Peru (part 2): Food and restaurants

This is the second part of a blog about my trip around Peru in September 2016. The first post was about the historic sites and the nature we’ve seen on the way. This one focuses on the food and reviews of restaurants we tried.

Peruvian cuisine is most known internationally for its ceviches and there is a huge variety of them, including many modern interpretations. Traditionally Peruvian cuisine includes a lot of fish and other seafood especially in Lima and other coastal areas. As expected, large selection of potatoes and corn is also omnipresent. In the interior, meat is also very common in particular the typical Andean animals, such as llama and alpaca, as well as cuy (Guinea pig). An interesting Andean interpretation of a risotto is referred to as quinotto and has quinoa instead of rice.

In the recent years, Lima has become a culinary capital of South America. Many of its restaurants and chefs have made it to global acclaim, and I think food is also the biggest and best attraction in Lima. Other parts of Peru slightly lag behind though.

Just to illustrate, according to the San Pellegrino list of 50 best restaurants in the world in 2016, 3 are in Lima, and on their Latin American version, 9 are in Lima, including the first and second best. The biggest problem with these restaurants was getting a reservation. Maybe we waited too long, but some of the best ones were all booked out months in advance 😦 So three out of the ones we went to are on the LA list and one is also on the global one… not bad 🙂

Rafael, Miraflores, Lima

For the first night we booked this trendy place belonging to chef Rafael Osterling, which I picked off the San Pellegrino LA list, because it was close to our hotel and we didn’t have much time after landing. It’s a very simple and low building form the outside and the restaurant is on the ground floor with big windows. Inside the decoration was in-between modern and formal, but it didn’t have a heavy formal feel to it. The lights were quite dim, so the mood was somewhat romantic.

The drink list was very extensive with a large selection of piscos and the first pisco sour of our trip was very welcome. The food menu was typical Lima/Peruvian selection of dishes with a hint of modern interpretation. There was a large selection of ceviches, tiraditos and tartare dishes for entrées, but also some other selections pizza, risotto and peking duck (?). For mains there was a decent selection for both fish and meat dishes, however, I don’t remember a selection for vegetarians.

We started with a tuna carpaccio and a seafood tiradito (similar to ceviche, but the seafood/fish is thinly sliced, sashimi like). Both were very good, especially the tiradito. For mains we were determined to have fish dishes, so we chose the langoustines and the mero (grouper) fish steak. The mero was deliciously prepared and very juicy.

My rating: 4.5*

Food was delicious, but the only downside was a rather heavy deco and not that relaxed atmosphere.

La Mar, Miraflores, Lima

We arranged all of the sightseeing in Lima around food and restaurants. On the second day, our sightseeing involved exploring Miraflores to be able to have lunch at La Mar. Since it was Sunday and the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, we decided to go early (around 1pm) to beat the crowds and it worked. When we arrived we got a table right away, but when we were leaving there was a huge queue.

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What I liked most about La Mar is that it was very simple open-air restaurant, yet nice and clean. It was not pretentious for being famous and the waiters were nice and helpful. It actually feels more like a local canteen (in a good way).

Also the (sweet chili) salsas and the toasted corn (chulpi) they give us at the beginning was a real success. We ate so much of it we were almost ashamed. The menu was quite difficult for us though, as we didn’t know many of the names of dishes, things like cau cau, chupes, chifta, chaufa, sudado, causa, etc. Anyway, with the help of the waiters we ordered some causas (mashed potato with fish on top) and a tiradito to start with.

We continued with a tasting of ceviches, which included three different preparations of ceviche in generous portions, and we finished with some grilled calamari in a sauce with potatoes. All was very very delicious and one I can’t even chose my favourite dish. For dessert we tried the suspiro limeño, which is ice-cream and some fruits with dulce de leche cream (also called cajeta or manjar blanco in other parts of LA).

La Mar was for us the culinary highlight of our trip and a very good exploration of Lima/Peruvian cuisine.

My rating: 5*

La Rosa Náutica, Miraflores, Lima

The main draw of this restaurant is its location, it on one of the main piers in Lima just under the Miraflores cliffs. Along the pier, before arriving to the restaurant, there are many souvenir shops. Inside, the decoration is quite old-fashioned and rather formal, though it still has its own charm. It’s really nice to sit by the window and watch the ocean or the city lights.

They have an extensive menu of all sorts of typical Lima & Peruvian dishes, including a tasting menus that looked quite interesting and was reasonably priced. However, we were still full from lunch, so we didn’t want to eat much. In normal circumstances, after such a big lunch, we wouldn’t even have dinner, but since we were in Lima we wanted to maximise our food pleasures.

We were still not getting enough of that basic Lima fare, so we ordered a ceviche, a tiradito (dos cremas con lenguado) and a grilled octopus (pulpo a las brasas) all to share at the same time. Needless to say that the food was great and we even tried a Peruvian white wine – Atacama Blanco de Blancos, which wasn’t bad at all.

My rating: 4*

Food was maybe for 5* but the restaurant was a bit too old-fashioned with a pretentious service.

Astrid y Gaston, San Isidro, Lima

As much as Peruvian cuisine goes, Astrid y Gastón is one of the most famous restaurants. I’ve already been to their restaurant in Mexico City and was really impressed with the food, however the service was appalling (and even if in CDMX the service is usually quite good). Regardless, I was really looking forward to try the original one in Lima.

For the dates we were in Lima, the only available table was for the lunch on Monday. At the time of making the reservation, I was not very happy about that, but that was the only option. However, it ended up being a very good choice, as the day-time atmosphere was really nice. The experience starts with the colonial Casa Moreyra in the centre of San Isidro neighbourhood, the nicely decorated interior patios with plenty of plants and a simple but modern dining room with a bar and an open kitchen.

The menu is based on the typical Peruvian & Lima ingredients and dishes, but with their own interpretation and an innovative touch. All of the dishes are wittily named and come with a well-thought presentation. To start with they provide nicely presented bread and spreads. For starters we ordered the history of ceviche and the gnocchi with lúcuma (a typical Andean fruit).

For mains we tried our first cuy (Guinea pig), the cuy en matrimonio, and a mero fish. As expected both were delicious. The cuy dish consists of two intricately prepared preparations of the cuy; however, since I haven’t tried it before I couldn’t really appreciate its taste in full. We also ordered desserts, one was based on the lúcuma fruit and the other was a suspiro limeño, but semifreddo style this time.

My rating: 5*

Cafe Museo Larco, Lima

This restaurant is particularly well placed to combine lunch or dinner with a museum visit. It’s a bit out of the way though, neither in the Miraflores/San Isidro nor in the centro histórico districts, so a taxi ride is necessary to get there.

The restaurant is in the garden behind the museum and has an outside terrace space, which could be very nice on a sunny day for lunch. We went there for dinner in the winter though, so we had to sit inside. The menu was a nice combination of both modern Lima cuisine and some traditional Andean dishes, so there’s plenty of choice for fish and meat eaters. The service was slightly lousy, though, they were constantly forgetting things and seemed disorganised even if the restaurant was not busy at all.

It was our last night in Peru, so we wanted to enjoy some last ceviche, which we shared. For the main course we also tried a typical Tacu Tacu dish, rice cooked with beans and broth until it becomes a solid mass and is very filling. We also had a corvina sudada moche, a Pacific ocean fish in a broth with rice on the side. All of the food was delicious. It was also nice to try some new dishes at the end of our trip around Peru, so I’m sure there are still plenty of hidden treasures in the Peruvian cuisine.

My rating: 4.5*

Mojsa, Puno 

Puno is not a culinary capital of Peru, so our expectations were not that high. We decided to go to Mojsa restaurant mainly because my friend’s name is Mojca. The restaurant has a nice location on the main square and also comes up as one of the best rated ones in Puno and it was full of customers as well. The inside decoration is very simple but functional. We were attended by an American lady and she was very nice and helpful with the choice of food and drinks.

Once inland of Peru the menu changes quite a bit, it has a more Andean flavour with mountain animals and fresh water fish (in Puno from the Titicaca lake). For starter we tried lake trout ceviche, which compared to the sea fish ceviche was smoother and had less of a fishy taste. We also shared some quinoa torrijas, as quinoa is a very typical ingredient of many dishes in Peru, especially in the interior. For the main course we opted for an alpaca steak and kankacho (grilled lamb). The alpaca meat is very tender and full of flavour, no wonder the old Inca raised them so much. The passion fruit cheesecake was quite nice for dessert (not very Peruvian tho).

My rating: 4*

The food in general at Mojsa was quite good with simple preparation and arrangement. We quite enjoyed this no-frills restaurant.

Cafe Bar Casa del Corregidor, Puno

A nice place for a simple lunch or an afternoon coffee to relax a bit. Also the house behind is nice. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pics.

PeruRail Puno-Cuzco lunch

img_2886Part of this luxury train ride was a beautiful lunch, served while we cruised by the scenic landscapes. There was not much choice, only one starter, a blini with smoked trout; and for the main course there was a choice between a beef stew or a quinotto. The lunch also included a dessert, a chocolate cake, and (only one) glass of wine.

The food was quite good, especially considering we were on a train and all had to be prepared in advance. They also served an afternoon tea, which consisted of Andean mix of herbal teas with some sandwiches and cookies.

Marcelo Batata, Cuzco

One of the recommended restaurants according to the Lonely Planet guide book. It is somewhat hidden on the second floor with a shop below, so you could easily miss it. The decoration is very … red… (slightly too much) making it look like a cheap place. The place is quite small so the tables are very tightly together, we were barely 20cm away from the next table. But all in all, the atmosphere was cosy and pleasant.

As expected, the menu is inspired by the surrounding Andes, plenty of potatoes and alpaca meat (the house speciality). We shared a starter – causita, mashed potato base with avocado and black olives. For main we had a grilled alpaca steak and an ají de gallina, a chicken on rice with a creamy sauce. The yellow ají (chilli) seems to be very famous in Peru, it has an interesting slightly sweet taste.

My rating: 3.5*

Lunch at the Main Plaza in Ollantaytambo

Around the main plaza there are many restaurants and cafes that are trying to get your attention and attract you in. They all look pretty much the same though and not that inviting either. So we picked one that had the most people eating there, thinking that might be a good indicator. We decided to try a cuy again and a veg quinotto. Both dishes were OK, but the cuy had very little meat though. It also came with all the skin, which didn’t look nice and I didn’t want to eat either.

My rating: 1*

I don’t think the hygienic standards were very high though. On that evening I got some bad digestion problems and I think it must have been related to this lunch. So I would be cautious about the restaurants on the square.

El Indio Feliz, Aguascalientes (Machu Picchu pueblo)

As I already wrote in the first blog that Aguascalientes is not a very exciting place and the same goes for food. There are many restaurants and they’re all trying to lurk you in. We were warned that many of them charge an additional 20% tax that is not mentioned on the menu, so they advised us to ask that before we order at any restaurant. Our hotel recommended El Indio Feliz as the best restaurant in town, which I don’t think is difficult to achieve. They also don’t charge the extra tax and it also comes up as number one on TripAdvisor.

The owner is French so the menu is also French inspired with the Peruvian staples as well. The food is decent, but rather boring, so I can’t even remember what we had. It wasn’t bad at all, but not good either. However, I don’t think there are many other better places in Aguascalientes. So unless you really like pizza (there’s a lot of pizza places everywhere) I would still recommended going to El Indio Feliz.

My rating: 3*

Maybe a good option for Aguascalientes, but compared to other restaurants nothing special (hence also no pics).

Desserts in Peru

In general I love desserts and I usually have a dessert at the end of a nice meal. However, I’m sure it is noticeable above that there are hardly any desserts on the pictures. That is due to two reasons, one the desserts in Peru are not that exciting, and two the rest of the food in Peru is so good that I didn’t have any more space for desserts at the end of the meals.

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