There has never been a better time for dining out in Lima, Peru than right now. So many great new restaurants have opened in the city over the past year that they can be difficult to keep track of. What’s especially interesting about this sudden surge of openings is how varied the food being cooked is. There are experimental tasting menus using foraged ingredients and working producers in remote parts of the Andes and Amazon. There are casual Nikkei restaurants, vegetable driven menus, criollo counters, food halls, and drinking haunts with menus of their own. There’s also Mexican food, Venezuelan food, and pizza. Many of the chefs learned their craft in Lima’s heavyweight restaurants like Central, Astrid y Gastón, Malabar, and Rafael and are now setting out on their own for the first time, a good sign of what is yet to come.
Since leaving Astrid y Gastón, Diego Muñoz has made a splash doing pop-ups and opening Peruvian restaurants around the world, not to mention setting up the menu on a high altitude luxury train in the Andes. He’s now back in Lima, doing one dinner pairing for just one table, with one waiter and one cook (himself), approximately once a month. atman.meitre.com.
With little reason to open restaurants in Caracas for the time being, Venezuelan chefs are making waves in other parts of the Americas. Around the corner from the new location of Central, where chef/owner Juan Luis Martínez was once sous chef, along with partner José Luis Saumeo, Mérito is serving a fusion of Peruvian and Venezuelan flavors that you never realized you were missing. The minimalist, two-level space of brick and wood spins ingredients like pez diablo, yacón, and chirimoya into fantastic dishes — many cooked on a Josper grill — that could only evolve out of the current geo-political climate. meritorestaurante.com.
In 2016, Matías Cillóniz opened a small, vegetable driven bistro and all day café in the back of a funky Barranco retail hall, which the city eventually closed for zoning issues. After some time off traveling, he has brought a new and improved version of Mó Bistró to Miraflores in a more formal space with two levels, and more room for his crowd-pleasing brunches that now include dishes like roasted beef tongue with both pickled beetroot and celery on toast and eggs Benedict with brown butter hollandaise. Facebook page.
While Pia León was named recently named Latin America’s best female chef, she might just be the best chef in the region, period. With Kjolle, she steps out of the shadows of Central, where she has been the executive chef for years, and ventures into her own, airy space without the limitations of a strict ecosystem-based menu. The result is a spectacular exploration of Peruvian flavors that feels completely unique yet complementary to Central downstairs. kjolle.com.
Ricardo Martins, formally the chef of Brasserie Felix and a long time associate of Peruvian chef Rafael Osterling, has set off on his own, helping set the culinary scene in Barranco, Lima’s increasingly diverse culinary hood. Like Osterling, flavors here are eclectic, dabbling with touches of curry and Mediterranean flavors and playing off raw seafood. Instagram page.
In the back of the recreated Central in Barranco, the bar area has expanded greatly and now acts as separate establishment with one of the most progressive cocktail programs in Lima. With menu divided into landscapes (the Andes, Amazon, coast, and sea), Mayo has quietly become the cocktail equivalent of Central and many of the libations include macerations and fermentations of native fruits and plants. Additionally, there’s a short food menu that will give you a taste of what’s being served a few meters away at Central and Kjolle when tables are full. mayobar.com.
Talented former Central sous-chef André Patsias who, at just 26-years old, has also worked at Noma, Quique Dacosta, and Astrid & Gastón, has opened this intimate 25-seat restaurant. The name means balance and you can expect lots of nature driven elements that explore the extremes of Peruvian biodiversity through a tasting menu, as well as a la carte dishes. Patsias is working with a group of farmers, based at an incredible 5600 meters of altitude, to provide much of the produce. staterarestaurante.pe.
A tasting menu restaurant in the heart of Lima’s Miraflores neighborhood, La Niña serves up contemporary Peruvian cuisine influenced by lots of Amazonian flavors and other seasonal ingredients from around Peru. There are two menus on offer: one highlighting vegetables and another including seafood and meat with optional wine pairing. Additionally, there are cocktails infused with local herbs, fruits, and spices, and a wine menu focused mostly on grapes from Peru and South America. Additional notes: La Niña’s dining area is peppered with art produced by local makers and it’s open just six days a week, dinner only. lanina.pe.
After stints at El Celler de Can Roca and Pakta in Spain, Peruvian Israel Laura has reopened his soulful Peruvian restaurant Kañete. Now in its third incarnation in Surquillo, it’s set inside of an old shoe factory and serves traditional Peruvian dishes made from quality ingredients – think wood-fired roasts and fresh ceviche – plus playful dishes like whole fried pejerrey, arroz con pato a la naranja, and Israel’s own version of lomo saltado. Facebook.
Pizza de la Chola
Baker Jonathan Day, who has helped recreate Lima’s bread culture with Pan de la Chola, has finally opened this long rumored offshoot down the street from their original location on Avenida La Mar in Miraflores. Using a wood-fired, Neapolitan-style oven, Day is cranking out pies like a classic margarita, Stilton and kale, and eggplant. Other small plates include cheeses, prosciutto, and burrata with pesto and tomato. Local craft beers and natural wines will also be served. Facebook page.
Mayta, which has been closed for about a year, has undergone a complete transformation. Jaime Pesaque’s soulful food and drinks – everything from his signature macerated cocktails to his love of cast iron cookware – are stepping up their game. They have even added a small copper still to produce their own artisan spirits. Pesaque also opened a live fire restaurant, 500 Grados, with two Neapolitan style ovens in early 2018. jaimepesaque.com/restaurantes
There has yet to be a food hall concept that has managed to stick around in Lima, but Mercado 28 seems like it has finally got it right. The owners have brought in lots of big names to the Miraflores market: there’s La Patarashkita, bringing classic Amazonian food from Tarapoto’s La Patarashca to Lima; Huevón’s all-day breakfasts fare from Palmiro Ocampo; a branch of Maido chef Mitsuharu Tsumura’s fast casual Nikkei restaurant Sushi Pop; a Blu ice cream stall; coffee from Puku Puku; saltados (Peruvian stir-frys); a pastisserie; a craft beer bar; and many others. mercado28.pe.
Shizen Barra Nikkei
This casual project with just a few tables and bar stools from by three young chef-owners shows just how diverse Nikkei food in Lima has become. The chalkboard menu features things like baos stuffed with fried pejerrey, nigiri, sea urchin and scallop tiradito, and Nikkei-style sudados. Facebook page.
Counters lined with stools wrap around the small, open kitchen at Las Reyes, a laid back Criollo restaurant from Jose del Castillo. Sort of a more casual version of Isolina where the menu changes everyday, Castillo is helping give new life to classic Peruvian dishes like cau cau, butifarras, escabeche de bonito, ají de gallina, and carapulcra. Instagram page.
Al Toke Pez
This tiny, five-seat no frills Nikkei restaurant with some of Lima’s best food for the past seven years has moved to a new location at Avenida Angamos Este 1941 in Surquillo, just a couple of blocks from the original. This one is bigger and more formal, though with a similar menu that includes Tomás Matsufuji’s sudados, ceviches, fried seafood, and other plates. The prices remain extremely accessible. Facebook page.
After opening the eclectic Jeronimo in 2016, chef Moma Adrianzén turned his sights on Mexican food with his taqueria Chinga Tu Taco and now Frida. The menu is playful, cooking in the spirit of Mexican food, but not limited by authenticity so it can utilize local flavors like Amazonian tubers, Andean corn, and a raw bar making use of seafood of Peru’s coast. frida.meitre.com.
Header image of the langostinos at Mérito.