Foodie Fantasies Come True in Lima – Part 2

Astrid y Gaston La Barra, Lima Peru

We were still hot on the trail of the top restaurants in Lima, even after our Central experience. Next up was Astrid y Gaston – we tried our same tactic of showing up and hoping, but still couldn’t get in for the tasting menu. However, we did score a seat at La Barra, the a la carte part of Astrid y Gaston.

They brought out the wine list in this swanky little envelop, and I kinda felt like I’d won some kind of award. And the prize was wine!

We had an appetizer of langostino, which was delicious. And then got the roasted suckling pig to share – unfortunately, it looked and tasted sooo delicious we failed to get a picture of it. #foodcriticfail

Astrid y Gaston La Barra, Lima PeruThe flavors and dishes were spot on – from the appetizer of spiced olives, to the langostino to the pig. I wish we had gotten to do the tasting menu here, I’m certain it would have been out of this world!

Another day we went to another of Gaston Acurio’s restaurants, La Mar Cebicheria, and it may be our favorite restaurant in Lima! It’s not in the awards list, and is much more casual, but completely surpassed our expectations. Starting from the variety of native potato chips with three sauces, and Cancha Salada (it’s a special kind of Peruvian corn that has really large kernels, they roast and salt it. You can squeeze lime over it, or dip it in hot sauce, or just eat it by the handful) the flavors were awesome!

We decided on the ceviche tasting and Causa tasting. Each ceviche was completely different, but super fresh and interesting. The Causas were my favorite though. I really shouldn’t be sharing this on the blog, because I have a secret plan to start a restaurant in the states that’s all about Causas – it’s gonna be the next big thing!

Causas are these amazing little appetizer dishes made of layers of mashed potatoes, and in between the layers it’s filled with things like avocado, onions, chicken, tuna, crab… you name it.. then topped off with a sauce that compliments. There are hundreds of varieties, but they all taste amazing. It’s like a super fancy potato salad sculptured and filled with the best ingredients. Ours at La Mar included one with crab and langostino, avocado, a savory/sweet passionfruit sauce and another with tuna and salmon tartar, wasabi and a crispy nori topping.

To finish it off at La Mar, we had octopus two ways. It was remarkably tender, and I just couldn’t stop eating the version with an olive sauce.

Bummer is, we didn’t even bring the camera to this most extraordinary meal, so no pictures… unless we go back again before we leave Lima, which is a very real possibility.

Anyway… on to the next stop in our foodie tour… we went to Maido, another restaurant on the Top 50 restaurants in the world list.

Maido Resturant - Lima, PeruWe actually got a reservation for this one through our hotel – Score! We’re big time now! …or so we thought. We arrived to learn that we did get a reservation, but not for the tasting menu, that had ended 15 minutes before we arrived. But never fear, I’m a determined foodie, and they made the mistake of putting the tasting menu list of dishes in the a la carte menu… so we proceeded to recreate it ourselves (our server was less than thrilled with this, but obliged)

Maido features the signature Lima fusion of Peruvian and Japanese, “Nikkei” – so lots of raw fish was on order. Every single piece was delicious! The sushi was incredibly fresh and well prepared – we particularly liked the octopus and the tuna. Maido Resturant, Lima PeruMy favorite dish of our experience there was the Nuevo Ceviche, it was beautiful cuts of raw fish, but instead of being marinated in a lime juice sauce, it came dry then tableside had a powder added to it and stirred in that gave it a wonderful smoked yellow pepper and light citrus flavor. It was much less sweet than the typical ceviche (which I’ve found to be really quite sweet here in Peru). It was crazy delicious and truly innovative… sadly, the picture does not do it justice at all! P1200740

We also tried out the 48-hour braised short ribs and they were everything you could hope for! The meat fell apart, but wasn’t greasy, just buttery. We almost ordered it again for another course, it was so good! Oh sweet meat perfection!!


I typically wouldn’t order ramen at a place like Maido, but it was on the tasting menu, so we went for it. And it was truly excellent. And we finished it off with a clever little dessert they called “Ceviche”, you can see the resemblance. It was a variety of tropical fruits, both fresh and crispy freeze dried, ice cream and a citrus sauce. Again, delicious!


There were quite a few other courses that we really enjoyed, each well thought out and well executed. I would definitely say Maido was worth it!

We had some other incredible meals at less well known places. Like our sushi dinner at Osaka. The straight up sushi was the win here – I would say it’s the first or second best salmon nigiri I’ve ever had (a very authentic little spot in Vancouver being the competition).

We also had a superb dinner at AmorAmar, which was our super backup choice on our first night here, but turned out to be one of our favorite meals in Lima. I’m always partial to a place that blows you away with an amuse-bouche.

We still have a couple days here in Lima and I’ve got big plans to explore the “hole in the wall” food scene, especially the anticuchos.

So despite hiking for about 20 days of the last month we’ve spend in Peru, I think I’ve managed to gain weight from my six days in Lima! At least it was for a worthy cause – Peruvian food is amazing!!

Maido Resturant - Lima, Peru

Foodie Fantasies Come True in Lima

Central Resturant, Lima Peru

I have to be honest, as a whole, South American food has not been my favorite. There have certainly been some amazing meals (I’m lookin at you, Boragó, my love!), but as a whole Argentina, Chile and Bolivia aren’t doing a lot with flavors or spices and have a special way of completely ignoring the existence of vegetables and fruits. (unless you love mayonnaise, white bread and sugar)

I’ve been looking forward to Peruvian food for the last few months – it has a reputation for some of the best food in the world – and Lima is a the capital of that! We basically planned our entire time in Lima around eating.


There’s this list of the “Top 50 Restaurants in the World” – it’s definitely the most widely known international list and has the best google ranking. Rick and I are very suspect of exactly how the rankings are calculated… we’ve been meaning to ask on the blog, do any of you chefs and foodies have a recommendation as to the best list of top international restaurants?

But for this trip to Lima, this list is what we’ve got to work with and so far the restaurants hadn’t disappointed. We went to Boragó in Santiago based on the recommendation of the list and it was incredible!

Lima has three restaurants on the list so of course we were going to try to go to all three… but of course we also didn’t have any reservations. Thanks to a gift card from some very generous friends and Rick’s Marriott points, we got to stay in the JW Marriott – which translates to a real shower and getting to look cleaned up – and asked the concierge to help us with reservations.

She looked at us like we were crazy and informed us that Central (#4 on the list) is booked through August, Astrid y Gaston takes reservations a month out and Maido is “very popular”. Still she tried calling them all and got the predictable answer, they were all full.

But we’re not so easily throw off the trail of amazing food!

So we got dressed up in our fanciest backpacker clothes and decided we would show up at opening time at the restaurant and see if there was a cancellation or a seat at the bar.

….Central – Night 1 – Arrived at 7:30. Were told it was a private event. Didn’t make it past the door.

…Maido – Night 1 – Arrrived at 8:00. Hostess laughed at us for trying to walk up. Escorted out the door.

…Astrid y Gaston – Night 1 – Called at 8:30. No cancellations.

We were not off to a good start… We decide the next day to try for lunch reservations and have the concierge make the calls again. No luck. So we decide to try showing up again.

This time we’re in luck and after waiting in the bar area for 30 minutes, Central has a table for us! We of course do the 17-course tasting menu with wine pairings.


The highlight of meal for us was the plating – all of the dishes were small works of art, truly beautiful! Unfortunately, though, the flavors and execution did not deliver for the most part. There seemed to be a lot of supurlfous ingredients and techniques that really didn’t do anything for the food… it was just kinda there for the sake of being there and seeming fancy. For example, the “caviar” of bacteria from the altiplano that topped the chicken… no flavor, didn’t really add any texture, just there to say it was there.

The theme of the tasting menu reminded us a bit of Boragó, in that it was about ingredients from different parts of the country. Central did it by elevation, going from -20M below sea level (razor clams), all of the way to 3,900M above sealevel which include a three piece bread course with coca bread, high Andean herb butter, and uniquely shaped breads.

Our favorite dish of the menu was the razor clams. They completely stole the show! They were delicate, sweet, slightly salty and so fresh I swear some little sous chef had to run out and scuba dive for them when we walked in. They were paired with “sweet cucumber” which is more like a sweet-savory fruit. The picture doesn’t do the dish justice. This was our second time to have razor clams in Lima and they have quickly become one of my all time favorite seafoods!


 Another win was the octopus and coral (yes, coral!) dish. The coral is the cotton candy looking blue stuff… it had the texture of pork skins, but a nice light seawater-kissed flavor.


While the names of the dishes were clever for the menu theme, it came across like most dishes might have been a great concept in the beginning, but the ideator of the dish passed it off to someone else after the original concept… and that person was forced trying to shove what they could actually do and the ingredients they had into a pre-set description. We’ve all been on both sides of that… you have a great, grandiose idea for a project, then hand it off and the way it gets brought to life is just so much less than you expected…. Or on the other side, trying to bring to life this impossibly huge idea. In quite a few cases the primary ingredient which tied the dish to the theme and dish’s name, and was the highlight of the description, was no more than a smear of emulsion of that ingredient on top of the dish. For example, the “River Scales” dish with description “River Snails – Gamitana – Sangre de Grado” – there was a drizzle of emulsion of river snail on top. The same was true for the dish that said it had Smoked Duck in it. But, hey, they sure as heck were pretty!

I think the final blows were the veal dish and the potato dish. (here’s where I become the mean food critic, I guess). The veal dish was supposedly slowly cooked for long hours, with a traditional sauce on it. I expected ridiculously tender meat, and instead got rehydrated jerky – it was chewy. And the sauce was way too overpowering and sweet, like a cheap BBQ sauce. We couldn’t get ourselves to finish it. P1200681The potato dish was fairly mundane, until I took a bite of the onion garnish and was taken aback by how overpowering the onion flavor was – like sticking my tongue in a jar of onion powder. I said something to Rick about it, and he looked surprised and said, “Really? Mine has no flavor what so ever”. So we traded plates and sure enough, his had no flavor and mine was grossly onion-y. But again, pretty plating….

P1200655The wine pairings were pretty fantastic, when you got a wine pairing. There was a great Riesling that started it off – perfectly off-dry and well paired. And other Chardonnay that was quite good, along with a single red wine pairing that we really enjoyed. I was a bit disappointed that a few times the wine pairing was for multiple courses. One of the courses was paired with a cocktail that was less than exciting, and one was paired with a beer – not a particularly unique craft beer or anything, just a standard Peruvian beer.


We did end on a good note with the Amazonian Rainforest dessert featuring Rose Apple and Lemongrass, and then the Cacoa icecream dish (but it featured Chaco Clay shavings… which was really just colored white chocolate, again just there for show).

 Maybe it was it’s ranking as the #4 restaurant in the world that set up our high expectations, or the aloof nature of the staff, or just their reputation – but it didn’t quite live up the hype. Still we enjoyed our lunch and the experience.

…the next two restaurants on our culinary tour definitely did not disappoint…