From Jetsetter, Greg de Villiers explains why there has never been a better time to eat in Lima, Peru.
On a street corner near Lima’s central bus station, there’s an old woman selling simple, utterly delicious papas rellenas (fried mashed potato stuffed with saucy ground beef and creamy chili sauce). Nearby, another cart dishes out crispy fried pork and sweet potato, and, with any luck, the ceviche lady will appear on the block. At lunch, two-course specials that range the gastronomic length and breadth of the country will cost you less than a posh coffee in the states, and your taxi driver is more likely to strike up a conversation about food than football or politics.
This limeño passion for food has helped define the city as a new gastronomic boomtown, and led to a remarkably quick sophistication from its chefs and diners. At the heart of this culinary movement is chef Virgilio Martínez, who, with his restaurant Central, has led the way in foraging the best of the country’s astounding biodiversity and presenting it with creativity and intelligence. No surprise that his London restaurant, Lima, was recently awarded its first Michelin star. Likewise, chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino is showcasing the Amazon region’s incredible natural bounty and securing its role in the future of Peruvian cuisine at restaurants Amaz and Malabar.
But Lima is so much richer than the award-laden restaurants studding the Miraflores and San Isidro neighborhoods. Barranco, caught between bohemia and modernity, harbors some of the city’s oldest culinary haunts, while neighboring Chorrillos is still the best choice for seafood with greats like Sonia’s cevicheria and little known iconic dishes such as Sr. Chef’s tuna takaki or Emilio y Glady’s conchas negras. It’s the markets of the city, however, those like Magdalena, Surquillo and Surco, which carry the soul of Peruvian food, the roots that hold together cuisine that is slowly spreading out into the world. There has never been a better time to eat in Lima.
Mitsuharu Tsumura is the king of Peruvian Japanese fusion cuisine and Maido’s tasting menu, The Third Reality, is its perfect execution. Think a ceviche with tobiko (flying fish roe) or local scallops with a maka sauce and fukujinzake pickles.
On Sundays head down to the Surquillo market, widely regarded as the best market in town, and ask around for puesto (stall) 200 or Señora Flor; everyone will know why you are there, and point you the right way. On Sundays only, she whips up the other great limeño breakfast tradition, a steamy chicken noodle soup. Just be sure to arrive before 10:00 a.m.