Dim Sum, Hot Ceviche, and Pisco sour in Lima
A(nother) great month of eating in Lima
November 6th marked the beginning of my third trip to Lima this year. Each trip to Peru simply has too many good meals to have them all featured in full-length posts. I still wanted to share our little findings with you so I thought I’d gather them into a “month-in-review” post.
Starting with trying to figure out how to bridge the gap between my 5 am arrival and my 3 pm Airbnb check-in, the beginning of this trip was filled with logistics so we found ourselves returning to old favorites.
Eventually, though we started crossing off a couple of places on our ever-growing list of restaurants to try, most of which either lived up to expectations or exceeded them.
Neighborhoods: The first Airbnb of this trip was in Miraflores, just three blocks from another Airbnb where we previously spent a month so it was familiar territory. Being within walking distance of almost a dozen different cevicherías makes it the most convenient location I've stayed in.
However, it turns out that being on the second floor of a building along a busy street is incredibly loud so we moved to a quiet part of Barranco1. This location doesn't have quite the same number of cevicherías but is just a 12-minute walk to many of the best restaurants in the neighborhood.
On weekends, we explored more of Barrio Chino (Chinatown) and Centro Histórico (downtown) which is actually a little off the beaten path for tourists, and Chorillos where you can find freshly caught fish. A lot more about Chorrilos here in my previous post:
The first two weeks were busy so we found ourselves going back to familiar places like El Chinito (fried pork sandwich), Punto Azul (creamy pepper ceviche), and Pan Sal Aire (a bakery with an extensive menu including pizza, pasta, and cocktails).
On Thanksgiving, we visited El Mercado where I had my very first Peruvian ceviche.
I visit El Mercado on every trip to Lima, and it never disappoints. It’s one of places where I’d like to try everything on the (extensive) menu.
The best surprise of this month was visitors from the Bay Area. Jerry and Meghan got married about a year ago but kept having to put off their honeymoon because of the pandemic. They considered a lot of different destinations. We were lucky that in the end they chose Lima.
We were able to try gelato with Peruvian flavors, Felix Brasserie, and dim sum (Mariela loved her first taste of Dim Sum so much that we went two weeks back-to-back). I love showing people around Lima especially when they are open-minded eaters! We thoroughly enjoyed their company. As a bonus, I learned a lot of new things about Lima, my chosen city, along the way. Everyone has their own path through the city, and it’s always interesting to compare notes.
Checking Things Off the List
We tried Mayta, a restaurant on the list of the Top 100 Latin American restaurants. The menu exhibits strong regional influences-Amazonian ceviche and Arroz con Pato (Duck Rice), a dish from the North. Mayta embraced presentation with a flair: the Arroz con Pato came in a giant skillet, and there was a cocktail that covers the table with smoke.
We also had a very relaxed Friday lunch at Amoramar. You can read about it here:
In continuing to explore Chorillos, we had lunch at Restaurante Sonia. We ordered the Ronda which had a little bit of everything. I started trying to count the number of ingredients on the plate, and I stopped counting at thirty-five. Very solid ceviche in a very local atmosphere. At the end of the meal, I spotted the owner in a corner hand-knitting fishing nets.
We finally were able to enjoy Pisco Sours at Hotel Bolivar which is known to have the best Pisco Sours in Lima. They were good, but I'm not sure they were that different than other Pisco Sours. I'm sure it would be better if we made a reservation and could have sat on the balcony or in the main bar.
In addition to learning more about Peruvian food, I introduced Mariela to ramen, dim sum, and boba tea … all in Lima.
One day when we were too tired to cook or go out, we ordered from Tori Pollería which was delicious and is now a contender for my favorite pollo a la brasa in Lima, though I'd want to dine in person at Tori and Primos before making the call. Though the sauces are made ahead of time and packaged, they were simply delicious.
I was super excited to discover authentic Dim Sum in Lima. We’ve had the odd siu mai here and there in Lima, but Kong had a full (albeit not huge) Dim Sum menu. It was more than worth the long wait in line. And here I thought I was done waiting in line for brunch after moving from SF!
I had thought that Chifa Titi might be over-rated, but I was very wrong. One interesting thing about it was that the food was more classic Cantonese-style Chinese food than Peruvian fusion. The duck in soy sauce was simple but perfectly executed.
Queirolo downtown has a very different feel than the one in Pueblo Libre, but both are great local watering holes with traditional food. The Pisco sours and Chilcano though were a bit harsh and tasted like pure pisco. The food however hits the spot. The atmosphere and socially distanced people-watching were enjoyable, especially since it had been a while since I’ve been to a bar with people.
Kinjo Ramen consists of a cute space that feels inspired by Tokyo’s ramen alley. It’s definitely inspired by studio Ghibli with a mural of Totoro. We tried the Tonkotsu and the Tan Tan, and both were delicious. The wings and gyoza were also spot on.
A few Disappointments
One of the places I visit on every trip is Canta Rana, a haurique that is filled with soccer memorabilia. I was shocked at how much smaller the ceviche was now. We ordered the ceviche especial which I had ordered a few years ago and fondly remembered. Now, the portion is about one-third of what it used to be.
At 62 soles (for the ceviche especial, around $15), Canta Rana now has among the most expensive ceviche in Lima which is not nearly as refined or artistically put together as other cevicherías at the same price point.
Here’s what the portion sizes were about five years ago:
I always went to Canta Rana when I wanted to enjoy traditional ceviche (which in Peru usually means generous portions) in a low-key atmosphere that is a cross between a sports bar and a family-run restaurant. Now, I feel like there’s a disconnect between the price and the atmosphere. We had last visited Canta Rana at the beginning of this year; I'm surprised at how fast things changed.
The super cuy (guinea pig) at Panchita was not that super. It did not appear to be its advertised 850 grams and simply wasn't that tasty compared to the cuy I've had throughout Peru. We've enjoyed just about every other dish we've ordered there during our 3 or 4 visits.
Despite these small disappointments, the hit rate for restaurants in Lima is still extremely high. I mention the disappointments mostly to help steer readers like you towards the better stuff.
Cooking at home
When we had time to make trips to the market, we've been able to eat very well at home. Soup, chaufa, beans, and lots of fish. Mariela’s sopa criolla was so good that I asked her to make another pot and then ate it for two more meals. Her version uses lomo fino instead of ground beef and also is less salty than the version you get at soperías.
A taxi driver told us about San Felipe market, and it turned out to be bigger and quite a bit cheaper than Surquillo market for most things. By the end of my first month of this trip, we were able to finally settle into a routine and enjoy home-cooked dinners.
I was able to find a copy of “Cocina con Ximena,” a cookbook by the host of my favorite Peruvian cooking show. It’s not a book focused on Peruvian classics. Rather, it’s a modern everyday cookbook made for a Peruvian audience. Look for a future post about it once we have our own kitchen here!
While downtown, we stopped by Centro Cultural Inca Garcilaso which had a small but powerful photography exhibit. I really enjoyed seeing the photos of Peru from different eras.
On Netflix, we discovered Wiñaypacha, the first film to be made in the Aymara language, a native language of the Andes. It focuses on just two characters, an old couple living on a farm in the mountains. It was beautifully shot but sad and difficult to watch at times.
What We’re Looking Forward To
It seems like a lot of food when written out like this! I only eat two meals a day … I just try to make every meal count! Having said that though, this trip I've found myself less strict about telling myself, "I’m going to eat Peruvian food every day!2" We even ate at Popeye's one day. The occasional fried chicken is good no matter where you are.
Some of the things we’re looking to try/do next month …
Osso, Matria, Cosme, and Nanka are currently on The List. I semi-purposely saved some of these well-known restaurants for later. Many first-time visitors fit these restaurants in their first week.
We love Lima but also look forward to making it to the beaches in the North for some summer sun and ceviche. I already eat ceviche almost every day in Lima, but in the North, there’s a bit of a different style.
What I’m really looking forward to is having a kitchen of our own (any day now).
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Lima is a very loud city. The noise is probably the thing I like least about Lima. We previously stayed on the same street just 3 blocks away on the ninth floor, and it was much quieter.
Upon returning from a month in Croatia, someone asked me how many Croatian meals I had. I replied matter-of-factly, “all but one” (I had a burger one day). They were surprised which surprised me. I try to eat as many meals in the local cuisine as possible.