Martínez’ concept at Central). The menu focuses on Peru’s vegetables, tubers, and grains, which, in a country home to more than 4,000 varieties of potatoes alone, is hardly limiting. “Mil isn’t just a restaurant,” says Martínez. “It’s a laboratory that looks at Peruvian culture, produce, and identity.”

With the same spirit of community Acurio has spent decades cultivating, the old and new guard are working together. Last April, Acurio and Martínez co-hosted the latest season finale of MasterChef U.K. in Lima, during which the four British finalists prepared llama meat and Amazonian piranha heads. Acurio says multiple local tour companies in Lima reported their websites crashing due to the monsoon of traffic from the U.K.

“I still have a lot left to do,” says Acurio. “It’s been hard, but I always dreamed that one day we’d reach this point, where everyone would see our traditional Peruvian food, the food invented by our mothers and their mothers, as something beautiful.”


Peru on a Plate: A Culinary Guide to Lima

Home to countless food markets, three establishments ranked on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018 list, and a unique cuisine reflecting both the Amazon rainforest and Andes mountain range, Lima is a dream destination for gastronomy lovers. Add its property investment opportunities, and you’ve got a recipe for success. Here, Virgilio Martínez, owner of Michelin-starred Central, guides Luxury Defined around Lima’s top tables.

Lima’s food scene

Lima’s fine-dining scene has always been buoyant, but it only recently started to be recognized on the world stage, thanks in large part to Virgilio Martínez, who featured in Series 3 of the popular Netflix Chef’s Table. His restaurant Central is currently ranked sixth on the 2018 list, and a reservation there is still the hottest in town.

Martínez rates other high-ranking institutions Maido (No. 7) and Astrid & Gastón (No. 39) as equals, and, with a fresh perspective after moving premises to trendy Barranco earlier this year, the Peruvian is optimistic about his city’s food future.

Related: Explore the World’s Best-Dressed Restaurants

“It’s taken a long time for we Peruvians to embrace our culinary traditions and regional cuisines, but we can now talk about Lima as a dining destination,” he says. “My generation trained in Europe’s kitchens but the next generation has only ever worked in Lima’s high-end restaurants, which adds a highly Peruvian perspective.”

Exploring Barranco

At the start of the 20th century, the coastal district of Barranco was the destination for upper-class limeños to vacation, with many owning distinctive Republican-style summer houses facing the Pacific Ocean. Fast-forward 100 years, Barranco is back in fashion, and property investors should take a closer look, says María José Borquez of Borquez & Asociados, the exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate in Peru.

“It’s a bohemian and artistic district that’s been transformed over the past decade, and luxurious buildings have been built on piers to offer exclusive waterfront views,” she says. “Home to Museo Mario Testino (MATE) and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC), Barranco is attracting young property buyers thanks to its medium-rise buildings and loft-style apartments, as well as properties along the Miraflores boardwalk offering Pacific Ocean views.” Boutique hotels such Casa República and Hotel B, as well as art galleries, have also seized the opportunity to revamp the beautiful former summer homes and bring them up to date, adding to the district’s regeneration.

After working 10 years in the Miraflores district, Martínez moved Central to Barranco in June 2018—and he’s thrilled with the change. “Barranco is Lima’s most cultural district and a lot of artisans—such as ceramicists with whom we’ve worked with at the restaurant—are based here. That bohemian and cultural spirit is very much in line with Central and our biological and cultural research center Mater Iniciativa. Barranco is small, pretty, and everybody knows everybody. On Sundays, we walk around the picturesque plazas, and wander from artisan baker to cheesemaker to carpenter. I love it.”

One of Martínez’s favorite dining spots is Isolina, whose hearty limeño classics such as chicken gizzard stew created by chef José del Castillo have put it firmly on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018. As for the next generation, in August Pía León—Central’s former head chef and Martínez’s wife—opened Kjolle, which takes a more casual dining approach with family-style dishes. Mérito, a 20-seat space which gives Venezuelan staples such as arepas a luxurious twist, is another newcomer to the district.


9 Peruvian restaurants among “Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018”

On October 30, 2018 “The World’s 50 Best” sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna revealed the “Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018” in front of leading chefs, media and influencers at a live awards ceremony in Bogota, Colombia.

And not only the best restaurant in the region is located in Lima, but another 8 gourmet temples in the Peruvian capital are among the 50 best restaurants in Latin America.

Maido – Best Latin American Restaurant 2018

For the second year Maido (Calle San Martin 399, Miraflores, Lima) was crowned The Best Restaurant in Latin America. The flagship restaurant of Lima-born Peruvian Nikkei chef Mitsuharu ‘Micha’ Tsumura offers a seafood-centric menu and is placed as well on 7th position of “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018”.

“The World’s 50 Best” says about Maido and Peru’s finest Nikkei chef: “When Peru meets Japan on the plate, Nikkei is born – and chef Mitsuharu ‘Micha’ Tsumura is the Nikkei king. This translates to a welcoming spot where fresh fish and citrus-packed sauces reign supreme. No wonder it was voted The Best Restaurant in Latin America again in 2018, after knocking nearby Central from its three-year stint at No.1 in 2017.

On the menu: Chef Micha’s Nikkei Experience menu is a journey through Peruvian-Japanese fusion cuisine, with an emphasis on seafood. There is succulent cod marinated in miso with crispy nuts, nigiri sushi, sea urchin rice, 50-hour beef short rib and even tofu cheesecake ice cream. Everything sings with flavour and the natural bright colours that come from Peru’s produce. There’s also a separate sushi counter and menu for everyday or business diners.”

Central – Latin America’s Best Restaurants 2018 runner-up

Central (Av. Pedro de Osma 301, Barranco, Lima) owned by Peru's most celebrated chef Virgilio Martínez offers an exploration of Peruvian flavors by taking Peruvian food to new heights. Ranking 6th on the list of “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018”, Central is as already 2017 the runner-up in the Latin America listing.

“The World’s 50 Best” says about Central: “Chefs Virgilio Martínez and Pía León’s flagship restaurant is a shrine to all things Peruvian, including many ingredients that are seldom served elsewhere. The husband-and-wife team have been travelling the length and breadth of the country for several years to source interesting and unique produce from land, sea and mountains.

On the menu: Martínez and León like to play with the many varieties of corn, potato and more obscure products offered by Peru’s vastly biodiverse landscape. Classics include Land of Corn and Extreme Stems, with newer dishes such as Waters of Nanay featuring piranha fish served in an entire, sharp-tooth-filled piranha head. The menu explores every altitude, from 20 metres below sea level to 4,100 metres above it, in 17+ courses.”

Astrid y Gastón – 8th on the list of Latin America’s Best Restaurants 2018

Gastón Acurio was the first Peruvian chef that actively promoted Peruvian cuisine, ingredients, history and heritage around the globe. Awarded countless times, Astrid y Gastón (Av. Paz Soldan 290, San Isidro, Lima) was the first ever No.1 in the inaugural Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2013.

Gastón Acurio is famous for his contemporary Peruvian cuisine that honors ancestry and tradition. Astrid y Gastón, housed in a beautifully 17th century mansion decorated in modern, minimalist style, offers an unparalleled dining experience.

Astrid y Gastón is placed 8th on the list of Latin America’s Best Restaurants 2018 and ranks on position 39 on the list of “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018”

According to “the World’s 50 Best”, “This is where the magic began, the first establishment helmed by chef and patron saint of modern Peruvian cuisine Gastón Acurio – who fortunately jacked in his law degree for hospitality – and pastry chef wife Astrid Gutsche. Opened in 1994, over the years the restaurant and its owners have grown exponentially, changing concept to focus exclusively on Peruvian culture, dishes and ingredients, as well as moving house: the eponymous restaurant relocated to Casa Moreyra in Lima’s San Isidro district in 2014. All areas are finely tuned at Astrid y Gastón, starting with the most recent menu, a tribute to Lima. Star dishes served à la carte or as part of the tasting menu include Peking-style guinea pig bao, grilled octopus with a pseudo-cereal salad and lucuma gnocchi.”

Isolina – 13th on the list of Latin America’s Best Restaurants 2018

With Isolina (Av. San Martin 101, Barranco, Lima) chef José del Castillo pays homage to Lima’s traditional home cooking, creole taverns and his mother. After being placed last year on position 21, in 2018 Isolina is the number13 on the list of Latin America’s Best Restaurants 2018.

“The World’s 50 Best” says about Isolina: “Chef José del Castillo is giving back to Lima the ultimate comfort food experience, recreating the feeling of a mother’s love at the table with delicious and nostalgic food in generous sharing portions. Set in a historic house in Barranco – the favourite area in Lima for bohemians, artists and intellectuals – it has the authentic ambience of an old family home.

Isolina serves many dishes using offal and seafood, including cau cau con sangrecita (tripe and potato stew with fried blood), brain tortilla, liver and onions, and octopus chicharrón (a take on pork scratchings, made with octopus).”

Rafael – 16th on the list of Latin America’s Best Restaurants 2018

Rafael (Calle San Martin 300, Miraflores, Lima), housed in a beautiful Art Deco townhouse in Miraflores, celebrates Peru's eclectic food culture. Chef Rafael Osterling, former lawyer and now one of Peru’s culinary stars, explores the diverse culinary heritage of the country, fusing traditional native ingredients with Italian, Asian and Nikkei influences.

“The World’s 50 Best” says about Rafael: “Rafael Osterling's eponymous restaurant, housed in a beautiful Art Deco townhouse in the chic Miraflores area, celebrates Peru's eclectic food culture. The menu draws on Peru's diverse culinary heritage, fusing traditional native ingredients with Italian, Asian and Nikkei influences. Think everything from ceviche and tiraditos to pizza and sashimi. Stand-outs include grilled octopus with pimento chimichurri, Kalamata olives and garlic confit.”

La Mar - 17th on the list of Latin America’s Best Restaurants 2018

Chef Gastón’s second flagship restaurant La Mar (Av Mariscal La Mar 770, Miraflores, Lima) surely is one of the best places in town to enjoy Peru’s national dish ceviche and a wide variety of other Peruvian fish and seafood dishes. In 2017 Gustavo Montestruque, a Cordon Bleu Peru graduate who worked in several renowned Lima restaurants, took over the kitchen at La Mar.

“The World’s 50 Best” says about La Mar: “Lima institution continues to wow diners with a vast array of ceviche. Reason to visit: To mix with Lima’s buzzing foodie crowd and sample chef Gustavo Montestruque’s creative repertoire of ceviches that include octopus, sea urchin, shrimp and grouper – along with a pisco sour or two. Typical dishes: Chalaca de causas, featuring crab, sand smelt crackling, avocado and tartare sauce. The classic ceviche is also a must-eat.”

Osso Carnicería y Salumería – 25th on the list of Latin America’s Best Restaurants 2018

Osso (Calle Tahiti 175, La Molina and Av. Sto. Toribio 173, San Isidro, Lima) is probably the least authentic Peruvian restaurant, but surely the best place in South America for steak and this year can be found on position 12 of “Latin America’s Best 50 Restaurants.

“The World’s 50 Best” says about Osso: A butcher’s shop and restaurant all rolled into one, Osso is the place to go in Lima for all the best cuts, from perfectly cooked ribeye to flavoured sausages (cheddar, rocoto pepper marmalade and limo chilli). Almost everything is grilled over the barbecue and there’s a casual a la carte as well as a tasting menu to be eaten with the hands only. Typical dishes: Osso carpaccio, deconstructed cutlets, artisanal hamburgers.”

Malabar – 39th on the list of Latin America’s Best Restaurants 2018

At Malabar (Av. Camino Real 101, San Isidro, Lima) Pedro Miguel Schiaffino brings the Amazon to life in urban Lima.

And even though the highly rated chef repeatedly stated to just offer "casual cuisine, with a simple spirit and the warmth of home", his creations are spectacular using mostly exotic ingredients, flavors, textures and ancient Andean cooking techniques. Have an aperitif before your meal at Malabar’s bar which ranks among the top 10 in the world.

“The World’s 50 Best” says about Malabar: Visiting is “a unique Peruvian experience that cannot be recreated in any other part of the world. What makes it stand out: Plated masterpieces featuring exotic ingredients, flavors, textures and ancient Andean cooking techniques. Typical dishes: Chia, guanábana and Andean cereals rice concoclon with seafood jungle merengón. The kitchen works with more than 100 rare products, spanning the Amazon to the Andes, including algae, roots, freshwater fish and wild fruits.”

Amaz – 48th on the list of Latin America’s Best Restaurants 2018

Amaz (Av. la Paz 1079, Miraflores, Lima) is after Malabar Chef Schiaffino's second restaurant. It as well is explicitly dedicated to recipes and ingredients from the Amazon basin bringing staple foods of the Peruvian rainforest to new heights.

“The World’s 50 Best” says about Amaz: “Ámaz is the first and only restaurant of its kind presenting Amazonian cuisine with urban vibes. Pedro Miguel Schiaffino has managed to bring much research and passion into a concept that brings enjoyment to every kind of customer. Typical dishes: Amazonian cuisine in three different perspectives: fish broth with pehuelpa and macambo showcasing ancestral cuisine, chicken juane to give a feel for traditional Amazonian cuisine and churros pishpirones, an example of contemporary cuisine.”


Discover Peru As A Culinary Destination – Peru Food

In the last few years, Peru has become a gourmet paradise and it has started to grab the world's attention. Now, when you travel for a Peru Tour, you will not only be immersed in the Inca culture, its wonderful nature and interesting sites, but you will also live a great culinary experience. Peru has been named the "Gastronomic Capital of the Americas" at the Madrid Fusion Summit back in 2009. Publications like Bon Apetit, Gourmet, Travel & Leisure, and well-known chefs such as Bobby Chinn Anthony Bourdain, Rachel Ray, etc have also featured Peru as their new discovery.

What makes Peru such a special place?

Well, Peruvian gastronomy benefits from the country's geography, climatic diversity and its long history of immigration. Peru has three main geographical zones: coast, jungle and highlands that encompass 90 different micro-climates. This means a great variety of land products, such as rice, corn, quinoa, more than 3000 different types of potatoes, the hot chili pepper known as aji and 2000 species of fish and shellfish species, such as sea bass, tuna, crab and many exotic ingredients.

From street food to fine dining restaurants, Peru has it all.

In Peru you will find a restaurant for each taste and wallet, from cheap, middle-priced and expensive places to eat. Where to begin? While in Lima the most popular for fine dining are Astrid and Gaston, menu designed by renown Chef Gaston Acurio and his team who strongly contributed to make Peruvian cuisine famous all over the world, Central Restaurant by Michellin Star Chef Virgilio Martinez, Rafael by Rafael Osterling and Malabar by Pedro Miguel Schiaffino featuring Amazon inspired food. If you are in the mood of something quick, you may want to visit any of the great "Cafés" you will find all over Lima, where you can just have coffee and have a complete meal at a great price. Examples are La Baguette, Mammino, San Antonio, and Café Café.

Also, you can find, almost in every corner of the city, restaurants called "chifas", which is how Peruvians called Chinese Restaurants. These restaurants are great examples of a Chinese-fusion cuisine. You will also find everywhere a great variety of Rotisseries Chicken or "Pollo a la brasa". In addition you will also find the "Cevicherias" only opened for lunch. Some traditional options are Punta Sal, Segundo Muelle, Embarcadero 41, La red, and Fusion more modern versions Mercado by Osterling and La Mar by Acurio and Pescados Capitales. Finally, for the off the beaten path seekers, you have the "huariques" or restaurants at "closed doors" such as Javier Wong or La Picanteria.

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Peru is also the land of Pisco, the national drink.

The heartland of Pisco is the Southern of the country, from Ica to Tacna. Peru has always been famous for the Pisco Sour and lately for its exótic pisco "martinis" made with jungle fruits. The latest trend is the "chilcano" made with ginger Ale and exotic fruit macerated Pisco.

So, what are you waiting for? You just have to plan your trip to Peru to live the best culinary experience ever! For more information on Peru Tours with Quasar visit here - Galapagos Peru Tours.

Hi, I am Fernando and travel is my passion. This passion began with my first trip to the Galapagos Islands in 1986 and later became my work when I started working at Quasar Expeditions. Now the Marketing Director for Quasar and responsible for the creation of the Patagonia Project in Chile, my passion for travel continues to grow to new and exciting destinations in South America.


Peru’s Ultimate Dining Destination: Astrid & Gastón - Recipes

Home » Blog » News » Peru’s Central #1 in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2014

The recently announced Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2014 list ranks #1 Central by Virgilio Martinez’s, in Lima, Peru. Astrid y Gaston, last year's winner moved to second place.

Central’s was selected for its diverse menu and unique dining experience. From original appetizers such as ‘pisco sour with coca leaves’ and entrées like ‘tiradito served with tiger’s milk ceviche’. The restaurant’s also has an urban orchard where they grow a wide range of produce and experiment with new varieties of fruit, herbs and vegetable varieties.


10 Peruvian restaurants among “Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017”

Last week “The World’s 50 Best” in collaboration with S. Pellegrino once again revealed Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 at a grand ceremony in Bogota, Colombia. And not only the best restaurant in the region is located in Lima, but another 9 gourmet temples in the Peruvian capital are among the 50 best restaurants.

Maido – Best Latin American Restaurant 2017

This year Maido (Calle San Martin 399, Miraflores, Lima), the flagship restaurant of Lima-born Peruvian Nikkei chef Mitsuharu ‘Micha’ Tsumura, takes the top spot on the list of “Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017”. Placed as well on 8th position of “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017” Maido offers a seafood-centric menu.

“The World’s 50 Best” says about Maido and Peru’s finest Nikkei chef: “From start to finish, diners are treated as if they’re at home and taken on a gastronomic journey through Peru’s finest produce. After four years in the top echelons of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, this year Maido takes the top spot – a well-deserved accolade for a cook who is liked and respected across the world.

On the menu: For special occasions, Maido’s Nikkei Experience and 200 Miles tasting menus are unmissable, each providing a taste of Tsumura’s Nikkei magic, with dishes such as the fish and octopus hotdog choripan, calamari and snail dim sum and the signature 50-hour asado de tira. Regulars can also enjoy sushi à la carte from the counter for a top notch but speedy mid-week lunch.”

Central – Latin America’s Best Restaurants 2017 runner-up

Central (Santa Isabel 376, Miraflores, Lima) owned by Peru's most celebrated chef Virgilio Martínez offers an exploration of Peruvian flavors by taking Peruvian food to new heights. Ranking 5th on the list of “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017”, Central this year is the runner-up in the Latin America listing.

“The World’s 50 Best” says about Central: “With three years as Latin America’s Best Restaurant and three in the top five of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Central has become one of the must-visit destinations for food travelers in the whole of Latin America. It’s all down to chef Virgílio Martínez and his wife Pía León’s unique menu celebrating the diversity of Peru.

On the menu: From 25 meters below sea level to 4,200 meters above, Central’s menu takes diners on a tasting adventure through desert plants, rock molluscs, sea creatures and medicinal plant dyes. It’s a treat for the taste buds and a colourful delight for the eyes.”

Astrid y Gastón – 7th on the list of Latin America’s Best Restaurants 2017

Gastón Acurio was the first Peruvian chef that actively promoted Peruvian cuisine, ingredients, history and heritage around the globe. Awarded countless times, Astrid y Gaston (Av. Paz Soldan 290, San Isidro, Lima) was the first ever No.1 in the inaugural Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2013. Gaston Acurio is famous for his contemporary Peruvian cuisine that honors ancestry and tradition. Astrid y Gaston, housed in a beautifully 17th century mansion decorated in modern, minimalist style, offers an unparalleled dining experience.

According to “the World’s 50 Best”, “Acurio’s extensive tasting menu offers an exploration of the region’s ingredients, traditions and culinary techniques. After a series of menus based on themed narratives, the latest manifestation, called Región Lima, is designed as a more permanent, though evolving, structure. There is a short and long version of the tasting menu, with most ingredients coming from the wider Lima area (and many grown in the restaurant’s garden)”.

Osso Carnicería y Salumería – 12th on the list of Latin America’s Best Restaurants 2017

Osso (Calle Tahiti 175, La Molina and Av. Sto. Toribio 173, San Isidro, Lima) is probably the least authentic Peruvian restaurant, but surely the best place in South America for steak and this year can be found on position 12 of “Latin America’s Best 50 Restaurants.

Chef Renzo Garibaldi offers in his butcher shop and restaurant Osso the best cuts, from perfectly cooked ribeye to flavored sausages (cheddar, rocoto pepper marmalade and limo chili) fresh from the grill master’s BBQ. There’s a casual a la carte as well as a tasting menu to be eaten with the hands only.

La Mar - 15th on the list of Latin America’s Best Restaurants 2017

Chef Gastón’s second flagship restaurant La Mar (Av Mariscal La Mar 770, Miraflores, Lima) surely is one of the best place in town to enjoy Peru’s national dish ceviche and a wide variety of other Peruvian fish and seafood dishes prepared by seafood specialist Andrés Rodríguez

Isolina – 21st on the list of Latin America’s Best Restaurants 2017

With Isolina (Av. San Martin 101, Barranco, Lima) chef José del Castillo pays homage to Lima’s traditional home cooking, creole taverns and the his mother.

“The World’s 50 Best” says about Isolina:” Chef José del Castillo is giving back to Lima the ultimate comfort food experience, recreating the feeling of a mother’s love at the table with delicious and nostalgic food in generous sharing portions. Set in a historic house in Barranco – the favourite area in Lima for bohemians, artists and intellectuals – it has the authentic ambience of an old family home.

Typical dishes: Isolina serves many dishes using offal and seafood, including cau cau con sangrecita (tripe and potato stew with fried blood), brain tortilla, liver and onions, and octopus chicharrón (a take on pork scratchings, made with octopus)”.

Rafael – 24th on the list of Latin America’s Best Restaurants 2017

Rafael (Calle San Martin 300, Miraflores, Lima), housed in a beautiful Art Deco townhouse in Miraflores, celebrates Peru's eclectic food culture. Chef Rafael Osterling, former lawyer and now one of Peru’s culinary stars, explores the diverse culinary heritage of the country, fusing traditional native ingredients with Italian, Asian and Nikkei influences.

Malabar – 30th on the list of Latin America’s Best Restaurants 2017

At Malabar (Av. Camino Real 101, San Isidro, Lima) Pedro Miguel Schiaffino brings the Amazon to life in urban Lima.

And even though the highly rated chef repeatedly stated to just offer "casual cuisine, with a simple spirit and the warmth of home", his creations are spectacular using mostly exotic ingredients, flavors, textures and ancient Andean cooking techniques. Have an aperitif before your meal at Malabar’s bar which ranks among the top 10 in the world.

Fiesta - 46th on the list of Latin America’s Best Restaurants 2017

Fiesta Chiclayo Gourmet (Av. Reducto 1278, Miraflores, Lima) celebrates the culinary traditions of Northern Peru and brings the ancient Moche food history and culture to the Peruvian capital.

Typical dishes served at Fiesta include Chiclayo’s most famous dish, arroz con pato (rice with duck) which dates back to the Moche culture, ceviche caliente, and slow-cooked goat ribs.

Amaz – 47th on the list of Latin America’s Best Restaurants 2017

Amaz (Av. la Paz 1079, Miraflores, Lima) is after Malabar Chef Schiaffino's second restaurant. It as well is explicitly dedicated to recipes and ingredients from the Amazon basin bringing staple foods of the Peruvian rainforest to new heights.


How Food Became Religion in Peru’s Capital City

The first time I went out to eat in Lima, it was in secret. It was the start of the 1980s, and Peru was in the midst of a civil war. There were blackouts and curfews—and very few people went out after dark. At the time, I was four years old, and my only friend was a man who worked as a sort of assistant to my father, who was raising four of us alone and needed the help. The man’s name was Santos. Santos was about 30, and he had a huge appetite. Like millions of other Peruvians who’d fled the violence unfolding in the countryside, we’d recently migrated to Lima from a town deep in the Andes. We all missed home. But at night it was Santos who always seemed most heartbroken. When I asked him why, he said that he no longer savored his food.

Santos soon discovered that the remedy for his sadness was the street food being served up by other migrants, and as he got to know his way around Lima, he turned into a different person. He became animated when he told me about all the delicious things you could eat in the capital. But for my sisters and me, going out there was still off-limits the streets were a place where bombs exploded and people died. They were a place that my father—like many parents then—had forbidden us from visiting, especially after dark. But one evening when my father wasn’t around, Santos decided to sneak me out.

This article is a selection from our new Smithsonian Journeys Travel Quarterly

Travel through Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile in the footsteps of the Incas and experience their influence on the history and culture of the Andean region.

The Lima I saw that night was almost completely devoid of streetlights: a world of empty avenues and concrete apartment blocks, without a real restaurant in sight. It was nothing like the city that three decades later we’d be calling the culinary capital of Latin America—a city that journalists, chefs and visitors from all over the world would travel to in search of new dishes and chic places to dine. That night, Santos parked our car, then carried me in his arms to a dark corner draped in a cloud of fragrant smoke. A woman stood over a small grill covered in the skewered pieces of beef heart that we call anticuchos, a recipe first invented by slaves who seasoned and cooked cuts of meat that their owners refused to eat. While today anticuchos are a staple in restaurants all over the city, in the eighties it felt crazy to be eating them out there on the street. Nonetheless, what I most remember about that night is not a sense of danger but the perfume of the marinade hitting the grill. Even if Lima was a sad shadow of a city, that smell was joyful.

I think about that scene—and the city we once lived in—each time I go with my sisters to eat anticuchos at a working-class restaurant called La Norteña, tucked away in a neighborhood of family homes and office buildings near the airport. The owners started out in the 1990s, selling skewers in the street to whatever brave customers were venturing out. When the war finally ended and Lima became more prosperous, their business grew. At first it occupied the patio of the owners’ house. Then it expanded into the dining room and, later, through the entire first story of the house. Now it’s normal for a family to wait 10 or 20 minutes to get a table at La Norteña.

The Lima of the 21st century is a relatively comfortable place, with plenty of jobs and an optimistic middle class. Yet in many ways it retains the spirit of the somber, deeply introverted city I came to know as a child. It doesn’t have great architecture. It’s not designed for walking. There are very few parks or public squares. The beaches often look abandoned. And the traffic is terrible. To put it bluntly, it’s not the sort of city you fall in love with at first sight. Most Limeños won’t ask travelers what sights they’ve seen or suggest a stroll they’ll ask what dishes they’ve tried or invite them to have a meal. The tables we eat around aren’t just social spaces. In Lima, food has long been its own landscape, a haven of beauty and comfort.

La Norteña is renowned for its anticucho featuring grilled cow tongue with potatoes and corn. (Lianne Milton) It’s normal for a family to wait 10 or 20 minutes to get a table at La Norteña. (Lianne Milton) Locals enjoy La Norteña fare. (Lianne Milton) Chef Tomás Matsufuji brings Japanese culinary traditions to Peruvian cooking at Al Toke Pez. (Lianne Milton) Matsufuji prepares food over the stove. (Lianne Milton) Al Toke Pez customers enjoy a caldo of crabmeat and vegetables. The seafood is carefully selected by Matsufuji at the fish market, Terminal Pesquero de Villa Maria. (Lianne Milton) Potatoes cooked in soil comprise Astrid & Gastón’s unusual version of “Papa a la Huancaina,” a dish honoring ancient indigenous cooks and served at their Eden Casa Moreyra. (Lianne Milton) The team at Astrid & Gastón harvests vegetables from restaurant gardens. (Lianne Milton) Chefs pay careful attention to dish presentation. (Lianne Milton) Central Restaurant’s “River Snales” entrée incorporates river snails and freshwater fish and celebrates ingredients found in lowland Peru. (Lianne Milton) The dish is seasoned with herbs and roots from Central Restaurant’s extensive collection. (Lianne Milton) El Timbó’s rotisserie chicken approaches perfection. It’s grilled in quarters, browned over a wood fire and served with delicate sauces, French fries and salad. (Lianne Milton)

This gives coherence to a city that, at first, can seem utterly incoherent. One of Lima’s most celebrated ceviche spots, for instance, is found on a noisy avenue surrounded by car repair shops. Al Toke Pez is a fast-food restaurant with the spirit of a neighborhood bistro it has a single counter open to the street, half a dozen stools and six options on the menu. Everything is served as takeout, yet most customers eat ceviche or stir-fry nestled along the bar, or standing, quietly relishing their food as they watch an enormous wok throw off flames. The place is run by chef and owner Tomás Matsufuji, a slight, serious guy. Matsufuji was trained as an engineer and has a doctorate in supramolecular chemistry he also comes from a long line of nikkei chefs. (Nikkei refers to the large community of Japanese immigrants in Peru and their descendants, as well as the fusion created by mixing Japanese and Peruvian cooking. The Japanese immigrated to Peru in several waves, beginning in the 19th century, when industrialization in their homeland displaced agricultural workers.)

Matsufuji’s ceviches and stir-fry highlight fresh, humble ingredients from the sea, which Matsufuji picks out himself at the fisherman’s wharf in Villa María del Triunfo. At Al Toke Pez, people who don’t normally cross paths—manual laborers, businesspersons, artists, yuppies, teenagers and tourists—somehow all end up at his narrow counter, eating elbow to elbow. It might be the most democratic experiment to come out of the huge, multifaceted movement known as Lima’s culinary boom.

In postwar Lima, we constantly use the word “boom.” We say there’s a musical boom, a publishing boom, a design boom. While the word smacks of commercialism, it also reflects a sense of national pride. But nothing compares with the pride we feel for our biggest boom, the one in cuisine. The great Spanish chef, Ferran Adrià, put it best: Food is a religion in Peru. Cooking professionally has become something to aspire to, and about 80,000 young people from every social class are currently studying to be chefs, in schools scattered across Lima.

It all took off in the mid-1990s, during the war, back when Peruvian food was seen as something you ate only in your house or, if you were a risk taker, out in the street. The shift happened at a small restaurant called Astrid & Gastón. The owners of the restaurant were a young couple—she (Astrid) is German he (Gastón) is Peruvian—and they had studied cooking in Paris. So Parisian food was what they made, until one day when they tired of serving standard French dishes on white tablecloths. They decided to serve Peruvian cuisine, with the same respect and care afforded European cuisine, if not more. The decision would inspire an entire generation of young chefs, and eventually help elevate Peruvian cuisine across the world.

Astrid & Gastón recently celebrated 20 years in business by moving into a former palace in the heart of San Isidro, Lima’s financial district. The space has a regal aura and a futuristic electricity. Each day chefs harvest vegetables from their own gardens, which are adjacent to the building and are referred to as “Eden,” carry out culinary experiments in a workshop-laboratory, and offer public conferences and cooking classes in an open-air patio. Astrid & Gastón is now as much a cultural center as it is a restaurant. The new space cost six million dollars to renovate, itself a clear sign of changing times in Lima. Now middle-aged, Gastón Acurio oversees an empire of about 50 restaurants all over the globe. But nothing compares with the tasting menu offered at his flagship restaurant in Lima. That menu is called Virú (an indigenous term that is said to refer to modern Peru) and consists of 28-30 small plates served over the course of three hours, showcasing ingredients and techniques from all over Peru. One dish is a hunk of earth and straw, and contains three cooked potatoes. Diners are supposed to dig out the potatoes using their hands, to mimic the way people live and eat in the Andes, where more than 4,000 varieties of potatoes are grown and often cooked in the ground. At Astrid & Gastón, a successful dish is one that tells a story about Peru. And increasingly, a successful chef is an ambassador who shows us the world outside the walls—real and imagined—of Lima.

My first trip outside Lima got cut short. It was 1995 the army and the guerrillas of Shining Path were still fighting in the Andes. I was 16 and far more ignorant than intrepid. I hitched a ride on a cargo truck on its way to the Amazon, with the idea that I’d turn around when the driver kicked me off or my money ran out. The army was stationed at the entry to a town called Pichanaki, where a soldier who looked about my age glanced at my documents, then told me to go back to the city. The guerrillas had attacked just a few days earlier. I did as I was told.

About 20 years later, chef and traveler Virgilio Martínez invited me to visit his office on the second floor of Central, a discreet restaurant just a few steps from the ocean, on a tree-lined street in the Miraflores district of Lima. It’s decidedly exclusive, a place where you should make a reservation at least a month in advance. Yet Martínez’s office looked more like a biologist’s lab or an art installation. It was filled with glass vials. Each one contained a seed, a root, or an herb that Martínez had brought back from his adventures. He showed me photos from his most recent trip into the Andes. There was an image of a frigid lagoon perched at an elevation of more than 13,000 feet, where he’d collected sphere-shaped edible algae. And there was one of him cooking beet soup in the home of some local farmers. His cuisine was a reflection of all the time he’d spent traveling across the country: Since peace was established, it has become infinitely easier to get on a bus or a plane and see Peru.

The country’s geography is like a staircase in the form of a letter A. You begin at the Pacific, ascend to the highest peaks of the Andes, and then descend the other side into the Amazon jungle. The full journey passes through 84 different ecological zones, each one with its own species of plants and animals. The tasting menu at Central reflects that diversity and is organized by altitude. “Bivalves and corals. Lima Ocean. 10 meters.” “Different varieties of corn. Low Andes. 1,800 meters.” “Frozen potato and algae. Extreme altitude. 4,100 meters.” Not so long ago, when the city was locked away and absorbed by the war, this kind of diversity would’ve been impossible to imagine. Today, even though most Limeños now go out to bars and restaurants, many people remain frightened by the thought of traveling outside the city. Yet young chefs like Martínez are helping to break that taboo.

Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino runs Malabar and Ámaz, which both specialize in Amazonian cuisine. Schiaffino is a friend, and a few years ago I accompanied him on one of his monthly trips to the jungle. (Full disclosure: I occasionally consult for Schiaffino on social media strategy.) On that trip, we started out at the Belén market in the river city of Iquitos, where it was about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Stevedores unloaded rodents the size of small pigs off ships, as well as lizards and monkeys. Local delicacies such as piranha and edible larvae called suri are cooked on grills. Fruit sellers showed off products like caimito, a citrus fruit nicknamed the kissing fruit, because eating it is supposed to be like getting kissed. By afternoon, we’d left the market, and Schiaffino was submerged in a lake, along with a group of local men who were casting for paiche, a prehistoric-looking fish that can weigh over 400 pounds and is often called the king of the Amazon. Everyone was surprised when Schiaffino managed to get his arms around an adolescent paiche and hoist it gently to the surface. He showed us the fish with a quiet sort of pride, as if he and the creature were old friends.

Schiaffino started to travel to this region in 2003, when many of his colleagues in Lima were still hung up on the idea of molecular cooking, mimicking European chefs by transforming local ingredients into foams, gels and other novelties. Eventually Schiaffino moved to the Amazon for about six months, and what he learned there changed everything for him. After returning to Lima, he opened Malabar and, ever since, it’s been considered a kind of secret gateway into unknown culinary territory. Today you can see his love of experimentation in little details, such as how the fish in his ceviche isn’t marinated in citrus but in masato, a fermented yucca beverage that indigenous Amazonians have been drinking for centuries. Everyone knows that in Lima you can find thousands of delicious riffs on the city’s ceviche, but Malabar’s version will take you the farthest away from the city.

I never wanted to leave Lima until I fell in love with my wife, who’s from the United States. Over the past few years, I’ve learned firsthand what a radical change it is to be away from the city’s food in some ways it feels more drastic than speaking a different language. Now whenever I go back, the most important part—after seeing my family, of course—is deciding where to eat. A new tradition is to have our first and last meal at El Timbó, a roast chicken joint that my father always loved. (While the Lima of my childhood had few restaurants, places offering rotisserie chicken or Chinese food were the rare exceptions.) Timbó still bravely hangs on to an aesthetic straight out of the 1970s—wood paneling, faux-crystal chandeliers and plenty of mirrors—and it has perfected the art of rotisserie chicken, which a Swiss immigrant is credited with introducing. The classic dish is a quarter chicken browned over a wood fire, french fries and salad. Though it doesn’t sound like much, Timbó uses a marinade that borders on magical, and the plates come out with a whole palette of bright, delicate sauces that complement the dish perfectly.

When we’re in Lima, my wife also makes sure we get to Kam Men, a Chinese restaurant in Miraflores that she sweetly refers to as “our chifa.” Chifa is the word Peruvians use for Chinese-Peruvian fusion, mixing local ingredients with Chinese recipes and cooking techniques collected over about two centuries of immigration. Like Timbó, Kam Men is an old-school spot that hasn’t yet been touched by the purposefully cool aesthetic of the culinary boom. Much of the dining room is made up of private booths cordoned off by pomegranate- colored curtains. When my wife and I lived in Lima, we marked important occasions there, always with the same dishes: dumplings, roast duck and a platter of curried noodles with beef.

But the most important place to eat in Lima is at home with my family. Back when Lima was a city in the midst of one long blackout, when restaurants were few and far between, and eating out was considered dangerous, this is what we did. All over the city, we hid in our houses with our families and prepared variations of recipes now served in the thousands of restaurants that have made Lima famous as a culinary destination. Ceviche. Ají de gallina. Arroz con pollo. Tacu tacu. Papa a la huancaína. Lomo saltado. In Lima, these dishes are our monuments, the closest we’ll ever get to an Eiffel Tower or a Statue of Liberty. So when you taste them at one of Lima’s sleek, energetic restaurants, try to imagine for a moment a different city, where millions of people savored meals with their families in quiet, dark apartments, thinking about homes they had recently left. Then you might understand where the culinary boom really began.

About Marco Avilés

Marco Avilés is a Peruvian writer and editor. His most recent book, De Donde Venimos Los Cholos (Where Do We Cholos Come From), chronicles the harsh treatment that his family and other people of mixed indigenous and Spanish ancestry receive.


You don't find this sort of cafe very often in Peru, let alone in Yarinacocha. Lovely coffee (the city's best), freshly squeezed juices and 100% homemade food are all served at reasonable prices. Some of the.

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