As Peruvian cuisine grows in stature around the world, so do the number of visitors looking to explore the food on its home turf. A few years ago you could barely find a culinary tour if you tried. Now there are several decent ones that bring you face to face with leading chefs and to visit markets and restaurants that only culinary insiders have heard of.
Joining a growing list of foreign chefs who have fallen in love with a Peruvian and followed them back to Peru (see Astrid Gutsche and Hervé Galidie) is Jason Nanka, an ecologically minded Australian chef, who recently opened a restaurant, Nanka, in the suburb of La Molina with his Peruvian wife.
Peruvian Food is becoming a global phenomenon. The culinary scene in Lima and the rest of Peru keeps improving. Food festivals, such as Mistura, are expanding. Young chefs who have trained in top kitchens in North America and Europe are returning home to open restaurants. In the same regard in North America and Europe Peruvian chefs are being called upon to a greater degree to launch new restaurants. Gastón Acurio is not holding back on his expansion plans. Culinary ideas are being refined from every angle. Here’s what to expect from Peruvian food and restaurants in 2012.
Opened in mid-2009 in a hidden spot not far from the Larcomar shopping center in Miraflores, Central is one of the most exciting restaurants to hit Lima’s scene in some time. Thirty-one year old chef Virgilio Martinez is a Peruvian who worked in New York, Paris, Madrid, Colombia, and Southeast Asia for many years (& sometimes in the kitchens of Gaston Acurio) and returned to Lima to open his own restaurant. The global flair came with him in the kitchen: an English pastry chef, a Colombian sous-chef, a Mexican sommelier, and a Spanish mâitre d’.
Lima, Peru’s annual food festival, Mistura, is currently under way in the Parque de la Expocision. This year’s event has attracted the likes of culinary icons like Ferran Adria of El Bulli and Rene Redezipi of Copenhagen’s Noma. Regardless of the big names and special decrees issued to the world, the more than 300,000 attendees come for the food.
Mistura is Lima, Peru’s annual gastronomic festival. Now in its 3rd year, the festival is running for longer and attracting bigger names than in its previous incarnations.
It’s about time Gastón! Peruvian celebuchef Gastón Acurio will open a branch of his La Mar Cebicheria in New York sometime between March and May of 2011, as reported by San Francisco Weekly and later confirmed by Peruvian web portal Terra. The 8,000 square foot location is already chosen, on Madison Avenue and 27th street, near Madison Square Park.
Ceviche, or cebiche as it is better known in Lima, is Peru’s national dish and an iconic symbol of Peru. While preparations vary across regions, Lima has without a doubt the most to offer. Again and again I am asked what my favorite restaurant for cebiche is. I don’t have a straight answer. My lust for raw fish marinated in limejuice is changing all the time, not to mention more cevicherias are opening all the time. Here are my 13 favorites.
There are tens of thousands of chifas, the local name for a Chinese restaurant, in Peru. They are found on almost every street corner in Lima and even in remote communities in the Amazon rainforest. They are overwhelmingly simple and generally inexpensive. They are far less fusion than most Peruvians think. While their influence on mainstream Peruvian cuisine is clearly evident (see Lomo Saltado), most chifas serve what is for the most part standard Cantonese cuisine. While there are a few chifas in Lima that serve dim sum and are a bit more upscale than normal, no major chef has attempted to neither reinvent nor modernize this variation of Peruvian food. Nikkei dishes yes, the chifa never.
A Pacific scented wind blows off the Miraflores malécon outside of the Miraflores Park hotel, where the restaurant Mesa 18 can be found. Lima has lacked a really good hotel restaurant for some time. There’s Perroquet??? in the Country Club, which is more about socialites mingling than the food, and the Sonesta El Olivar used to hire promising chefs but jumped off that train long ago. Orient Express, which manages the Miraflores Park, chose to make the restaurant a destination unto itself, rather than make it another hotel eatery like the predecessor. Gone is the stiff red and gold décor and formal setting. In came a plant filled open-air terrace and an edgy dining room designed by a Jordi Puig.