While I travel around Peru fairly regularly and have probably eaten a wider range of Peruvian restaurants more than anyone on earth, Mistura was a revelation. Getting around Peru and sampling different restaurants takes time, but Mistura brings some of the better ones from across the different regions to one location. There were chefs, restaurants, and street stalls from Lima, Arequipa, Tarapoto, Trujillo, Tacna, and elsewhere that I had ever heard of. Some vendors served obscure or classic regional dishes, while others saw talented chefs altering Peruvian classics in funky new ways.
Tato’s Tacu Tacu Relleno de Mariscos: Tato’s is an iconic restaurant fronting the Pacific in a town called Barranca north of Lima. It’s a worthwhile stop after a visit to the Pre-Colombian ruins of Caral. I have only had the pleasure of eating there, once but fell in love immediately. They are known for their Tacu Tacu’s, which come in large, larger, and even larger sizes. Their stand at Mistura served personal servings, which could easily have been split into two.Variations include Tacu Tacu stuffed with seafood, calamari, and fish, as well as a few others. A bottle of olive oil stands at the counter to drizzle over the rice.
Maido’s Tacuchaufa: Nikkei restaurant Maido of Lima served a Tacuchaufa, which I suspected was a sort of gimmick, but was nonetheless delicious. A small serving of tacu tacu using arroz chaufa was topped with a chunk of pork in an Asian BBQ sauce and purple onions. Their Peruvian take on Yakisoba – a sort of tallarin saltado – was rather tasty too.
Sanguches Chinito’s Sanguche de Chicharron: One of the most consistently long lines at Mistura was for this Chinese Peruvian Sandwich stall run by a small restaurant from the center of Lima. In what was a genius marketing idea, at the front of the stall one of the cooks was almost always cutting up huge chunks of pork with amazingly crispy skin. As you got to the front he would hand you a small piece to munch on, just like they do with Pastrami at Katz’s Delicatessen in New York. The sandwich was stacked with succulent pork on a hard roll and topped with purple onions and Aji Amarillo sauce. I just drooled.
Inchicapi from Tucunaré: This group of women who serve home cooked foods from their home state of Loreto in the northern Amazon at events and for delivery around Lima were a nice surprise to me. Inchicapi – a traditional Amazonian creamy chicken soup spiced with hen, toasted peanuts, cilantro, garlic, and onions – is something I always wanted to try, but never see on any menus. Even in the Amazon. It might be one of favorite soups from anywhere in Peru now.
Humberto Sato’s Arroz con Pato: One of Lima’s most notable culinary figures, Humberto Sato, whose Costanera 700 is the granddaddy of Nikkei cuisine, dished out his signature Arroz con Pato to those lucky enough to be at his stand when he was serving. Unlike Chez Wong two doors down, Sato wasn’t trying to break any records. It took me three visits to the stand on different days to finally get a dish – on other attempts I was told food would not be ready for more than an hour or two. You cannot argue with perfection. A juicy duck leg with crispy skin and moist culantro flavored rice.
Causa de Yuca con Pulpo Pachamanquera from El 550: I didn’t know much about chef Israel Laura and his now two Criollo fusion restaurants El 550 before Mistura, though now I’m intrigued. This causa, made from yucca instead of papas amarillas, is way underrated. The grilled octopus topper seasoned with pachamanca spices and herbs was mouthwatering.
- Picante a la Tacneña from La Trattoria Tacneña
- Ranfañote from Tia Tina
- Magaly Silva’s Tamales
- Cremoladas Curich
- Leche de Tigre Huancaina
- Queso Helado from Arequipa
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.