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Top 8 foods you must try in Lima, Peru

We stayed in Lima for a few weeks visiting the amazing sites of the city. There is just so much to see in terms of culture, weeks just simply wasn’t enough time. Actually, we didn’t see any sites. I am totally lying.  We did stay in the city for a while but all we really did was eat.  Lima is not a city for cultural sites.  In fact, a lot of travelers to Peru don’t even visit the capital. What it doesn’t have in terms of culture, it makes up for in food!  This is a city for food lovers! I don’t think I have ever eaten so much in one city.

We ate so much, I gained weight.  My list of restaurants to try was longer than the amount of days we had.  I researched, asked around endlessly and read every review I could.  I was stressed out trying to fit in every place I wanted to try!  And we didn’t even get to go to all of them.  Here, I’ve tried to narrow it down to 8 foods but you’ll see there is secretly more.  I had to double up sometimes because the dishes were so phenomenal.  I probably spent too much time agonizing over this list but it’s only because I wished I had had it myself before setting out!  If you plan on visiting Lima for the food (which you totally should-trust me, it’s worth days of your travel just for that), I hope you will find this list useful.

Ceviche & causas at La mar

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Ceviche is Peru’s most famous dish.  And rightly so.  Focusing on fresh fish, peppers, lime juice and salt, it is an explosion of fresh flavors that seemingly melt in your mouth.  It highlights some of the best things that Peru has on offer.  Fish, limes and spicy peppers. During my time in Lima, I tried many ceviches.  From the hole-in-the-wall market places to famous places like Sonia to upscale versions at Astrid y Gaston.  I wish I could tell you an insiders secret here.  It’s almost too typical for me to list La Mar as the best place to try ceviche! But I would be doing a great injustice. One of the most popular places for ceviche is right on the money.  Gaston Acurio’s outpost for ceviche serves up amazing renditions of this famous dish.  La mar presents you with an outstanding array of ceviches to try.  I feel like it’s the best all around place to sample the famous dish and the high price is matched with high quality every time.

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Causas are another famous Peruvian concoction.  I like to refer to causa as a very fancy potato salad but that just doesn’t do it the justice it deserves!  The word causa comes from the Quechua word ‘Kausaq,’ meaning “that which gives life.” The main ingredient is the potato, which in case you missed it, comes in almost 4000 varieties in Peru.  For this dish papas amarillo (yellow potatoes-similar to the yukon golds in the states) are typically used. The potatoes are boiled and then mashed, similar to mashed potatoes but instead of milk and butter they get the Peruvian treatment of olive oil, limon (key lime) juice, the ubiquitous aji amarillo and often times avocado.  They are then molded into cake-like shapes and often stuffed with fish.  The best one I had was at La mar, topped with delicately grilled octopus, fried basil and sauce made from kalamata olives.  Divine.

What to eat: Ceviche & causas!  But pretty much everything on the menu is high-standard.  Don’t miss their pisco sours either.

Why you should go:  To taste one of the best ceviches and causas in Lima.  Worth putting up with the noise level and the see and be seen crowd.

Details:  Av La Mar 770, Miraflores, Lima 18   Tel: +51 421 3365

Price: Not cheap but worth every penny.  Ceviche averages around 40 Soles (US $14)

Hours:  Only open for lunch only.  Ceviche is not usually eaten after 5 pm anywhere in Lima.   M-Th open from 12-5     F, Sa, Sun 12-5:30  Go early or plan on waiting. Better yet, make a reservation

You can find out more information by clicking on their website here

Tiradito & Suspiro at El Mercado

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Once again, I have to combine two great Peruvian foods because the best versions I found of both of them, are found at restaurant El Mercado. After the success of his flagship restaurant, ‘Rafael’, Rafael Osterling, opened El Mercado. Tiradito, a cousin to ceviche is thicker than carpaccio and thinner than sashimi. This Asian-Peruvian fusion dish is found in most places that serve ceviche and is served with a variety of Peruvian sauces/marinades. El Mercado’s version takes the cake.  Served with fanned out avocado, and thinly sliced onion with peppers, it absolutely melts in your mouth with every delicious bite.  Go for the tuna.

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To finish this lunch off, don’t miss the classic dessert found in Lima, suspiro de limeña.  It translates to ‘the sigh of a woman’.  Well, she must have been one hell of a lady because this dessert is so rich and sweet but also dangerously addictive.  It starts with a layer of the Peruvian version of dulce de leche, with eggs to fortify it and is topped off with a firm meringue.  Every sinful bite is richer than the next and will literally make you sigh. The version at El Mercado comes with suspiro made 3 ways.  Just when you think it can’t get better.  Absolutely dreamy.

What to eat: You can’t go wrong with the outstanding tiradito & suspiro; but I have a hunch that most things on the menu are pretty good.

Why you should go:  The best version of tiradito I had in Lima.  The suspiro is sure to make every woman sigh a thousand times

Details:  Hipolito Unanue 203 | distrito de Miraflores, Lima 18, Peru   Tel:  +51 221 1322

Price: A bit steep but worth it at around 50-60 Soles (US $20)

Hours:  Open Tuesday-Sunday from 12-5 pm only; closed Monday  *Like La Mar, get there early or prepare to wait a while

More information can be found on his website by clicking here

Sushi at Maido

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Maido is easily the cities best asian-fusion restaurant.  If you have only one place to sample this cuisine, make it at Maido.  It’s the ultimate nikkei experience.  Maido perfectly melds Japanese with Peruvian and it’s for this reason, it made it to the list of the 50 best Latin American restaurants in the world at #11. It’s like Japan and Peru had a big baby. Maido will delight you in ways you didn’t think were possible. The Peruvian version of sushi is a bit different than the sushi you have had in the past.  It’s Japanese technique with Peruvian ingredients-usually in the form of a sauce and it’s superb. Chef Mitsuharu fails to disappoint with any dish here on the menu but the sushi is stand-out.

What to eat: The sushi is a great example of the harmonious marriage between Peruvian & Japanese nikkei food but really, everything on the menu is extraordinary

Why you should go: For excellence in nikkei cuisine and the highest of quality ingredients

Details: Location: 399 San Martin Street  (At Colón Street Corner) Miraflores –Lima – Peru   Tel: (511) 444 -2568

Price: Typically priced for an upscale restaurant in Miraflores-entrees are around 60 Soles US $20

Hours:  Lunch every day from 12:30-4:00 pm  Dinner  M-Sat  7:30-1130 pm  Reservations suggested

You can view their website for more information

Almejas at El rincon de bigote

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This one is a bit off the radar but it is so exceptional, I have to include it on this list.  El rincon de bigote is not your typical, trendy, swishy lunch spot in Miraflores.  Still, it draws long lines that last all throughout its lunch-only service. No, it’s not on any ‘best of’ list nor has it won any awards. There is no celebrity chef running the place. Instead, it’s a family-run, cozy spot-practically hidden on a side street.   It’s not the jet-setters and the tourists who are waiting though.  It’s the locals.  And what are they waiting for exactly? The ceviche, naturally.  But not just any ceviche.

This one is made from almejas (clams). This is not your traditional version  Aside from the finely chopped clams, you will find finely diced garlic & mushrooms. The ceviche is piled high and served inside a clam shell.  Don’t miss this place for a unique take on a normally traditional dish.  The rice dishes are nice too, reminiscent of paella.  The arroz con mariscos will accompany your almejas nicely.

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What to eat: Almejas!!  Start with 2 and see where that leaves you. Get one of their killer rice dishes too

Why you should go: For ceviche with a unique twist and some of Lima’s best rice dishes

Details: Calle Jose Galvez 529, Lima 18, Peru  Tel: + 51 2412484

Price: pretty cheap, especially given the high quality & the Miraflores location.  Almeja’s are 15 Soles (US $5)

Hours:  Open for lunch only M-Sa from 12:30-4:00 pm  Get there early!  Long queues start around 1 pm.

Grilled pulpo a la parilla at Pescados Capitales

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Grilled Pulpo is the ultimate Peruvian comfort food.  You can find it on almost any menu and I have to admit, in general in Lima, restaurants do it pretty damn well.  It’s a simple dish.  Take some octopus, marinate it and grill it up.  It sounds simple but it’s easy to overcook. When cooked perfectly, you could cut it with a fork and it melts like butter. But when it’s overdone, it turns to a rubbery nightmare.

One place makes it even more perfect.  It was the best version we tasted while in Lima.  And trust me, I was on the hunt.  I ordered grilled pulpo everywhere we went!  The versions at La Mar, Panchita and the tasting menu at Central, could all rival this one at Pescados Capitales.  Maybe we got lucky and came on the right night with the good chef. Maybe the octopus had led a very happy life and was already superbly tender.  Whatever the reason, this one hit all the notes.

What to eat: Grilled pulpo a la parilla of course!  To be honest, the other dishes we ordered at Pescados just didn’t measure up.  But it’s worth going here just for the pulpo!

Why you should go: To sample one of the best grilled pulpos in the city

Details: La Mar 1337, Miraflores, Lima, Peru (Miraflores)  Tel: +51 421-8808

Price: Not cheap overall, if you plan on eating other stuff.  The pulpo was an entree-cheaper at 24 Soles (about US $8)

Hours: Open Mon-Sat 12:30 pm- 11 pm  Sunday  12:30 pm – 5:00 pm

Anticuchos at Panchitas

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Anticuchos are the ultimate street food found everywhere in Peru.  Passing one of these grills, the smell of BBQ is intoxicating .The first time I got a wiff of these meat kabobs grilling outside of a supermarket, my mouth began to water. Then I found out that they were beef hearts on a stick and my stomach recoiled a tiny bit.  Until I tried them.

Achingly tender, melt-in-your-mouth goodness.  They are usually marinated in vinegar and spices and finished off with a big potato sticking out of the end.  Just as chef Gaston Acurio created a restaurant for ceiviche, here at Panchita, he pays homage to the humble anticucho.  Every variety of this kabob exists here, including octopus, chicken and the traditional beef hearts.  There are other great things on the menu too-the standout being the pastel con choclo.  The cocktails are pretty amazing here too.

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What to eat: Anticuchos in every way, shape and form and do NOT miss the pastel con choclo!  A version made from (or for) the gods. The papa relleno is great too.  The bread they offer you to start with (but charge for) is worth every penny. Get it. Any cocktail.

Why you should go: For Peruvian comfort/street food done up in Acurio glam style

Details: Calle 2 de Mayo 298, Miraflores, Lima, Peru (Miraflores)  Tel: +51  242-5957

Price: Prices average 30-50 Soles (US $10-17)

Hours: M-Sat 12 pm-12 am  Sunday: 12 pm-5 pm

Fish of the day-half jalea-half la plancha or ceviche at La Picanteria

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La Picanteria is one of those restaurants you hope to find on your travels.  Fun, upbeat, not expensive, food fresh and delicious and packed with locals.  It’s practically an institution here in Lima! I was so happy this place was recommended to me.  It is a take on the traditional picanterias found in Arequipa and other parts of the country which are essentially large, casual eating halls.  Tables & conversation are meant for sharing.  The best thing on the menu is certainly the catch of the day.  Whatever it is, order it and they will prepare it any way you want.  We had the fresh catch in half jalea/half ceviche and found this combination particularly addictive!

What to eat: Whatever is fresh.  La pesca del dia. Get it prepared any way you like, you really can’t go wrong.  Don’t miss their drinks either-awesome chilcanos and a large variety of flavored chicha de jora

Why you should go: For one of Lima’s freshest catches of the day prepared how you want it.  Fun, authentic atmosphere; great drinks too!

Details: Calle Santa Rosa 388 Surquillo, Lima, Peru  Tel:  +51  2416676

Price: inexpensive; prices are average 25 Soles (US $9)

Hours: only open for lunch Tu-Su 12-5 pm; closed Mondays

They have a website too-click  here

Sandwiches at La Lucha

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With all the amazing food that the city offers, it might seem a bit pedestrian to have a lowly sandwich on this list as a must-try food in Lima.  However, I beg to differ that a sandwich is an afterthought.  I would argue that a sandwich is a destination!  Peru, like many countries, loves their sandwiches.  Butifarra and triples are found on practically every street corner.

La Lucha takes an almost gourmet spin on the hand held pocket and sweetens the deal by offering crisp fries and fresh juices.  But the sandwich remains simple and humble. La Lucha gets packed with everyone from tourists, business men, teenagers and families. The sandwich knows no economical status.  It does not judge.  Whether you are a foodie, chef, rich or poor, the sandwich appeals to all.  Prepare to queue up and wait for one of the best sandwiches in Lima.  It’s worth it.

What to eat: Sandwiches, fries and fresh juices.  Don’t be afraid to order some sauces or onion, tomatoes and other fixings for your sandwich

Why you should go: For consistently great sandwiches, tasty, always-crisp fries and fresh squeezed juices in winning combinations

Details: Psje. Marcelino Champagnat 139 (esq. Martir Olaya),, Lima, Peru  Tel:  +51 241-5953

Price: sandwiches average about 14 Soles (US $5), small order fries 4 Soles (US $1.50), med juice 9 Soles (US $3)

Hours: M-Th & Su: 8 am- 1 am  Fr & Sat: 8 am – 3 am

Here is a link to their website which includes the menu

*one last important note*

I tried to keep this list budget-friendly.  But to be honest, my two best meals in Lima were the tasting menus both at Central & Astrid y Gaston.  I understand not everyone has the budget for this, so that’s why I didn’t include it in the top 8. These restaurants will cost you well over $100 US dollars, easily.  If you have the money, I highly recommend splurging on one if not both of these outstanding restaurants.  Both are completely different experiences.  These guys are in the list of the top 50 restaurants in the world for a reason.  If you are really into food, do NOT miss out trying at least one!

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jimbo:) #

    This article and its pics made my mouth water from start to finish😉yummy!!!!

    March 13, 2014

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