Rafael Osterling’s latest creation is Lima’s most buzz worthy restaurant of the moment. The cebicheria, a huacas length from the cluster of other trendy cebiche spots on Avendia La Mar in Miraflores, is well priced, better executed, and in my opinion the cebicheria to beat in the La Mar restaurant zone right now. The lunch only spot is more casual than his signature Rafael, though it’s still has an upmarket foodie feel with a long wooden bar, large chalkboard displaying the daily specials, and an open air dining room with a Playa de Asia style beachy décor.
On a post not far from my table a Kingfisher sits for a moment and then flutters off. Off in the distance closer to the shore a white egret stands zen-like. When I came by boat to Al Frio y al Fuego, a thatched roof restaurant in the middle of the Itaya river near Iquitos in the Peruvian Amazon, the clouds were dark and raindrops bounced across the murky water. Now the sun was out and the restaurants turquoise pool was sparkling and inviting though I didn’t think to bring my trunks.
Few restaurants that have opened in Lima this year have intrigued me as much as Amor Amar. The restaurant pairs for the first time Argentine chef Luis Alberto Sacilotto (renowned for his work at La Gloria) and Víctor Away Chang-Say (the owner/creator of Pescados Capitales). With this duo at the helm, my expectations were high.
Mayta is one of the most promising restaurants to open in Lima (Miraflores) in 2009. The chef, Jaime Pesaque, is quite young but he has a lot of experience (Cordon Bleu, other top restaurants in Lima). Mayta has received nearly 100% positive reviews from the local critics in Lima. I’m sticking with them.
La Gloria has been a landmark on Lima’s dining scene for years. Run by chef Luis Alberto Sacilotto and owner Óscar Velarde, the restaurant has been training for many of the most important Peruvian chefs of the past decade. Is it the best restaurant in Lima? It’s definitely one of the best. I’ve only been there once though and I don’t toss around that ranking lightly, so can’t confirm. It lacks the creativity that a place like Malabar or Rafael has, but as far as execution goes La Gloria is as good as any restaurant in South America. If Michelin came to Peru (I’ve heard their putting out a guide in Brazil in 2010), La Gloria could easily earn a star.
It took five knocks on random doors to find the right house, even though I had been there before. When I finally found Chez Wong I was told that I couldn’t come in because I didn’t have a reservation. I looked behind the doorman and no one was there. I pleaded but no luck. He handed me a business card with a phone number and asked me to call later. The following week, this time with a reservation, I returned to Chinese-Peruvian chef Javier Wong’s closed-door cebicheria in his house in La Victoria, an unassuming neighborhood of Lima, Peru near busy avenue full of auto body shops.
Panchita is the latest Gastón Acurio creation in Lima. The emphasis here is on traditional Criollo dishes, which are served in large portions. They call Panchita an anticucheria, though that might be a bit of a stretch. While in general I like most of what Acurio puts out, it is hard to get an honest review of most of his restaurants because most everyone in Lima is so blinded by his star power that they accept whatever is put on their plate for gold. He makes Peruvian food that is acceptable for the international crowd and the restaurants can stand on their own in any city in the world. That said, I always have a good meal at one of Acurio’s restaurants, just not a great meal.
There are two real restaurant hotspots for cebiche (or ceviche) in Lima: in the coastal suburb of Chorrillos south of Barranco and along Avenida La Mar in Miraflores. Avenida La Mar is the more upscale of the two and the only one where big name chefs operate restaurants.
Few realize just how abundant Nikkei cuisine is in Lima. In Peru, the ancestral cooking style fuses traditional Japanese with Peruvian to make some of the most interesting takes on one of the world’s great culinary brands. The international media in their new love of Peruvian cuisine consistently overlooks Nikkei chefs, however, many of the top fine dining restaurants in Lima are in fact Nikkei. Examples: Osaka, Hanzo, and Costanera 700.
Whenever there’s any talk of cevicheria’s in Lima, usually someone mentions Pescados Capitales. The name means Capital Fish, which is a play on the phrase Capital Sins (Sins in Spanish is pecados, which sounds almost like pescados). The menu, which is ginormous, is arranged around capital sins such as Greed, Gluttony, Vain, Ire, Envy, and others.