Lima: riches of the land
With Peru’s terrain spanning from coast to mountain to jungle, it’s only fitting the country’s cuisine be as complex and varied as the landscape. After all, this is a paradise of biodiversity: Some 3,000 types of potatoes are grown here, including several blue and purple fingerling varieties prized by the Incan emperors past, not to mention super fruits from the citrusy, cherry-like camu camu to the cocona, which bears a striking resemblance to a persimmon. No wonder Limenos enjoy an embarrassment of riches when it comes to dining out. The diversity of cooking styles and creative fusions has generated culinary categories: Cebicherias serve ceviche; chifas are restaurants dedicated to Chinese-Peruvian cooking; nikkei explore the fusion of Japanese and Peruvian flavors. And of course, there are these four incredibly of-the-moment restaurants that each stand in a category of their own. — Tanvi ChhedaAstrid & GastÓn, Calle Cantuarias 175, Miraflores, 011-51-1-242-4422, astridygaston.com
Considered the father of Peru’s culinary revolution, chef Gastón Acurio has created an empire of restaurants from Lima to Madrid to New York. By all accounts, Acurio is a larger-than-life figure, with the requisite cookbooks, cooking shows, and even pleas from the public to run for political office. Together with his German-born wife (a pastry chef by training), he is responsible for initiating what some call the new Andean cuisine. At his signature restaurant, opened in 1994 but still packed, dishes have stage names too, such as “Carillera the Warrior” and “The dance of the Amazonian paiche fish.” The restaurant will be moving this year to a larger space with a botanical garden. Manifiesto, Independencia 130, Miraflores, 011-51-1-546-0201, manifiesto.pe
Within two months of opening last summer, this minimalist restaurant became the hottest table in all of Lima. It still is, thanks to 27-year-old wunderkind Giacomo Bocchio’s take on Peruvian fare, which is influenced by his native Tacna, the country’s southernmost region, where his grandparents once had a restaurant, and infused with Asian and Mediterranean flavors. Start with an apricoty Tacna sour, followed by the lamb and veal sweetbreads with Andean black-mint gnocchi. Finish with the dulce de leche panna cotta accompanied by pecan praline and bananas cooked in pisco caramel. Maras, Esquina Las Begonias con Amador Reyna, San Isidro, 011-51-1-201-5023, marasrestaurante.com.pe
At this art-filled restaurant, which is located in the glittering 30-story Westin, chef Rafael Piqueras combines Peruvian staples with worldly notes such as saffron and white-truffle oil. Snag a table on the terrace, an ideal perch from which to reflect on the legend of Ayar Cachi, which gives the restaurant its name. The story goes that Peru’s gorgeous salt flats on the Maras mesa were formed from the dried tears of Ayar Cachi, who felt dejected when his brother was chosen to become founder and ruler of the Inca empire. ámaZ, AV La Paz 1079, Miraflores, 011-51-1-221-9393, amaz.com.pe
Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino follows up the success of his regularly packed restaurant Malabar with this even more Amazonian-inclined endeavor. Though the former uses Amazonian ingredients in its menu — from the guava-like araza to paiche fish — it’s ámaZ that focuses on reinterpreting traditional Amazonian cooking. That translates into gloriously flavorful dishes such as a tiradito of rockfish with cashew, soy sauce, and Brazil nut oil, and seafood salad with green mango, papaya, banana flowers, and araza juice. The menu aboard the Aqua Expeditions riverboat MV Aqua, which Schiaffino oversees, is further proof of his love affair with Peru’s interior jungle.