What to Eat in Peru
Praised as one of the world’s most compelling cuisines, Peruvian fare owes its reputation to biodiversity, foreign influence, and the creativity of local chefs. From street food to ceviche to haute cuisine, the must-try dishes are endless.
Av Imperio de los Incas 140, Aguas Calientes 08680, Peru
Chullpi is a top choice for haute cuisine Peruvian-style. Its chefs insist on Cuzco-adjacent ingredient sourcing that supports local economies, at the same time keeping traditional dishes like cuy (a regional guinea pig species) relevant through contemporary iterations. The flavors are fabulous and the presentation winningly incorporates local history, such as using a serving dish carved to look like the circular terraces at Moray or presenting a pressed guinea pig on skewers over a small fire made of palo santo, a local incense. Portion sizes can be small—the perfect excuse to order more.
Portal de Carnes 236, Cusco 08000, Peru
Limo offers Peruvian fusion par excellence that uses typical ingredients in daring new ways. It’s particularly known for fish, including many types of sushi, as well as a variety of entrées that feature tuna, shrimp, octopus, crab, salmon, or trout, some inspired by Andean recipes, others taken from the Japanese tradition. Not a seafood lover? No problem! Limo also has delicious options featuring chicken, pork, beef, and alpaca. This second-floor restaurant overlooking the Plaza de Armas is also a great place for sampling pisco cocktails. Reservations are a good idea, especially if you’d like to score a balcony table with a town-square view.
Triunfo 393, Cusco 08000, Peru
One of the city’s top restaurants, Cicciolina offers Italian-style dishes with a Peruvian flair, such as quinoa-encrusted prawns and osso buco with pumpkin ravioli topped by local cheese and a touch of Andean mint. There’s plenty to choose from, including seafood, duck, beef, alpaca, chicken, and even a few vegetarian dishes, as well as perfectly done handmade pasta. You can pick from either the tapas or the full-restaurant menu in the bar area, but not the other way around, so you may want to go twice, as the tapas are fabulous, too. A great wine list and yummy desserts finish out options in a small, lovely venue. Reservations are a must.
Cusco 08000, Peru
Few places can beat MAP Café for atmosphere. Located in the courtyard of Cuzco’s Pre-Columbian art museum (itself housed in a colonial mansion), the restaurant features all-glass walls for a privileged view. The fusion menu matches the ambience, including unique takes on local favorites such as adobo cusqueño—the tenderest of slow-cooked porks—as well as signature dishes like chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese and raisins. The desserts are such works of art you’re sure to want a photo before digging in. After six, the prix-fixe menu provides the perfect way to sample different flavors.
Calle Saphy 554, Cusco 08000, Peru
One thing you’ll likely notice when walking the streets of Cuzco is how many places advertise pizza. If you’re dying for a slice, there’s no better spot than La Cantina. Primarily a wine bar—bottles of all-Italian vintages line the walls—this place also happens to serve the best pizza in town, with a delicately thin crust topped with ingredients like authentic salami, prosciutto, arugula, olives, a variety of cheeses, and more. You’ll also find imported meat and cheese plates, lasagna, bruschetta, and salads. If you’re lucky, there’s tiramisu at the meal’s end, plus artisanal limoncello. Go for the wine, but be sure to try the food while you’re there.
Calle Palacio 121, Cusco 08000, Peru
Offering traditional Peruvian dishes as well as others with more of a gourmet-fusion twist, this restaurant is an object lesson in using a country’s gastronomical variety to the very fullest. In particular, it’s one of the best places in Cuzco to try alpaca steak, which is grilled to perfection and served with a variety of sauces such as mango and ginger, mushrooms, or good old salt and pepper. A lovely rooftop terrace with fabulous city views is a great spot to try some mighty tasty pisco cocktails. The bar also features a plethora of infused piscos (think fruits, spices, and even chili peppers), which are great fun.
PLAZA MAYOR CENTRO DE, Cusco 08000, Peru
There are a number of Cuzco restaurants that offer traditional Peruvian, served buffet-style, along with music and dance. One of the best is Ayahuasca, specifically because they limit the number of dishes on the table and focus on providing the highest quality and freshness. Foodies with a greater sense of adventure can order à la carte at lunchtime, where the traditional delicacies on offer include specialties like cow’s tongue or pig’s feet that are rarely found at tourist-oriented restaurants. The ambience is bright and cheerful; there’s a tasting menu with a solid chichas, or fermented corn beer, selection.
275 Calle San Agustin
You probably didn’t think of traveling to Peru for world-class French cuisine, yet here it is. The minute you walk in, you leave the Andes behind in favor of a European vibe, reflected in music, decor, and, of course, what’s on the table. Everything on the menu is French, including the expansive choice of wines. The five- or seven-course tasting menus are the perfect way to sample as many flavors as possible, but if ordering à la carte, save room for sumptuous desserts and a delicious coffee, picking your personal ideal from a wide range of blends.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Arica 620, Urubamba 08661, Peru
When the directions to El Huacatay lead you from an unassuming street into an overgrown garden, you may be surprised. When you taste the food here—at what is one of the top gourmet dining rooms in Cuzco and the Sacred Valley—you’ll be equally surprised. Whatever you choose from the menu, you’re unlikely to be disappointed, from the melt-in-your-mouth beef tenderloin to the delicious and fresh valley trout. Share appetizers like the ricotta cheese croquettes with tree-tomato sorbet or the alpaca carpaccio. The drinks are excellent as well, with top marks for the coca sour, made with coca-leaf-infused pisco. Reserve to assure a table in this tiny boîte.
calle ventiderio, Redondel de Ollantaytambo, Ventiderio, Ollantaytambo, Peru
Wander down from the Plaza de Armas toward the entrance to the striking hillside ruins of Ollantaytambo and you can’t miss Apu Verónica on the left-hand side of the street. The real highlights of this restaurant, which serves typical Peruvian cooked to perfection, are the meats prepared a la piedra, sizzling on stones. A second-floor dining room offers great views and is decorated with items representative of the local culture; occasional live traditional music is played. Perhaps the best part is that the owners, who were given a helping hand by a nonprofit organization, are now doing the same for the highland communities that provide many of their dishes’ ingredients.
Jr. Huanacaure 105, Aguas Calientes 08681, Peru
You have to climb a few steps to reach this romantic restaurant, but it’s worth the effort, even after Machu Picchu. Beautifully presented dishes range from beef tenderloin to grilled trout with golden aguaymanto berries. The Tree House is one of Aguas Calientes’s best places to try alpaca steak, yet vegetarians find tempting options, too, like ravioli with goat cheese and mushrooms. The tight dining room, nestled in the boughs, is romantic and dreamy. Be sure to make reservations.
Av Imperio de los Incas 614, Aguas Calientes, Peru
Though better known for its high-quality, wide-ranging craft beer menu, Mapacho, in Aguas Calientes, merits culinary attention, too, regional suds or no. Lunch and dinner choices are varied and delicious with choices like trout ceviche and osso buco, as well as a wide selection of Peruvian favorites like lomo saltado (a Peruvian beef stir-fry). The atmosphere is casual; service top-notch. Arrive early or late to snag a coveted river-view table.