Every time I casually tell people that Lima, Peru has three* of The World's 50 Best Restaurants (from Pellegrino's annual list), they can't believe me. And then the question usually follows jokingly, "Did they serve you guinea pig?"
And then I deadpan, "Yes." Because, yes, they do serve guinea pig. And YES, it was one of the most savory, succulent, and delicious things I've ever eaten. Ever.
When I discovered that Lima was a food haven I was well into planning my first Peru research trip and had heard from most people that the capital city was one that was "skippable."
Well...I'm telling you from experience...if you like food, it is decidedly not skippable.
In two days, I dined at THREE of the best restaurants in the world. Central for lunch, Maido for dinner, and Astrid & Gaston for lunch the next day.
Don't worry—I still ate breakfast at my favorite sandwich shop.
Sandwiches aside, these 3 meals represented a huge variety of food inspiration, and creativity. Each experience was unique.
Since dining there in 2015, Central rose in the ranks to #4 best restaurant in the world, and #1 in Latin America. Their tasting menu is based on altitudes, from the highest of highs in the Andes to the lowest of lows in the Amazon. They source ingredients from distinct regions of the country and create dishes you couldn't even imagine.
When I went to Maido it was ranked #44, but in 2016 it was the restaurant that took the "highest climber award" on the list to #13, and now sits at #10.
Unlike your inability to tell your children that one of them is your favorite, I have no qualms about picking my favorite restaurant in Lima: although I loved all of my eating in Peru, Maido stole my heart.
During the 13 course tasting menu at the Maido sushi bar, I was blown away by every single serving—a fusion between Japanese and Peruvian food, better known as "Nikkei" cuisine.
The most umami based flavor explosion I've ever tasted was the thinly sliced and seared steak nigiri with a ponzu-infused quail egg on top. There is so much to say about this one piece of nigiri that in reality there is nothing I can say to do it justice.
Astrid & Gaston
The following day I made my way to Astrid & Gaston, now housed in a beautiful mansion with its own garden used for herbs and vegetables in the restaurant's daily preparations.
Perhaps it was the fact that I was easing into the routine of eating at fancy-pants restaurants, but regardless, this was the environment where I felt most at ease, most welcomed, and most befriended by the hosts and servers that I felt like I was sitting in a friend's home kitchen.
This is also where my guinea pig fantasies became realities. It was served in a trio of tastings—all with an Asian flare.
After 3 unforgettable meals in Lima I can assure you that if you're lucky enough to get reservations (or come on our Taste of Peru group tour), it is a city where your taste buds will be delighted.
Some folks have responded by saying they don't like the idea of dining in "fancy, famous" restaurants while they're traveling because it doesn't feel like an authentic, local experience. And I would beg to differ.
At least in Lima, I would.
As I sat sola dining in these fantastic restaurants I eaves dropped (I admit) on conversations all around me. The majority of diners were locals, who worked nearby, or had a special occasion, or in one circumstance had been trying to get a reservation for a year.
They were trying food that they deemed, rightfully so, to be a modern representation of their local cultural cuisine.
Join us on a culinary adventure for 9 days on our "Taste of Peru and Machu Picchu Tour." Groups are limited to 12 travelers for intimate experiences. Call us for more information or to hold a spot - 425.894.8976.
*this article was originally published in 2017. Astrid y Gaston did not appear on the 2019 Top 50 list, but rests at #67 on the 2019 Top 100 Restaurants list.
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