Have you ever visited a place and were pleasantly surprised by something? I hate it when that happens to me because that means I had preconceived notions, something I try hard to avoid. But Lima caught me by surprise – I really was not expecting the amount of fantastic food I ended up eating! It got to the point where I was glad I didn’t live there or else I’d have to become an Ironman athlete just to maintain my current size!
There are many good restaurants in Lima (three of which are on the 2016 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list) so it can be very hard to decide where to eat. You may also have the additional problem of limited time so trying multiple places may be difficult. Well, I have an option for you – a food tour! This way you can sample several places in one evening. I highly recommend Lima Gourmet Company’s Lima Evening City and Food Tour. It’s a great overview of some of the city’s fantastic top restaurants, allowing you to try various Peruvian dishes, and satisfy your little foodie heart.
I happened to be in Lima just before elections and as such, learned something interesting – the day before a federal election, Lima becomes a “dry” city. No restaurant is allowed to serve alcohol! Thankfully, it didn’t cancel my tour but it meant that only three of us were doing it that particular evening. It also meant that our first stop at Cala, a trendy beachfront restaurant, was pretty quiet and our pisco sour lesson was of the virginal sort. Not being a pisco sour fan, I opted for a chicha morada, a drink I first tasted on the Inca Trail. This purple corn and fruit drink will taste different depending on who makes it and this one was definitely sweetly refreshing. We sampled maki acevichado, sushi (shrimp, avocado, salmon) served with ceviche sauce. I tried to limit myself as we were just getting started but it was difficult!
A short drive took us to the next restaurant, Amaz, which specializes in Amazonian fare. Amaz is beautifully appointed with textiles and woods from the Amazon, making you feel like you teleported to the jungle itself. Here, we sampled a variety of appetizers including chaufa (Peruvian-Chinese fried rice), panqueque de choclo (corn pancake), tostones (flattened fried plantain), and pollo kanga (chicken skewers with a coconut and peanut sauce). The highlight, however, was an opportunity to make a personal sized serving of plantain ceviche. We were given the ingredients (this iconic dish is normally made with raw seafood but plantain makes for a vegetarian version), a bowl, and instructions. Mine tasted pretty good, if I do say so myself!
Huaca Pullaca Restaurant
The third stop for the evening was at Huaca Pullaca. I was getting pretty full by now but I was still excited to be at this restaurant – it’s built right next to a 5th century archeological site. It is literally an opportunity to dine with ancient history! As I admired the illuminated pre-Incan ruins, we were served tasting samples of various dishes: chicharron de pollo (chicken marinated with pisco and soy sauce), antichucho (thinly sliced beef heart), causa (a layered potato based dish), and sea bass ceviche. And if that wasn’t enough, we got four little desserts to try as well: arroz con leche con helado de algarrobina (rice pudding with frozen syrup made from the Black Carob tree), gooseberry cheesecake, lucuma mousse with quinoa, and suspiro de limena (caramel meringue parfait). I positively rolled out the door once we were done!
La Bodega Verde
Our final stop for the evening was in the Barranco neighbourhood, coincidently where I was staying. After a short walk around central Barranco to admire the famous Bridge of Sighs, we stopped at a café called La Bodega Verde. It was really cute with a fantastic garden, a great place to wind down the evening. Here, we tried a lucuma milkshake. I’d never heard of lucuma before coming to Peru – it’s apparently an incredibly healthy fruit native to Peru and has a distinctive flavour. I don’t even know how to describe it other than it was kind of okay…it’s one of those things that you either love or don’t. But the more I drank it, the more it grew on me!
By the end of the night, my foray into foodie territory was indeed a success. Even though by that point, I’d been in Peru for five weeks, there were still many things I’d not tried before that evening. It was an amazingly delicious way to wrap up my visit and a great way to experience some of Lima’s top restaurants. So next time you are in Lima, definitely consider a food tour!