My blog posts on Peru are long overdue. There’s always so much content I want to share with you guys and wish I had just a few extra hours in the day to do it, but Peru, and maybe a little bit Colombia, is particularly meaningful to me. After my 2.5 week long trip to South America, lots of flight delays, missteps and mislandings (that really happened, FTL vs. MIA) I landed in New York to pretty tragic, life changing news about the death of a family member. I had a few deadlines due from my Colombia trip for publications like Paper, and Fathom, but besides the photos on my phone that I had been already uploading, I practically closed the files on last February, particularly Peru, and didn’t look back. I can finally look at the photos again and I’m excited to share my trip to South America with you.
So let’s start with the food. When in Medellín, the first thing people would say when I mentioned I’m going to Lima, Peru afterwards was, “You’re going to love the food there!” or “They have the best food in South America.” This seemed to be a pretty strong consensus, at least among the Colombians and my South American followers on Periscope. Peruvian cuisine is a delicious blend of indigenous (like the Incas), European (like the Spanish influence during colonial times), Asian (Japanese & Chinese immigrant laborers) and West African (due to the slave trade). It’s the original fusion food! I was heading to Peru for my friend Courtney’s wedding (you’ll hear more about her this week) and I already had a leg up by way of a fabulous insider’s guide to Lima that Court and Dani shared with guests on their wedding website.
I am ceviche mad so I was thrilled to try the dish where it originated, Peru over 2,000 years ago with the Moche civilization. I mean 2,000 years — you know they are doing something right. And ceviche Peruano is unique. I’ve had solo dervish in Mexico with the fish blended into dry bits served over tostadas, I’ve had yummy but not filling cocktail cups of ceviche with small nibbles of white fish at restaurants in New York, but Peru is where I found the ceviche of my dreams, everywhere. The fish was deliciously marinated, big chunks and served as a meal, not an appetizer. At least portion wise. Peruvian ceviche just looks better. There are no saucy distractions or tostadas. You have delicious Peruvian corn (I dream about those sweet, giant, chewy kernels) and raw onions complimenting the seafood and camote sweet potatoes (Peru has 3,800 different varieties). It’s kind of like Peru on a plate. You haven’t had ceviche until you’ve have cebiche peruano. Many Peruvians believe it is an
aphrodisiac and a hangover cure ;). My favorite ceviche while in Peru was at Isolina (more on restaurant in a sec) but a close second was at Alfresco in Miraflores. The service was great and the ceviche mix that I had was beautiful plated. Being a seafood restaurant, they had countless varieties of ceviche and other fresh seafood dishes to try.
On day 1, I happen to find my favorite restaurant in Lima. It was around the corner from 2nd Home Guesthouse in Barranco, and as I found out later, came highly recommended by Courtney. Isolina, a taberna in Barranco specializing in homestyle Limeño criollo food, set the bar pretty high. Hearty and rich, everything is pretty delicious at Isolina so you can’t go wrong. Not knowing too much about the place but hungry after a day of traveling, I went in and trusted my waited to guide me, ordering the seco de asado de tira con arroz y frijoles at about 70 sol. Delicious short ribs in a brown creole cilantro based sauce.
Isolina also does a superb ceviche and it definitely was a meal in itself. My other favorite meal there was a delicious chicken sweetbread stew, guiso de mollejas. It’s so hard to find quality sweetbreads here in NYC. I dream of mouth-watering options in London.
I never had a bad meal in Lima, even when I got travelers gut and had to drink a simply soup from Tata’s. Whether it was homemade ices with fresh fruit chunks bought from a stand, delicious afternoon delights of churros from Manolo in Miraflores, or my standard South American breakfast of passion fruit in the mornings, I ate pretty well in Lima and Paracas where besides wedding festivities, I ate at seaside shacks and restaurants. Here’s a little food porn to wet your palate.
Isolina. Avenida Prolongacion San Martín 101, Barranco; +51-98-247-5075
Alfresco. Malecón Balta 790, Miraflores; +51-1-242-8960
Manolo. Avenida Largo 608, Miraflores; +51-1-444-2244
Any favorite restaurants in Lima or Peruvian cuisine? Let me know in the comments below!