The culinary scene in Lima had me at a loss for words. There are so many unforgettable dining experiences to have here. If I have just one piece of advice, it would have to be plan ahead. Prior to arriving, we planned lunch and dinner reservations. Something that I did not realize is, in 2018, Lima had three restaurants ranked in the top 50 of the world (Central, Maido, and Astrid y Gaston). We were very interested in eating at Central; however, our trip was planned too last minute and the restaurant is typically booked months in advance. We were able to make a reservation at Astrid y Gaston for lunch to try their tasting menu. In 2018, Astrid y Gaston was number 39 in the world. For dinner, we opted to try Kjolle. Central, Kjolle, and Mayo bar are all owned by husband and wife duo Virgilio Martinez and Pia Leon. Kjolle is Pia Leon’s restaurant. Prior to dinner, we planned for drinks at Mayo bar. They are all within the same “compound”, so it worked out very well.
Astrid y Gaston: There is a reason this restaurant is number 39 in the world. I was impressed from the moment we walked in. The decor is fantastic, and the restaurant is very large. There are several rooms and we sat on a covered terrace where you can see some of the food preparation. I loved the casual, unpretentious atmosphere. We opted for the tasting menu. To be honest, when I read the tasting menu, I was a little scared. There were many things I have never tried before. I just thought it probably is amazing, and it was! Surprisingly, one of the courses that sounded not as appealing was my absolute favorite! There is an option to do a wine pairing as well. Instead, we chose a cocktail. It was great. This was an incredible experience from start to finish. We were there for close to two hours. There were a number of different people enjoying lunch. Some couples, several people solo, and one large group. Do not miss Astrid y Gaston if you are in Lima! We had a twelve course tasting menu for two and two cocktails for under $287 USD (excluding tip). I thought this was incredible value for what we received.
Mayo Bar: This bar has its primary focus on cocktails, but it does have some snacks available on the menu as well. Having a cocktail here was a different experience. When you order the drink, it will come to you with a small plate of the ingredients that are used to make the drink. You can smell and see what was used. This is definitely a unique concept. Mayo, Kjolle, and Central all utilize ingredients from Peru and have a team of researchers working at Mater traveling across the country and collecting them. I will share some of our cocktails below. We received an appetizer, a potato with a dip, which sounds very unsophisticated for what was actually in front of us. If you are having dinner at Kjolle or Central, stop at Mayo for a drink. I really enjoyed this experience.
Kjolle: Kjolle comes from the name of a type of flower. I am still not actually sure how to pronounce it. This restaurant is just upstairs from Mayo bar. The decor is very minimalist and clean. There was an 8 course tasting menu available to us. We also chose to do the wine pairing. Just like Astrid y Gaston, the food was really unbelievable. Fantastic. I can only imagine how incredible Central is knowing how amazing the rest of our meals were. Some of my favorite courses were “tubers” and the “beef and corn.” The only negative, if you asked me for something, was the wine pairing. I thought the wines we had were wonderful. No complaints in the selection itself. However, two of the wines poured were for two courses. The pours were very small to begin with. I did not feel the pour was adequate to allow me to enjoy it for two courses.
I returned for a second visit to Kjolle just over one year later. About one half of the coursed menu remained the same or the same with a slight variation. For me, I thought this was both good and bad. It was nice to have favorites for a second time (like tubers), but it was disappointing to not see more of a menu change one year later. At this visit, we could not order alcohol due to the election, so we tried one of the non-alcoholic specialty drinks. I honestly could not tell you what was in mine, but it was absolutely incredible.
Amaz: Amaz has two locations, but the one near the Hilton is located in the Miraflores region of Lima. A challenge was the language barrier, and I wish I knew more Spanish. The menu was in Spanish and our waiter only spoke Spanish. Ultimately, we were able to get a waiter that spoke more English who offered us a menu in English. They told us we could not order a cocktail with lunch due to it being Election weekend. So, I ended up getting a juice with Cedron and was pleasantly surprised. Despite my hesitation, I decided to branch out, and it was excellent. Cedron is a plant/herb native to South America. We ordered three dishes to share and they were all incredible. I was exceedingly happy. They were the Ceviche of the house or Ceviche Amaz, pindayo bean salad, and mountain meat empanadas. I highly recommend all three, and I would absolutely return here on a future visit to Lima.
Lima’s culinary scene has me impressed beyond words. Make this one of your main experiences during your time in Lima. You will not be disappointed.