chili-peppersPhoto: Gustavo Miranda Holley

Thanks to Peru’s combination of jungle, desert and coastal regions, traditional food here can mean anything from lime- and chili-marinated ceviche to chili-pepper chicken. And thanks to local celebrity chef Gastón Acurio, whose flagship restaurant Astrid y Gastón ranks among S. Pelegrino’s Top 50 Restaurants in the World, using Peruvian ingredients and European techniques is the city’s hottest trend. In Lima, you could spend six days doing a tasting tour of the entire country without ever leaving the city, which is just what I did. 

Day 1: Peruvian fusion at TAntA

Gastón Acurio has opened over 10 restaurants in Peru alone. At TAntA, we order specialties like green tamalitos with lime-pickled onions, classic ceviche with boiled sweet potato and Peruvian corn, even green salads – a rarity in Lima. 

Jazz ZonePhoto: Karen Hoffman

Day 2: Asian Flavours at Jazz Zone

I find myself at Jazz Zone. This club and restaurant is the place for sushi and live Afro-Peruvian jazz. You’ll be handed the Spanish tapas menu, but ask for the sushi menu and you’ll soon be devouring scallop nigiri and fusion maki in chili-pepper-cream sauces along with Peruvian pisco cocktails. Expect a lineup on Tito Manrique’s Salsa Criolla nights.

gypsy womanPhoto: Jorge Mazzotti

Day 3: Not So Novoandina

I happily accept an invitation to the home of a cajón-playing, tango-singing criolla gypsy woman to make traditional ají de gallina. Well fortified with pisco, I help boil a whole chicken, shred the meat, then add it back into a dish of cheese, milk, pecans, puréed amarillo chili peppers, broth-soaked bread, rice, hard-boiled eggs and olives. You can find the dish on inexpensive table d’hôte menus throughout the city, but a criollo home is always more entertaining.

Market vendorsPhoto: © Colin Riggs

Day 4: 

After ají de gallina, all my stomach can handle is fresh papaya juice. Fortunately, juguerías – juice bars – and most restaurants offer a wide selection of freshly pressed fruit. I find stellar glasses of blended papaya and rich lúcuma (like a butterscotch milkshake) at Madre Natura in the Miraflores district.

Madre NaturaPhoto: © Miguel Arreátegui Rodríguez

Day 5: Back to Basics

Lima has over 2000 cevicherías, the best being Punta Sal, where second- and third-floor tables offer spectacular ocean views. Despite the lengthy menu, I keep it simple with classic ceviche – chili, lime and salt-marinated fish – preceded by a shot of leche de tigre, the fish-marinating juices from the bottom of the bowl.

PeruPhoto: ©2011 Sam Scholes

Day 6: La Dolce Vita: Italian Gelato at 4D

When Italian immigrants came to Peru, they brought with them iced heaven – a.k.a. gelato. At the quaint 4D in Miraflores, the exotic fruit options included lúcuma, cherimoya and maracuyá, but classics like tiramisù, baci and lemon sorbet were also on offer. An outlet at the Lima Airport provided one last taste of the Peruvian sweet life before I boarded my flight.