I just returned home to sunny south Florida after 13 days of touring Peru, and I’m already missing the food. On this trip I set out to explore as many different meals as possible, including high-end dining, fusion influences, traditional Peruvian experiences, and even a little home cooking. Here are some of the best meals I ate in 4 cities throughout Peru:
Lima is known as one of the top food cities in the world, and I completely understand why. We stayed in the Miraflores district, known for its flower-filled parks, great shopping, and top-notch restaurants. Among my favorites, in order, were Maido, Central and La Mar Cebicheria.
At both Maido and Central we opted for the 16-course tasting experience. I was impressed with both in different ways. Central’s tasting menu, named “Mater Elevations,” is a unique take on local cuisine from all around Peru- organized by the altitudes in which they originate. To give you an idea, the menu included ingredients like cushuro, an edible cyanobacteria harvested in Andean wetlands; frozen potato, an ancient conservation method that brings out unexpected flavor from the distinguished Peruvian crop; and countless fruits that are only found in the Amazon.
The presentation of every dish at Central was exquisite. However, I felt that several dishes lacked in the flavor department- they just didn’t taste as incredible as they looked. Due to this, Maido comes in as my #1 spot in Lima. We tried about 70% of Maido’s menu between the 16-course Nikkei tasting and a second reservation where we ordered from the ala carte menu. I couldn’t find a single bad dish there. The octopus nigiri was the freshest and best I’ve every had in my life. Everything was cut, cooked, and/or prepared to perfection. I was blown away by Maido both times.
After Miraflores, be sure to check out San Isidro, Lima’s financial district, which is home to Malabar, a low-key but excellent Amazon fusion spot. The menu features a variety of weird roots, unfamiliar molluscs and spiky fruits that are sourced from the Peruvian Amazon and expertly prepared by Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino and his team. In 2014 Malabar was ranked #95 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
Also worth mentioning in Lima is El Tio Mario’s in Barranco. What started as a food cart run by a couple in the Sacred Valley has become a spot that locals love for large portions of anticuchos (Beef heart marinated, skewered, and seared over the grill) and picarones (light and crispy doughnut-like fried treats).
Some of the best fish I ate in Peru was not along the coast, but in Iquitos, a city in the heart of the Amazon. Fitzcarraldo Restaurant serves one heck of a medallion of perfectly broiled paiche, a local river fish that’s been called “the new black cod.” The restaurant is also one of the city’s few to have air conditioning, which feels fantastic in the afternoon jungle heat.
Another good restaurant in Iquitos is Dawn on the Amazon, also located on the riverside strip just a block and a half from Fitzcarraldo. Featuring a large menu of international cuisine that includes both vegetarian-friendly and ayahuasca-friendly options, Dawn on the Amazon had excellent service, views and food. I especially enjoyed their vegetarian burritos served with refried beans, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and sprouts.
For the 24 hours that we were in Cusco before heading to Machu Picchu, it was not easy to breathe due to the high altitude (about 11,150 feet above sea level). We were looking for something comfortable and close to the center of town, and Cafe Morena did not disappoint. Inexpensive and simple, this little gem had very friendly service, a great selection of juices and teas, and good Peruvian cuisine. I recommend the veggie soup (very comforting on a chilly afternoon in the Andes), the spaghetti with pesto and the quinoa salad with chicken and an omelet on top.
In Paracas, a small town where the desert sand meets the Pacific Ocean, we landed at El Piloto Restaurante. From what I’ve read it is a chain, with several other locations throughout the country.
El Piloto offered large portions of classic Peruvian fare for reasonable prices, and the food was fresh and tasty. I enjoyed our Ceviche Mixto starter, followed by the Sudado de Mariscos- a mixture of local seafood in a tomato and onion broth-like sauce.
What are your favorite places to eat in Peru? Let us know in a comment!