Thursday, January 24, 2008

Lima – A Latin American Gourmet Wonderland

The Peruvian capital is often shunned by travelers as a concrete jungle – a blemish on the otherwise pimple free face of Peru – and considered by many nothing more than a transitory stopover en route to otherwise more interesting destinations in the country. Sadly these travelers miss out on the truly extraordinary attributes the city has on offer – especially the cuisine. With a startling array of the diverse and delicious, Lima is often referred to as the Gourmet Capital of Latin America.

Peruvian cuisine incorporates a seriously wide variety of different elements and influences. The tropical climate gives the country a great assortment of fresh fruit, herbs, and vegetables. The potato originated under the Inca culture and over 200 different varieties are found in the country. Fish stocks along the coast are said to be some of the richest to be found anywhere – while cattle, poultry, and pig farming is big business in the interior. Culinary influences range from a history riddled with the fusion of many different cultures – the result of course being a mixture of the very best each of these cultures has to offer. African, Asian, and European influences combined with the traditional Amerindian cuisine to produce some truly exquisite dishes in the country – and nowhere is this fusion of cuisine more pronounced, and no where is it as delicious, as it is in Lima.

With some friends at the spectacular "La Mar "Restaurant in Miraflores

Advice on a few dishes. Lunch should, as a rule, be reserved for Ceviche and Tiradito. Both are served widely across South America – but in Lima they just seem to taste better. Lima’s Ceviche basically consists of raw diced fish flesh (generally sole) cured in lime juice and served with red raw onion and some chilli. Tiradito is pretty much the same dish but with a little difference. Instead of onions, the cured fish is placed in a spicy cream sauce. Both are hauntingly delicious, full of flavour, and easily available across Lima.

Other exceptional dishes include Rocotto Relleno – a hollowed out pepper filled with a meaty mix (very spicy), Aji de Gallina – a chicken and rice curry, Arroz con mariscos – Rice with seafood, Lomo Saltado – Fillet strips stir fried with fresh vegetable rice and chips, Chifa – Peruvian Chinese fusion, and Anticuchos del Corazon – brochettes of ox heart served with a spicy sauce.

My Desert Island all Time Top Five Lima Restaurants

Astrid y Gaston
Quite often referred to as the best restaurant in Latin America, Astrid y Gaston never fails to impress. Owned by Gaston Acurio, a Cordon Bleu trained chef, and his French wife, Astrid, this restaurant is the best restaurant in Lima, and is well-known in South America. The food is outstanding and the wine selection is the best to be found in Peru.

Restaurant Rodrigo is an elegant and sophisticated joint with an old age European Flair and great interior decorating. Owned and run by Chef Rodrigo Conroy, dishes are simple and elegant and are inspired by Mediterranean and Basque traditions.

The humble Sonia Cevicheria is thought by mean to be the best cevicheria in town. Sonia has been preparing the fish her husband – a fisherman – has been catching daily for over 30 years. Today's restaurant, owned by the same family of fishers, is an upgraded version of the original, attracting a vast clientele that ranges from gourmets to simple seafood devotees.

La Gloria
La Gloria is an elegant restaurant located in the heart of Miraflores. With a homely feel the restaurant provides exquisite dishes at reasonable prices. With a Mediterranean feel – the dishes are fused with a variety of delicious local cuisine. The wine selection is superb.

La Mar
La Mar is a cevicheria owned by Gaton Arcurio of Astrid y Gaston and has a number of delightful ceviche and tiradito options. The haute-cuisine creations include Peruvian seafood wonders fused with sushi and other culinary traditions. The restaurant is very popular and one needs to arrive early in order to avoid the queue.

If you're in Lima I would really recommend any one of these fine places. If anyone is interested, CAT offers a great Fine Cuisine and Museums of Lima Tour. Until the next time, happy traveling.