American chef Todd English has hailed Lima as the culinary capital of Latin America – recognition that its distinctive, inventive cuisine is leaving an imprint around the world. It’s a cuisine as cosmopolitan as its population: founded on centuries-old indigenous cooking, enriched with Spanish and European traditions, emboldened with Asian flavours courtesy of 20th-century Chinese and Japanese immigrants, then set to simmer with Creole spices brought by Caribbean workers.
Countless chifas (slang for Chinese Peruvian restaurants) line the streets, where you’ll find spicy dim sum. Line up for a table at a cebicheria, where the Peruvian national dish ceviche (raw fish chunks marinated in citrus and tossed with fresh herbs and seasonings) is served at lunchtime. At tiny, unpretentious Sankuay (everyone calls it Chez Wong), chef Javier Wong doesn’t bother with a menu (or a sign outside) – you get the day’s ceviche as first course, plus whatever Chef Wong thinks you might like, based on the freshest of dish and vegetables and created in front of your eyes.
At Rafael, Chef Rafael Osterling brings together the flavours and ingredients of Peru using sophisticated techniques gained from long apprenticeships in top French and British restaurants. Located in a historic mansion, Rafael offers elective, innovative fare that’s firmly grounded in local tradition.
Commander in chief of Peru’s culinary revolution is Gaston Acurio, who was trained in some of Europe’s finest restaurants. His flagship restaurant Astrid y Gaston is widely considered Peru’s top dining spot; Peruvian ingredients are flecked with French, Asian, and Creole flavors. Acurio has a fleet of other eateries in Lima, including Cebicheria La Mar, which offers both traditional and Asian-influenced ceviche. With additional restaurants in Peru, across Central and South American, as well as in Madrid and San Francisco, Acurio is doing his share to expand the reach of Peruvian cuisine.