The Best Restaurants in Lima

Blessed by an abundance of seafood as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, culinary influences brought by generations of immigrants, and no shortage of forward-looking chefs, Lima has emerged as one of the most important food cities in the world — the city is home to three of the 50 Best Restaurants in the World. From humble cevicherias to Michelin-star restaurants, Lima’s food scene alone is worth a trip.

Lima, Av. Pedro de Osma 301, Barranco 15063, Peru
A few years back, when Lima’s Central Restaurante was closed because of zoning issues, Peru‘s celebrity chef, Gastón Acurio, was one of many who petitioned for it to be reopened. I knew that meant the young chef at Central, Virgilio Martinez, must be doing something truly special. Virgilio’s restaurant is located in Lima’s hip Barranco neighborhood. I stopped in solo one afternoon for lunch and was dazzled by the dishes his servers put in front of me: charred purple corn with scented octopus, lentils, yuzu, and bok choy; “mask of the suckling pig” (or pig face) with tart green apple, baby tomatoes, and galangal; and suckling goat with chickpeas, goat cheese, and lemon verbena. Each course was plated like a work of art and was a beautiful riddle on the palette. My enthusiasm for my food earned me a tour of the open kitchen and the rooftop garden, where servers pluck flowers or clip herbs for dishes like the citrus gelée with edible flowers (pictured above). Chef also gave me a tour of his incredible chocolate cellar, where he shows off his favorite chocolate bars from around the world.
Nicolas de Rivera 142, Cercado de Lima 15022, Peru
Tanta is a bistrô, pâtisserie and rotisserie all in one, a great choice at any time during your trip to Lima. It has a laid back vibe and well-prepared, flavorful criolla food. There are several of them around the city and you’ll likely find one open at any given time. It’s an easy choice for travelers! You can get there at 5 PM and have a Lomo Saltado ou Ají de Gallina while the ladies at the table next to you share an afternoon tea and the kids nearby have a burger with fries. That’s Tanta, there’s a little bit of everything for everyone. It’s also a great place for children: there’s a kids menu, changing table, high chairs and coloring supplies.
Ovalo Gutiérrez-Primer Nivel Sótano, Miraflores 15073, Peru
To Limeños, nothing goes with fresh fruit juice better than sandwiches, at dinner, or after dinner, or in the afternoon, or even in the morning. In fact, sandwiches don’t have to count as a meal in Peru, while it’s perfectly acceptable to call a pitcher of thick papaya juice “dinner.” Juice bars are everywhere, but it’s best to go to a reputable place, such as La Lucha, where you can trust the quality of the water used and the restaurant’s sanitation. It’s more expensive than your average hole-in-the-wall—though it’s still less than $3 for a freshly pressed mixed passion fruit, mango, and orange juice—but you pay for quality. For a Peruvian specialty, try the exotic lucuma “juice” with milk (more like a butterscotch-maple smoothie). And remember that in Spanish when you order “tuna” you’re actually ordering sweet prickly pear, not fish juice. The sandwiches made from giant hunks of rotisserie pork, chicken, homemade hot pepper, olive, and creamy golf sauces are also some of the least expensive and filling meals in the area.
Calle San Martin 399, Miraflores 15074, Peru
Maido—in testimony to Japanese immigrants’ integration into Lima’s overall culture and, indeed, the positive benefits of a multicultural city—offers Peruvian-Japanese fusion food at its finest in a sleek, stylish dining room. Though renowned for sushi and other surfside delights, turf is also well represented on the menu in the form of steak, duck, chicken, and tofu. First-time visitors, especially seafood lovers, would do well to try the tasting menu, sure to offer unexpected taste sensations, courtesy of Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura. Fusion desserts range widely in taste and style and include such delights as mango-filled cannelloni, the typical arroz con leche as a crumble with passion fruit sorbet, and yucca cake with pineapple in ginger and azuki ice cream. The cocktails here are never boring, either. Reservations recommended, though bar seating can often be snagged at the last minute.
Calle Manuel Bañón 260, San Isidro 15073, Peru
Not many know that Matsuei was the first restaurant with the great Nobu of international sushi fame at the helm. Back when he had both a first and last name, he met a man while working in a sushi bar in Japan who offered to stake his solo business venture if he set up shop in Peru. And thanks to a large Japanese community in Lima, Matsuei was a success. On the menu you’ll find the original cream cheese, tempura, mango, and fusion rolls now loved the world over. But even purists will love the high quality local fish and seafood, especially the creamy sole and to-die-for scallops.
Av. Camino Real 101, San Isidro 15073, Peru
Voted one of the top restaurants in Lima, chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino’s modern Amazonian restaurant, Malabar, is worthy of the praise. From the à la carte menu, order the river snails with chorizo sausage and exotic, sweet-and-sour aguaje fruit, followed by the smoked duck with cacao sauce, avocado, and blue cheese. Or opt for the seasonal tasting menu featuring organic heart of palm salad with chestnut flour and paiche jungle fish with black hot peppers and nutty dale dale. In a city addicted to meat, Schiaffino’s vegetarian tasting menu is a delight. It includes black quinoa, Amazonian honey, and a starchy-sweet tuber dish translated as “seven textures of yucca.”
Av. Paz Soldán 290, San Isidro, Lima 15073, Peru
While some say Gastón Acurio’s flagship restaurant may have lost ground to Virgilio Martinez’s Central, Acurio has been instrumental in putting Lima on the map as South America’s culinary capital and has promoted its cuisine throughout the world. Since 2015—following worldwide travels promoting the nation’s gastronomy—he’s back at the helm at Astrid & Gastón. You can order meals à la carte, but to truly experience the master’s touch, try a (short or long) tasting menu. Gastón’s wife and partner, Astrid, is a celebrated pastry chef, so save room for dessert. Pisco cocktails are outstanding, and a superlative wine list offers more than 250 choices.
340 Avenida Almirante Miguel Grau
This tight dining room does everything right, from plating up delicious Peruvian-Basque fare to offering some of the friendliest service in Lima. Opt for a tapas tasting (you’ll get to choose six items) or order from a tempting menu of appetizers, Spanish tortillas, entrées, and desserts. Better yet, go with a few friends and try a bit of everything. There are vegetarian choices, but Spanish sausages, hams, and shellfish (to mention just a handful of specialties) are spectacular. The wine list is brief but solid, well suited to this cozy gem tucked inside a renovated colonial building in kicky, bohemian Barranco.
Av Hipólito Unanue 203, Miraflores 15074, Peru
The open-kitchen, low-key vibe at El Mercado is Rafael Osterling’s take on the traditional cevichería, but he offers some modern twists guaranteed to keep taste buds active and delighted. The restaurant’s name—Spanish for “The Market”—alludes to a commitment to constant communication with providers, ensuring that only the freshest ingredients make it to your table. Though El Mercado is justly hailed for ceviche, there is much more on the menu, including a wide variety of tiraditos, causas, sushi, grilled meat and fish, chaufa (fried rice), pastas, and Osterling’s rendition of other Peruvian comfort foods. Along with cuisine grounded in what’s found at farmers’ markets, catch-of-the-day specials are wide-ranging and likely to be winners.
5390 Avenida Petit Thouars, Prada, Lima
When you’re ready for a proper pisco, Miraflores’s PiscoBar is a capital choice, both for traditional cocktails as well as heady new creations. As is to be expected, owner Ricardo Carpio is a celebrated pisco expert, which makes this the ideal laboratory for personal tastings of some of the country’s premier brands. Happily, it’s also a fabulous place to eat, whether you’re craving tapas or a full-on meal. Dishes like the seafood risotto and the beef with tacu tacu (Peruvian refried beans and rice) make you wish you had a Peruvian grandmother; the welcoming staff provide a warm facsimile.
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