Though Peruvian food in New York City has seemed to suddenly have become a fascination among culinary minds with the opening of Gastón Acurio’s La Mar in September of 2011, there are dozens of Peruvian restaurants in the five boroughs. The sleeker, trendier ceviche centric restaurants are primarily in Manhattan, though in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and parts of New Jersey where the Peruvian immigrant community mostly resides options for pollo a la brasa, ceviche, and even chifa are plentiful. Here is a run down of New York’s best Peruvian restaurants:
La Mar – Gastón Acurio’s La Mar instantly became the most important Peruvian restaurant in NYC even before it opened. Pricey yes, but the ingredients are fresh, the dishes are elegant, and the pisco based cocktails are stellar. This is a restaurant that will help make every other Peruvian restaurant in New York even better. Like San Francisco’s La Mar, it will likely launch a flood of new and exciting Peruvian eateries around the city. 11 Madison Ave., Gramercy, Manhattan. www.lamarcebicheria.com.
Panca – Before La Mar, there was Panca. In the West Village in the site of what used to be Peruvian chain Pardo’s, chef Emmanuel Piqueras, who came from one of the West Coast’s best Peruvian restaurants, Andina in Portland, has been continually improving the offering here. If you want standard Peruvian dishes, prepared elegantly and using top ingredients, Panca is the best bet. 92 7th Avenue South, West Village, Manhattan. www.pancany.com
Pio Pio – New York’s largest pollo a la brasa chain (not to be confused with the rather crappy Pio Pio Riko chain in Brooklyn and Queens) has been around since 1994 and now has 8 locations in three different boroughs. Their pollo a la brasa, or rotisserie chicken, is the menu standout. Their Upper West Side location, in the site of the former Sipan restaurant, is particularly nice. Queens, Manhattan, Bronx. www.piopio.com
Mancora – Mancora’s standard Peruvian menu for the most part, though the non-Peruvian owners occasionally get a few ingredients and preparations wrong. Still, it’s inexpensive, cozy, and consistent. 99 1st Avenue, East Village, Manhattan. www.mancorarestaurantandbar.com.
Lima’s Taste – Chef Nelly Godfrey’s recipes have been passed down from her grandmother in Lima. A little bit pricey, but the overall quality is quite good. 122 Christopher St, Greenwich Village, Manhattan. www.limastaste.com.
Raymi – Richard Sandoval’s collaboration with Lima chef Jaime Pesaque of Mayta is one of the most interesting Peruvian spots around, particularly for drinks and happy hours. There’s a massive collection of pisco infusion above the bar, which allow for endless combinations of chilcanos. 43 West 24th Street, Flatiron, Manhattan. richardsandoval.com/raymi
Coco Roco – With two restaurants in Brooklyn (one in Park Slope, another at Smith in Bergen), Coco Roco has carved out a niche among Brooklynites. The owners switched hands recently, but it’s now back in the hands of the original owner and the pollo a la brasa is better than ever. I say it’s easily the best in the city. Period. 392 5th Avenue, Park Slope, Brooklyn. www.cocorocorestaurant.com.
Street Vendors Outside the Peruvian Embassy – In the mornings, as Peruvians wait in line with legal documents and foreigners are waiting for business visas, several Peruvians wait on the sidewalk outside with coolers of tamales, empanadas, mazamorra morada with arroz con leche, and alfajores. One guy actually enters the consulate sometimes and whispers his goods to those waiting. 241 East 49th Street, Midtown East, Manhattan.
Amaru Pisco Bar – From the owners of Pio Pio, this new Queens spot has 17 different types of pisco behind the bar and occasionally has live Afro-Peruvian jazz on some evenings. The food is all piqueos: salchipapas, anticuchos, a tamalito sampling, a ceviche tasting, empanadas, etc. Cocktails (created by bartender Esteban Ordonez of Apothéke) are mostly $10 and it’s a little bit clubby. 84-13 Northern Blvd, Jackson Heights, Queens.
Surfish Bistro – Lima born chef Miguel Aguilar, a protégé of TV chef Bobby Flay and a contestant on the show CHOPPED, mans the kitchen at this Peruvian fusion spot. I haven’t been here yet, the menu is beautifully priced and the dishes aren’t boring. There are lots of ceviches that stray form the standard classico, some great tapas like Chicharron sliders, and even more interesting entrees (Cinnamon Aji Panca Adobado).351 5th Avenue, Park Slope, Brooklyn. www.surfishbistro.com.
Tutuma Social Club – Designed to showcase Afro-Peruvian jazz music, this peñaactually has a menu that was designed by Peruvian chefs Carlos Testino and Rodrigo Conroy that is rather surprising: Aji de Gallina fondue, Seafood Seco, and Candied Quinoa Cannelloni. 164 East 56th Street, Midtown East, Manhattan. CLOSED
La Cervceria – This place has changed concepts so many times it’s hard to know if the current one will stick. Originally Bar Paya, named after a type of Peruvian flatbread that doesn’t exist in Peru and I think they made up, the restaurant opened in early 2010 with a nice selection of Peruvian tapas and some really good pisco based cocktails. Then they got rid of the pisco and the Peru in the tapas. Now it’s called La Cervceria, though all the beers are American crafts, and the menu is a sort of lighter version of Nuela and La Mar with category of causa, anticuchos, ceviches, and other Pan-Latin small plates. 65 Second Avenue, Bowery, Manhattan. www.lacervecerianyc.com.
El Chimu – Named after an ancient northern Peruvian culture, El Chimu in Williamsburg and El Chimu Express in Bushwick has a rather large menu with probably far too many dishes for their own good. With nearly every dish under $12, it’s one of the cheapest options in Brooklyn. On Sundays in the summer, they make Picarones on their back patio. 482 Union Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Urubamba – I didn’t know about Urubamba until the Gastronauts held a dinner here (which was impeccably prepared) in early 2011. Dishes follow tradition: roasted cuy (guinea pig), rocoto relleno, pulpo al olivo, etc. 8620 37th Avenue, Flushing, Queens.
Chifa la Union –Primarily Cantonese cuisne that has been adapted to the Peruvian palate with a few Peruvian ingredients thrown in, a chifa is on almost every corner in Peru. At this Corona hole in the wall, Chi Jau Kai, Sopa Fuchi Fu, Chancho con Tamarindo, and Arroz Chaufa all are on the menu. 91-18 Corona Ave. Corona, Queens.
El Pollo Inka – Pollo al brasa and other standards. Cheap. Simple. 112-20 Queens Blvd, Forest Hills, Queens.
Pio Pio Riko – No relation to Pio Pio above, this competing chain with several Brooklyn locations is so-so. They tend to charge more than their menu prices, so check any bill closely. Greenpoint and Coney Island, Brooklyn. Also in Queens.
El Anzuelo Fino – Many claim its better than the Pio Pio nearby. Similar menu. 86-01 Northern Blvd, Jackson Heights, Queens. Also in Woodhaven.
Coney Island Taste – Robert Sietsema of the Village Voice gave this small a great review. It’s mostly standard criollo plates. 2580 Coney Island Ave., Coney Island, Brooklyn.
Do you have a favorite Peruvian restaurant in and around New York City that I should check out to add to this list? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to make a visit.
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.