Given its expansive coastline, Peru is a seafood lover’s dream. More specifically, on-the-water Lima – the country’s capital – reels in foodies the world over for its fresh catches and curiously international flavors. Indeed, the city is a tapestry of tastes, owing to the countless immigrants (and occupiers) who brought their culinary traditions to the city. These delectable traditions are no better represented than in the upscale neighborhood of Miraflores to the south – an area replete with exquisitely simple ocean fare, bustling markets, and quaint cafés. But before we get to the best restaurants in Miraflores, it’s worth getting a little gustatory background on Peru as a whole.
Culinary staples of Peru
Most of us know Peru for its beloved ceviche (or cebiche, as it’s sometimes spelled). This is, indeed, central to the country’s culinary identity, but there are so many types it’s hard to pick a standard. At minimum, cebiche includes diced fresh fish, leche de tigre (the “milk” of the fish extracted during butchering), onions, hot pepper, and lime juice. Most cebicherias – ceviche stands – serve this with choclo (giant corn kernels) and sweet potato to help temper the acidity and heat.
You should also know about the country’s beloved antichucos, or skewers of meat marinated in vibrant herbs and spices, then grilled. These are Peruvian mainstays for street vendors and make for an easy snack or quick meal if you’re on the go.
Last but not least, keep an eye out for alfajores. Carried over by Spaniards centuries ago and adapted to meet local tastes, these cookie sandwiches are most commonly made up of two tender shortbread-like cookies and a rich caramel filling.
There’s a lot more you’ll find in Peruvian restaurants – like causas and lomo saltado (we’ll get to these later) – but the dishes above are some of the most popular in the country.
Now, on to the best restaurants in Miraflores…
Somewhat unassuming, this dynamite fine-dining anchor in Miraflores is helmed by the esteemed Chef Flavio Solórzano. The original restaurant was opened in 1986 by Solórzano’s maternal grandmother, Julia, who had an intense passion for preserving and celebrating traditional Peruvian cuisine. Now a star in his own right, Solórzano is lauded the world over for his culinary mastery and authenticity.
It’s true that you can get excellent ceviche almost anywhere in Lima, but the varieties here have an extra layer of dynamism that can hardly be explained. Case in point: the Puerto Cebiche, featuring a fresh-caught fish of the day, clams, conch, ají mochero pepper, and garnishes of cassava, cancha (corn nuts), and sarandaja (a native bean). This pairs well with another Peruvian classic: the causa, a layered dish of chili and lime-infused mashed potatoes, seafood (we love crab), and red onion.
If you’re keen on turf, indulge in the classic Lomo Saltado – thinly sliced beef loin, sautéed tomato, crispy onion, and fried potatoes.
Oh, and if you see Flavio out and about in the dining room (and your Spanish isn’t too rusty), be sure to ask about his experiences growing up exploring Peruvian regional cuisines. He is a tome of culinary knowledge.
A delicious showcase of blended culinary traditions, Costanera 700 is centered on Nikkei cuisine – or the meeting of Japanese and Peruvian flavors. There was a time in Lima’s history when Japan was a primary source of immigrants; these immigrants, while sometimes segregated from natives, shared their culinary know-how with Peruvians and vice-versa over centuries. The result was Nikkei, a cuisine that favors fresh seafood and fermented ingredients while also paying homage to Peru’s abundant citrus, tubers, and corn.
There’s something about this restaurant that’s almost tropical in its design – light fabrics; airy, wooden chairs; and plentiful greenery call on scenes from Casablanca. The food, however, is nothing you’d find in North Africa. The restaurant’s founder and visionary, Humberto Sato, started the restaurant with Creole cuisine in mind but transitioned over to a menu that now showcases sashimi alongside causas and chicharrons.
We personally love the tempuras here – notably, the Tempura Makis filled with prawns, avocado, and cucumber, served with a soy sauce-esque accompaniment. We also nod to the Octopus Salad (strangely but delightfully served with bacon) and, for the extra-hungry, the Lamb with cassava purée and house salad. For the best show in the house, go for the salt-crusted fish of the day – they’ll bring it tableside, light it on fire, then crack the salt off the fish before filleting and serving.
If you have a chance to enjoy a meal at Punta Sal, you’ll likely not be surprised that the restaurant has back-of-the-house masters who have been at their craft for 30 years. The goal has always been the same: Source the best ingredients, serve them simply but well, and complement each dish with top-notch service. A straightforward, winning combination.
As expected, ceviches are plentiful on the menu; picking one might be a chore, so opt instead for the Piqueo de Cebiche – a mounded platter of several different kinds docked with choclo and sweet potato.
If you’ve been saving your appetite for a feast, then dive into the Chita bowl – a lengthy, deep-fried Chita fish (similar to sea bream) leaning against a mound of tender rice and surrounded by baby squid in a piquant broth.
Needing some meat? We relished the Panceta Chanco con Arroz Chaufa – a simple dish featuring pork that’s crispy on the outside and fork-tender inside, coupled with fried rice.
One of the great joys of dining in Lima is sitting at the foot of the ocean, looking out onto the waves as they come into shore. That’s a big draw at Francesco; there’s nothing but a small park separating the restaurant from the water. Still, the biggest reason to come is the food – dish after dish of creatively cooked seafood presented like artwork.
For a lively start to your meal, we recommend the Causita de Camarones – a bed of silky smooth, fragrant mashed potatoes cradled by a prawn still in its shell. Sure, you have to do a bit of work to release the shrimpy goodness inside, but it’s well worth it.
On the soupier side of the menu, nothing beats the Lenguado Francesco, brimming with calamari and shrimp in a zingy, bisque-like broth. Deep-fried mashed potatoes – kind of like elegant hush puppies – are docked on the side to help balance the kick of the dish.
If you’re keen on a little unknown, give the Pescado al Ajillo a try – the fillet du jour, draped in a rich aji sauce, is often as meaty as a beef fillet (and somehow more satisfying).
Another Nikkei destination, Maido was recently named one of the 50 best restaurants in the world (by The World’s 50 Best). There’s good reason: The somewhat-ethereal vision of the staff is to reflect the constantly-moving nature of fusion cuisine. Yes, Nikkei is their blood, but that means different things as the years progress.
While we love the artistry of Francesco, Maido takes the cake. But it’s hard to know how best to experience a restaurant like this with à la carte options – do you go with sashimi first and then causa, or vice-versa? As there is no rule book, we highly recommend you defer to the chef and go on a prix-fixe adventure. Here, you’ll uncover the likes of 50-hour braised short rib, octopus nigiri, and miso-marinated cod with mushroom powder. These are just tastes from past meals, of course; the real adventure is not knowing what will land in front of you.