They say that Lima is a gastronomial capital and they are right!! I had fabulous meals there and also took a fun and delicious cooking class which included a market tour, learning to make ceviche and Pisco Sours, and then having a wonderful lunch with many classic Peruvian specialties.
Before I left for Peru, I tried to learn about specialties of the region and made a list of things that sounded great to me. I had the traditional dishes in cities other than Lima because Lima is where you find creative Peruvian dishes.
Here is some of the traditional fare:
This is Rocoto relleno, a specialty of Arequipa. It is a mild chili stuffed with meat, raisins, olives, hard boiled egg, and served with melted cheese then baked. The chili is very hot when raw but mild when cooked. This is an appetizer!
This is Causa which is a cold dish of mashed potatoes made into a nest and filled with various foods bound with mayonnaise.
Ceviche is the national dish and is made with various types of flat fish, served with cold sweet potato and Peruvian corn.
The raw fish is marinated in lime and expresses its fish juice. This becomes a milky liquid which is known as Tiger's Milk.
Of course, every evening, I had a Pisco Sour.
Lomo Saltado is a wonderful dish. It is stir-fried beef with vegetables but I had one made with alpaca meat. The alpaca is leaner than the beef and delicious. Mine was served with five different types of potatoes of all colors.
The restaurants in Lima where I dined were all wonderful. I had received many recommendations from Peruvian acquaintances and had also checked with guide books and Trip Advisor. Every person I spoke to or article I read topped the restaurant list with Astrid y Gaston. This is Gaston Acurio's restaurant and is number 14 on the San Pellegrino list of best restaurants in the world. Of course, I had to go!! Unfortunately, the restaurant was moving to a new location and undergoing a complete renovation when I was there. This means that I just have to go back.
I did go to others of Gaston Acurio's restaurants, most notably Chi Cha in Arequipa (which was wonderful) and La Mar in Lima. La Mar is a cebicheria, open only at lunch. It is very popular and if you arrive after 1, you will have to wait. I had the traditional ceviche of the day and causa along with a Pisco Sour and was in 7th heaven. They make several types of ceviche using different herbs. It is a very fun place to go.
One of the top restaurants I found in Trip Advisor was Mirasol. It is far from the main part of the city and was rather a long ride from my hotel by taxi. When I entered, I wasn't sure I was in the right place as the restaurant was rather strange-looking and at 9pm, no one was there. It was a huge room with a long bar and plain wooden tables here and there randomly placed all over the room. I quickly checked the Trip Advisor site and saw that, in fact, I was in the right place. I hesitated but sat down.
No one else was at the restaurant, but the service was also a bit strange. It took quite a long time for me to get my dishes. I started with Tequenos de Lomo Saltado:
I had not seen these before. They were pockets of fried corn dough with lomo saltado inside. The dish is served with a variety of sauces. It was thoroughly delicious. I love corn tacos for example. These were crisp, and warm. The beef was excellent. It was a wonderful dish.
Next I ordered something I had wanted to have for a long time and their version was excellent: arroz con mariscos
The rice was garnished with fresh peas, carrots, lime, sweet pepper and julienne of green pepper and amply studded with squid, shrimp and octopus. I couldn't get enough of it!
My last night in Lima, I saved for Maido. Lima has a large Japanese population and as a result, there are many superb Japanese restaurants--rather, fusion restaurants. They feature Japanese food using Peruvian products, herbs and spices. Nobu Matsuhisa of Nobu restaurant fame (superb restaurants in Southern California, London and New York) lived in Peru and brought Peruvian-Japanese cuisine to the US many years ago. I knew for sure that I would definitely go to one or two Japanese restaurants while I was in Lima, and I did precisely that both my first and last nights in Peru.
Maido was spectacular. I sat at the counter as I enjoy doing.
I started with sashimi:
Next came the maki--Peruvian style.
This sushi roll was treated with a flame to toast the outside quinoa coating. Quinoa is an ingredient liberally used in Peru.
Everything was fresh, beautifully prepared and spicy.
The most unusual dish was Atun Yukke. this was tune served in a bowl with yukke sauce, that is an egg yolk, the rocoto (spicy chili), and rice cracker. Mixing everything together in the bowl, all the ingredients form a delicious sauce.
For lunch the next day, I reverted to the classic Peruvian dishes, knowing full well that I would be back in Lima before long.