So you’re in Peru —or, either, you’re planning on going— and have heard that Peruvian cuisine is, purportedly, one of the newest cooking traditions rising into the gastronomic ether. Well, we have good news: Peruvian chefs and restaurateurs are verifiably remarkable. They have gathered an insurmountable number of awards plus dazzling reviews from the harshest food critics.
And so, to make things easier for every voyager out there, here at Terra Explorer, we turned to our team of food experts to list the best culinary experiences in Peru you have to add to your next trip.
This is the fourth-best restaurant in the world —yes, world— and the best in the Americas. With chefs and spouses Virgilio Martinez and Pia Martinez at the steering wheel, this restaurant harnesses a cornucopia of Peruvian produces, some of which include clay from the Amazon, apple-textured tubers, plus other unexpected ingredients which are perfectly married with an equally impressive variety of seafood right from the rich Pacific waters swaddling the Peruvian coasts —there are other proteins too, but seafood in Peru is a must.
The menu takes you through the motley landscapes and, by extension, ecosystems of Peru in what appears to be a culinary tour. This is the place to indulge in newer yet delicious flavors. Make sure to make reservations weeks in advance. This restaurant is on most foodies’ bucket lists. It is impossible to simply walk in!
Usually, when lists like this are redacted, there is only one “must go” destination. But given that the seventh-best restaurant in the world (and second-best restaurant in the Americas) is also in Lima, we had to bestow the “must” to Maido too. This restaurant, run by celebrated chef Mitsuharu Tsumura, is an ode to Japanese migration to Peru, which dates back to the eighteen hundreds. In Lima, Japanese cooks were faced with new ingredients to experiment with. They introduced raw seafood to the Peruvian tables; thus, ceviche as we know it was born.
Here, scrumptious seafood is served in what, at first sight, seems to be traditional Japanese cuisine. Yet, unexpectedly, tapioca, lucuma, and corn beer show up and show out over our taste buds. This is a culinary fusion you could only find in Lima.
Most of the famed Peruvian dishes’ genealogy derives from Lima and other coastal cities, leaving behind the culinary traditions of the Amazon. But in recent years, a new appreciation for the Amazonian flavors has been taking the capital by storm. And who is behind this gastronomic tsunami? No other than Pedro Schiaffino. He, via his restaurant Amaz, is responsible for introducing eastern ingredients and techniques —the Peruvian jungle is in the far east of the country— to the demanding palates of the limeños.
If this is your second time in Peru and you have already tried the everpresent ceviche and lomo saltado, make a stop to try out patacones, tacacho, cocona, and some other savory gems from the Amazonian jungle at Amaz.
To find a lousy ceviche in Peru is improbable. Most of them are somewhere between good to the best thing you ever tried. And, where is the best thing you could ever try? At La Mar. This is a cevichería (Peruvian seafood restaurant) set up by the most beloved and well-known chef in Peru: Gastón Acurio. He has propelled traditional Peruvian dishes out of the quotidian and into fine cuisine. La Mar is the thirteen-best restaurant in Latin America and, surely, the best cevichería in Peru.
For the unversed: ceviche consists of raw fish, onion, cilantro, lime juice, Peruvian yellow pepper, and sweet potato, among other ingredients. It has indigenous roots and has also taken hints from Spanish and Japanese cooking traditions, both of which were part of the migration history in Peru.
Every February fifth, Peruvians celebrate “El Día de la Pachamanca.” But what is this dish, exactly? We wrote an entire piece on Pachamanca, but to summarize: It is a celebratory feast cooked in a sort of ephemeral oven dug in the ground and powered by scorching-hot stones.
It was, originally, during pre-hispanic times, a banquet for the community after a great harvest season and cooked “within the insides of Mother Earth.” So, as you might expect, there is a rich and abundant quantity of food, from tamales (savory corn cakes) to lamb to fava beans, all accompanied by the ever-present sauces, chilies, herbs, and spices.
And although some restaurateurs have tried to recreate this dish within sterile kitchen ovens, it is simply not the same —the flavor is not the same, the texture is not the same, and the experience is not the same. Just as it is eaten communally, it is cooked communally. In fact, the ingredients are placed one after the other in an expeditious choreography, so to speak.
The best pachamanca in Peru, though, is definitely in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, at the country house of Anny Vellutino. She and her team of local chefs —talented cooks who have gathered their culinary acumen from their parents and grandparents— harness the best ingredients from the fertile valley to deliver one of the best pachamanca iterations out there. This is not a restaurant, but a private visit to her house worth booking.
And there you have it. The must-try restaurants in Peru. And if you’re thinking about coming to Peru, contact us to craft an amazing tailor-made tour through the best restaurants, plus other hidden jewels. Even better if you’d like to blend cultural outings with outdoor adventures, that’s our specialty.
To ensure the well-being and safety of our travelers and staff throughout our operational chain, Terra Explorer will comply with the health and safety measures and protocols established by the Peruvian Association of Adventure Tourism and Ecotourism (APTAE), and implement the Covid-19 health and safety guidelines for adventure tourism developed by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA).
Our experiences are designed considering the least possible exposure, where the final destinations are usually remote places. By their very nature, our adventure activities are considered to be low risk, mainly because they are performed outdoors where ventilation is constant and making it easy to achieve social distancing.
During these times we are working together with a small staff of honorable people who have been part of the Terra Explorer family for many years. They and their families are aligned with the established health and safety measures. Employing these staff members also seeks to reactivate the local economy.
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