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Ceviche, lomo sataldo, pisco sours: Peru’s culinary scene is having a moment, and there’s no better way to sample the goods than by heading straight to the source.
From authentic fare at the Parwa ethical community restaurant to fine dining at Virgilio Martínez Véliz’s award-winning Central, there’s never been a better time to make a Peruvian pilgrimage.
Where: Calle Santa Isabel 376, Lima
If you missed its meteoric culinary rise, it may come as a surprise that no other city has more highly ranked restaurants in the world than Lima.
Leading the pack (at a commanding #4 on the 2017 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list) is Central. It’s the showpiece venue of local wunderkind Virgilio Martínez Véliz, star of Netflix’s Chef’s Table and chief protagonist of Peru’s modern gastronomy scene.
But not even Martínez Véliz’s star can outshine his own tasting menu here. The menu celebrates Peru’s biodiversity through a 12-course meal arranged according to “ingredient altitude”, from produce sourced 20 metres below sea level to 4,100 metres above it, in the Andes.
Central is a culinary showstopper with an ecological and philosophical depth on par with René Redzepi’s Noma and Ferran Adrià’s el Bulli.
Calle Santa Isabel 376, Lima
Where: Calle San Martin 399, Miraflores
A truly artful clash of Nikkei and Peruvian cuisine, chef Mitsuharu Tsumura’s flagship restaurant Maido is a flavour magnet for foodies.
Taking out eighth place in this year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Maido is home to some of the country’s freshest and most delightful raw-fish delicacies. The menu also showcases adventurous a la carte selections like fish hot dogs and dim sum with squid and sea snail cau-cau (Peruvian tripe stew).
Maido means “welcome” in Japanese, and foodies will feel beyond looked-after in Tsumura’s warm, stylish setting – a unique celebration of Lima’s Peruvian-Japanese lineage.
Where: Calle Garcilaso 290, Cusco, Peru
You can’t down a 12-course degustation for every meal. Luckily, in Peru there’s no shortage of wallet-friendly choices to whet your appetite.
Take Cuzco’s Q’ori Sara, for example: a delicious, no-frills lunch and dinner option, it’s popular with locals and out-of-towners alike.
The menu changes daily and comprises soup, a main and a delicious glass of chich morada (a local corn-based drink) – all in super generous serves, and all extremely affordable.
Where: Av Imperio de los Incas, Aguas Calientes, Peru
After an extended session trekking the elemental wonder that is Macchu Picchu, you’ll need a sturdy feed.
While there are a number of popular tourist options around the area catering to foreign palates, the Treehouse offers sumptuous vegan and vegetarian offerings and a rustic wooden setting – a choice that’ll make all those stone steps worth it.
It’s a choice that will make all those stone steps even more worth the climb.
Parwa Community Restaurant
Where: Comunidad de Huchuy Qosco Lamay, Calca, Cusco
While most foodies flock to central Lima, not all of Peru’s drawcards are in the capital.
Take Parwa Community Restaurant as a case in point. Located in the small village of Comunidad de Huchuy Qosco Lamay, north of Cusco, Parwa is a delightfully rustic community meal experience.
Inspired by a farm-to-table fusion of traditional Peruvian cuisine, the restaurant is an ecological project, with all ingredients sourced directly from local farmers.
Parwa is a nourishing, immersive experience where travellers can enjoy food cooked by local women in the middle of the stunning Sacred Valley. Better still, all proceeds directly support and sustain the local community.
Comunidad de Huchuy Qosco Lamay, Calca, Cusco
Where: Av Los Conquistadores 1087, San Isidro
After cutting his teeth at world-class venues Noma and El Celler de Can Roca, Peruvian Chef Palmiro Ocampo opened one of the most-talked-about restaurants in Lima’s thriving food scene.
1087 Bistro champions locally sourced, seasonal and sustainable produce, fusing avant-garde and traditional Peruvian culinary methods.
It’s worth adding that chef Palmiro also runs a non-profit organisation that teaches creative techniques to chefs, aimed at maximising the most of every ingredient to reduce food waste and tackle hunger.
Where: Avenida San Martín 101, Barranco
With a rotating, hand-written menu of criollo (comfort food) classics and regional specials, Isolina is a local’s choice that’s found its way onto the out-of-towner radar.
A regular in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants ranking, this traditional taberna serves high-end takes on local street food, such as ceviche served with deep-fried squid, pejerrey (Peruvian silverside) sandwiches and tripe stew – all based on the cherished home cooking of co-owner Jose de Castillo’s mother, Doña Isolina.
(Lead image: Maido Cocina Nikkei / Facebook)
Salivating? So are we. G Adventures offers must-do tours throughout Peru – book now and get acquainted with the region’s local flavours and vibrant culture. While you’re there, don’t miss the sustainable Parwa Community Restaurant, which is supported by G Adventures. Find out more here and get set for your next adventure.
Cam Hassard is an international penman, sax-wielder and rogue wayfarer who writes for Junkee, Carryology, Huckberry, Caddie, Fairfax Media, Carryology, Intrepid, Peregrine Adventures and Europe Up Close. He’s eaten ant salad in Laos, hauled trucks from NYC to Vegas, and destroyed himself on the Camino de Santiago. Originally from Melbourne, he currently calls Berlin home.