Peruvian Platefuls and Embracing the Everyday
During stints in Lima, I had always maintained a list of a dozen or more restaurants that I wanted to try. This time, I felt a subtle but meaningful shift in how I viewed my time in Lima.
I started embracing the everyday more and spent less time thinking about where to go next. We’ve been choosing meals more last minute based on the occasion and current mood, trusting that we’ll have a good experience wherever. After all, one of the reasons I love spending time in Lima is that there is good food everywhere—in strip malls, on the street, and at family dinner tables.
In this spirit, I wanted to share what a fairly typical week of eating in Lima looks like for us1.
On Thursday, night we went to Pollo a la Brasa at Primo’s which has become one of our regular weekday meals. It’s usually just Mariela and I, but this time, we were a table for four. This was the first time we were able to order a whole chicken which comes with the fixins—fries, salad, and a trio of sauces. Ordering a whole pollo a la brasa is definitely one of the easiest and most satisfying ways to order for a group.
On Fridays, Mariela and I usually have enough time for a longer lunch. Not a leisurely lunch somewhere like La Mar but enough time to go out. We headed to Barra Chalaca. There was a line out the door which is par the course. However, there were two seats at the bar which we eagerly snagged.
We split a causa and the “ceviche de infancia” (ceviche from childhood). Every menu I’ve seen from Chef Gaston Acurio has at least one dish that evokes his childhood, representing how dishes used to be made. The name doesn’t mean that the ceviche is for children. The pepper was more potent than normal. This ceviche was ceviche stripped down to the essentials.
For dinner, we met Jake in Barranco. Mariela was craving anticuchos so we headed to our favorite spot at the edge of Barranco. We didn’t even remember the name of the place. We remember the sandwich place it’s next to and find it by that. It turns out that the sandwich place has a following as well; this time was saw that it had quite a line.
We ordered a plate of salchipapas which I haven’t had in years and a plate of anticuchos. We also ordered Inka Kola which I only drink to go with grilled meats.
I associate anticuchos with late-night fare. It’s what you eat after a show or late night out. It felt a bit strange eating them at 8 pm without a belly full of booze.
Saturday morning started with thoughts of food. We were having guests so Mariela started the day with a trip to the market and preparing a la huancaína sauce by blending aji amarillo, cheese, milk, and crackers for thickening.
Once that was done, we headed to Surquillo for lunch. We planned to grab lunch at Al Toke Pez of Netflix Street Food Fame. It seems that thirty other people had the same idea. We’ve eaten at Al Toke Pez on other occasions where there was no line so we decided to try our luck another day. The great thing about Surquillo is that there are so many options for ceviche. We headed to one of our favorites, Cumpa.
There was also a line at Cumpa (mostly locals this time). We squeezed in at the bar and ordered ceviche, tamalito verde, and lomo saltado which I didn’t want Jake leaving Peru without trying. Splitting the dishes was a little tricky, but we made it work.
For dinner, Mariela cooked a big batch of chicken in ají panca and papa a la huancaína. The gossip at the table was how I no longer eat rice which I guess is shocking to Peruvians. Like many rumors, there’s some truth to it but also a bit of missing nuance. Over the last year, I’ve started cutting down on white rice as the default option. But I do eat rice on special occasions especially since Peruvians do rice so well.
After a late start, we took Mariela’s mom and aunt to our neighborhood ceviche spot. It was especially fresh that day. In Peru, I’ve run out of ways to describe how fresh the seafood is. The seafood at your everyday cevichería is caught that day which sometimes I take for granted until I step out of Peru. The ceviche at this spot is always on point, but that day the scallops and shrimp were especially fresh. They tasted like they just come off the boat.
On Monday, I had fish with lentils which is customary to have on Mondays. It supposedly brings good luck, money, and prosperity. Some say it is because the lentils are coin-shaped. I don’t know if buy all of that but it’s certainly a nutritious start to the week.
On Tuesday, we had ceviche and sudado for lunch. The sudado we have at home is much lighter. I hope to share a recipe one day.
We went to see Aquaman 2 at Larcomar which was showing right in the middle of the time we normally had dinner. I was looking for a La Lucha, a chain sandwichería, which I thought was at Larcomar. We ended up discovering something much better.
The food court underneath Larcomar is finally finished. It’s not completely built out yet but it features a tapas place, ceviche spot for lunch, and a sushi place. Typically I’m not too fond of these trendy food courts but it’s a perfect fit for Larcomar.
Mariela and I split a set of four makis. Not all the flavors were great but the acevichado which tends to be our test for a new Nikkei place was good. All-in-all, pretty good for mall fast food.
On Wednesday, we had a delicious fried fish which Mariela says needs rice. This is what a “little rice” means in Peru:
On Thursday, a work meeting was canceled at the last minute and Mariela was out with her mom so I quickly picked a spot for solo ceviche. I decided to give Barracones another try. A few months ago, I think the restaurant was still finding its footing, but this time the service was very smooth. I quickly got shown to a table outside and was quickly served. The weather was perfect and the other diners enjoying their ceviche reminded me of the scene in Luncheon of the Boating Party.
The leche de tigre in the ceviche was creamy and had a nice kick. I arrived with the ambition of ordering Parihuela or a pejerrey sandwich, but the ceviche by itself was filling enough.
In truth, there’s no typical week of eating for us. On this particular week, we had pollo a la brasa, anticuchos, sanguches, criolla food, Peruvian makis, and lots of fish3. Most places were picked last minute from our list of favorites. We didn’t make any reservations and didn’t spend much time waiting in lines.
Even when I had a couple of months in Peru, I used to feel that I needed to cram everything in. But now, I finally feel settled by the idea that there’s good food everywhere in Lima and that I can always come back to a particular place.
If I were to recommend a week of eating for a first week in Lima as a tourist, it would look quite different. To see what that would look like, buy a copy of my guidebook.
What about breakfast? For me, a cup of black coffee and then a cup of coca tea is my usual breakfast. I’ve written about Peruvian breakfast here: https://www.howtoeatinperu.com/p/peruvian-vs-american-breakfast
We’ve since found a better ramen place in Barranco. Reiwa Yakitori doesn’t always show up if you search for ramen, but they do serve it along with a wide selection of maki and grilled skewers.
The main thing missing from this lineup was chifa that week which tends to be a weekday staple for us. We had chifa a couple of days later while walking around downtown.