The Ultimate Foodie Guide To Dining In Lima
With two days and only a couple planned meals, we were left with plenty of room for kismet foodie adventures. On our first morning in Barranco we ventured out to find a promising coffee shop. The address seemed amis and after going up and down the block to no avail, we finally realized that a cafe called Twins Cafe GF had taken its place.
Twins Cafe GF
The cafe set in the front courtyard entrance to an old colonial white-washed building was quite charming, so we decided to stay and try on a latte. The pastries and quiche on display looked incredible and I encouraged my husband to try one, if not for himself, then for me. Embarrassingly, it took me a while to realize that the “GF” following the cafe’s name was no coincidence, and that all those crumbly sweet creations were 100% gluten free!
We ended up having a spectacular surprise breakfast there and went back for snacks the next day too. In fact, it’s a great place to pick up gluten free food to go for a travel day or trek. The quiche and Spanish tortilla (a crustless, potato & egg cake) with side salad were both a delicious start to the day. The breads, cookies, cakes and tarts, were all made with various traditional Andean grains and coconut flour. And were some of the tastiest gluten-free pastries I’ve had.
Twins Cafe GF is also attached to Vacas Felices, a wonderful little health food store, or “biobodega,” where you can get local pasture-raised yogurt & milk, coffee, gluten-free snacks, chocolate, handmade soaps and just about anything you could need.
The owners of the Twins Cafe GF not only made us a great breakfast, but also shared this priceless insider tip for dining out in Peru: tell your server to make it MSG free.
Apparently MSG, which is called “Ajinomoto” in Peru, is ubiquitous throughout Peruvian kitchens, both high and low. If you don’t want this excitotoxin to be added to your food, you’ll have to tell your server, even at an upscale restaurant, to make your meal “libre de Ajinomoto.” We found this to be true and were so grateful to be spared the literal headache.
Sundays & Mondays
Because our two full days in Lima spanned a Sunday and Monday, the only meals that we could plan in advance were a lunch at Amor Amar and a dinner at Ámaz. Other restaurants that I was hoping to try, like Central and Chez Wong, were either closed both days or at least on Sunday.
But there’s no need to despair if you find yourself in Lima on a Sunday. Lots of great restaurants (listed below) are open until lunch and you can go to Cala in Barranco for a seaside sunset dinner. Despite some reservations about the place, we ended up having an excellent dinner there. The upscale traditional Peruvian fare and the Pisco Sours were some of the best we had, and the seaside balcony setting with views of Lima’s coast made it all that much better.
Cala turned out to be the only place where we were able to try a glass of real Chicha. I had the Andean Tenderloin with Quinoa, Mushrooms and Spinach and my husband had the Lomo Saltado. My quinoa was bizarrely delicious. These people really know how to do quinoa. It is after all the originating home of this grain, along with so many other foods. I like quinoa, and have eaten more than my fair share of it over the years, and it has never been that good.
The Lomo Saltado contains gluten (here and everywhere else we saw it on the menu), so although I didn’t get to try it my husband enjoyed it. He wasn’t as over the moon about it though, as we both were about the Traditional Lima Style Ceviche. The paired down ceviche preparation was so delicious, it inspired this recipe: Vermillion Snapper Ceviche With Purée Duo & Pappadums.
But wait, let’s not forget about desert! One of the gluten & grain free options was a Chocolate Lava Cake with tart fruit embellishments. Generally an incredible desert, this was one of the most overwhelmingly delicious Chocolate Lava Cakes I’ve ever tasted. So rich and flavorful, I can almost taste the oozing chocolate sauce as we speak.
Our dinner at Cala, including one ceviche starter, two mains, two cocktails each and desert was just shy of $80.00 USD.
On Monday evening we had reservations for dinner at ámaZ, which like us, you might have seen on Anthony Bourdain’s Peru episode of Parts Unknown. In the show Tony and Eric Ripert are seen dining in a dimly lit room, so I was surprised to find the restaurant to have a festive “cantina” feel. It was cute, but more casual than I’d expected. After we sat down, and a trip to the downstairs ladies room, I realized that the show was filmed in a private dining room downstairs, but that there’s also an upper dining room with a similarly more intimate feel. If it matters to you, specify where you’d like to sit when making your reservation.
Now onto more important matters – the food. The food was great! It was the happy meeting of comfort-food made with farm-to-table ingredients and gourmet attention to detail, which thankfully included plenty of gluten free options. This made it easy to order four small plates, though it was even easier to devour each one at lightning speed. The Ceviche ámaZ, made with a catch of the day (I believe it was Corvina), cooked ripe plantains and charapita chili pepper was very good. Though admittedly the Cala ceviche stood out as the best ceviche we had over the course of our two days in Lima.
The Churos Pishpirones, giant wild Amazonian snails stewed with turmeric, chorizo and chili, were unbelievably good. My husband who’s not an adventurous eater like I am was not looking forward to this dish, but it ended up being his favorite. The Wild Boar Empanadas filled with wild boar stew, were also very good, but probably the least exciting part of the meal.
I could’t resist ordering the Sapino Plantains filled with pulled pork and cheese. But we were expecting this dish to potentially be a bit too heavy. Instead, it was not only delicate, but hands down my favorite part of the meal. The juicy and tender smothered pork, was rich with flavor and delivered a bit of heat. The plantains served as the perfect sweet base, and the hint of fresh cheese helped each bite to melt away in your mouth.
We finished the meal with the only gluten free dessert available. Although I tend to prefer chocolatey and creamy deserts, the Amazonian Fruit Sorbet was an incredible experience. Each dollop of whipped chilled fruit was profoundly aromatic. One exotic essence after another leading us on a mini tour of the Amazon.
We could not have been more satisfied with our dinner. The cocktails were also delicious, and if Amazonian fruit infused cocktails call to you, this is the place to experience Peruvian mixology at its best.
Altogether, the ceviche, snails, empanadas, wild boar plantains, dessert and four cocktails came to just under $100.00 USD.
The images at the top of this post are all from Amor Amar, a trendy Barranco restaurant located in a converted Victorian house. The setting was really fun and the food beautifully plated, but none of the dishes we ate at Amor Amar compared to either of our meals at Cala or ámaZ. We were stopping in for a light lunch, so we only ordered two dishes – a ceviche and a warm shrimp salad, along with mini Pisco Sours and a couple afternoon pick-me-up lattes.
The Ceviche Crocante was made with a gluten free, potato based tempura fish and the Solterito Tibio de Camarones was made with Peruvian river shrimp. What ruined it is that both these dishes were exceedingly salty. The uncommon fresh water shrimp had a wonderful mild flavor and texture, but I could hardly taste them, or distinguish between the other flavors in the dish. The shrimp, sweet choclo gigante, fava beans and goat cheese (doesn’t that sound amazing?) all blended together under the veil of way too much salt. At first I blamed myself, because being focused on ordering a gluten free meal, I forgot to mention that we wanted our food to be “libre de Ajinomoto.”
However when I asked our waiter if there had been any Ajinomoto in our food, after checking with the chef, he reported that our extremely salty shrimp dish was MSG free, but that indeed, they had used some “Aji” on the tempura fish. My suggestion if you dine here, is to ask them to keep it light on the salt in general, and that your meal be 100% ajinomoto free.
If you have gluten-intolerant, there were only a couple ceviche’s on the menu that were gluten free. I was told that the tempura fish was 100% gluten free, complete with being made in a gluten free fryer. I did not get a stomach ache after the meal, which usually hits me before leaving the table when I’m exposed to contamination, but be sure to check for yourself before ordering.
The Pisco Sours and lattes were delicious, and together with the two dishes the meal cost us about $65.00 USD.
Although I couldn’t secure a reservation at Central, we popped by after our dinner at Ámaz to check out the interior. It was a bit more chic than ámaZ, but it’s the desire to know the food that leaves me with a feeling of longing and curiosity. Will I ever find myself in Lima again? I don’t know, but if I had to do it over again, I’d arrange to be in Lima for days that land between Tuesday and Saturday, and if nothing else, opted to take the left over bar reservations that were available to us at Central.
If dining at Central is something you want to be sure to experience, make a note that each four month reservation period becomes available one month before the beginning of that period. For example, reservations for the period of May – August 2017 became available on March 27th. Mark your calendar for the day the reservation period opens. Because the dates for the beginning of said period will fill up the very day – or even morning, that they open! In our case, we needed a reservation for May 9th and even though I attempted to book a table less than 10 hours after the reservation period opened, dinner reservations were full.
Espresso & Coca
Agora Arte y Café – Diagonal 378, Miraflores 15074, Peru
- Delicious 100% organic espresso and micro-foam lattes, and very mild coca tea.
Arabica Espresso Bar – Calle Gral Recavarren 269, Miraflores 15074, Peru
- High quality espresso and excellent micro-foam lattes.
La Bodega Verde – Jiron Mariscal Jose Antonio de Sucre 335A, Barranco 15063, Peru
- There are lots of cafes in Barranco, but we tried several and these were the only lattes we enjoyed in the neighborhood.
Casual Breakfast & Lunch
Twins Cafe GF – Jr. Colina 108, Barranco 15063, Peru
- Stop by this charming 100% gluten free cafe for an incredible selection of gluten free pastries and light savory dishes like quiche with greens. This cafe is celiac safe!
Vacas Felices – Centro de Consumo Responsable, Colina 108, Barranco 15063, Peru
- Organic “biobodega” with grass-fed dairy, superfoods, gluten free foods, natural bath & body, raw cacao, coffees and more.
La Bodega Verde – Jiron Mariscal Jose Antonio de Sucre 335A, Barranco 15063, Peru
- This place boasts a lovely garden patio and very good lattes, the breakfast is just ok, but they will serve eggs with incredibly good gluten free bread sourced from Twins Cafe GF! There’s a lucuma shake on the menu, but sadly it’s made with soy ice cream.
La Lucha – Av. Sta. Cruz 847, Miraflores 15074, Peru
- You need to try the Lucuma shake at La Lucha. It’s made with just the fresh lucuma fruit and milk. It’s out of this world delicious! So good in fact, I had to have two. If you’re traveling with a gluten loving friend, the sandwiches are said to be quite good.
“Sankuay” Chez Wong – Calle Enrique Leon Garcia 114, Lima
- Chef Javier Wong is said to serve up some of the best ceviche in Lima. The no-fuss, 8 table restaurant is set in the living room of the Chinese-Peruvian chef’s home, and has no menu. The chef will apparently decide what to serve you after shooting a quick glance at your table. I’d suggest calling in advance to determine if it will be possible to dine gluten free. I can’t speak from personal experience, because alas, Chez Wong was closed both days we were in Lima. Sundays & Mondays are a no-go. The place fills up and reservations are recommended.
- Be prepared to speak Spanish when you call: +51 975 483 239
El Rincón Que No Conoces – Bernardo Alcedo, Distrito de Lima 15046, Peru
- Traditional down home Peruvian food. If you’re looking for solid “comida Criolla,” this is it.
La Mar Cebichería – Av Mariscal La Mar 770, Miraflores 15074, Peru
- From what we heard this is one of the best spots in town for ceviche and fresh seafood.
Rincon Chami – Calle Esperanza 154, Miraflores Lima 18, Peru
- If you’re looking for inexpensive, authentic home cooked Peruvian food in a casual setting, this family run restaurant might be just what you crave. We didn’t eat here, but the good people at Foodies Perú (see below!) recommend this wonderful down-home eatery run by a single family for 46 years! Located near Kennedy Park in Miraflores, it’s open all week from 8am-9pm. I would not expect organic sourcing here.
Upscale Lunch & Dinner
Cala – Circuito de Playas, Barranco, Peru
- Make a reservation for the lovely outdoor balcony for a sunset supper!
Amor Amar – García y García 175, Barranco, Peru
- Make a reservation well in advance for dinner, or more easily for lunch. Consider taking a car here, as the location can be a little risky for tourists with flashy gadgets.
ámaZ – Av. la Paz 1079, Miraflores, Peru
- When making your reservation ask to sit in the upper dining room for a sexier setting, or lower bar area for a more casual experience.
Central – Santa Isabel 376, Miraflores, Lima, Perú
- Make a reservation as soon as you know that you’ll be visiting Lima.
Restaurant Huaca Pucllana – Cdra 8, Calle General Borgoño, Lima 15074, Peru
- From what we read, the food is nothing special, and from what we could tell by the loud American chatter echoing out over the beautiful ruins, the place is naturally, a tourist magnet. Nonetheless, the completely open patio dining area overlooking the impressive Incan archeological site is a memorable place to have a cocktail or a light snack. Go before dark and leave yourself enough time to tour the ancient Inca ruins.
La Rosa Náutica – Espigón Miraflores, Lima 18, Circuito de Playas, Miraflores, Peru
- Set inside a rambling Victorian built on stilts over the seashore, you’ll find this restaurant noted in any guidebook. We only saw it from the cliffs above, but from what we gathered the seafood might be quite good, and the setting worth a visit.
Maido – Calle San Martin 399, Miraflores 15074, Peru
- This high end Japanese restaurant was one of many places that we had wanted to try, but did not have a chance to fit into our short stay.
Astrid & Gastón – Av. Paz Soldan 290, San Isidro 15073, Peru
- One of several restaurants that are part of Marisa Giulfo’s family of gastronomic experiences – along with Malabar, El Señorío de Sulco, Chez Wong, El Rincón Que No Conoces and others.
Malabar – Av. Camino Real 101, San Isidro 15073, Peru
- Exceptionally sourced, farm-to-table Peruvian cuisine that the chef calls “amazon Fusion.”
El Señorío de Sulco – Malecón Cisneros 1470, Miraflores 15074, Peru
- A more traditional take on high end Peruvian fare.
Foodie Tour Guides
With only two days in Lima, and an interest in seeing as much of the city as possible with a couple museums on our itinerary, we sadly didn’t have time for adventures like the foodie tours offered by Foodies Perú. If I were to do it again, I would most definitely make time for their Chorrillos Bike Tour.
This bicycle tour will take you along Lima’s southern coast to a local fish market where you’ll hop on a boat and set sail for a small picturesque island. The tour boasts “the freshest & tastiest ceviche in town,” culminating in a trek through the bohemian streets of historic Barranco.
These guys also offer tours of Hidden Miraflores and Barranco Treasures. See traditional markets and off the beaten path places that you might otherwise not have a chance to explore.
Pachamanca Cooking Class & Lunch
We also missed the opportunity to experience Pachamanca while in Peru. Our quick Lima visit didn’t leave room for a day trip and later in the Sacred Valley we were also too short on time for a several hour long commitment. If you can plan for a more spacious visit, consider taking this class offered by Marisa Giulfo’s Taste of Peru and grand master of Pachamanca, Jesus Gutarra:
“Pachamanca is an Andean way of roasting different meats, vegetable, fruits and tubers on heated stones in an underground pit. Learn the ancient Incan technique of cooking a complete meal buried in the earth and accompanied by a special ceremony to bless the food. Cooked with the vapor pressure and heat generated by the rocks, it’s an art more than technique.”
The meal is naturally gluten free, because the pre-Columbian traditional Andean diet was free of gluten grains! The menu is complete with all these delicious foods: chicken, pork, guinea pig, lamb, potatoes, maca, yucca, lima beans, andean cheeses and sweet potatoes. But don’t take my word for it, double check about gluten when making your reservations.
Call 1-866-411 4622 or +51-703-822-5312 or +51 996 403 600.
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