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Lima's Gastronomic Boom
By Ferrer, Thu Dec 8th

Although gastronomy has always been deeply rooted in Limeños'idiosyncrasy, the last few years have seen a huge leap in Lima'sdining scene. Not only Peru's capital has become tapped withrestaurants, both stylish and unpretentious, but many of themseem to be at full capacity all week long.

One possible explanation for the boom, besides obvious foodquality, is international recognition. The Economist magazine,for example, reported in 2004 that Peru could "lay claim to oneof the world's dozen or so great cuisines". Norman Van Aken, oneof Florida's most gifted chefs, acknowledged that Peruviancuisine was possibly the most enticing of those he had studied.And Patrick Martin, academic director of Le Cordon Blue, saidthat one of the reasons for having a branch of the school inLima was the excellent quality of local cuisine.

"Better late than never", believe most Limeños, increasinglyproud of the exceptionality of their gastronomic heritage.However, notwithstanding general contentment, they are stilldemanding and hard-to-please, and expect the best from theirfavourite restaurants and chefs. This, too, contributes togastronomic excellence. Indeed Peruviancuisine, though hardly noticed abroad until most recently,is one of the World's most varied and delicious.

Two aspects converge to give Peruvian cuisine an uniqueness thatfew other enjoy. The first is Peru's huge biodiversity. Thecountry is home to 80 of the world's 104 different biologicalzones, which assures a remarkable assortment of freshingredients. Potatoes and hot peppers from the Andes, fish andseafood from the Pacific Ocean, mangoes and limes from thecoastal valleys, bananas and manioc from the Amazon jungle: achef's only problem is abundance of choice.

Second, Peruvian cuisine is the quintessence of cultural fusion.Ever since the first blending between Inca and Spanishtraditions, local cooks have skilfully incorporated the flavoursand

techniques of the many immigrants that disembarked in Peru'sports, such as Italian and French. However, the strongestinfluences didn't arrive from Europe, but from Africa, China,and Japan.

Although the restaurant offer in Lima is most varied and coversa wide range of cuisines, Ceviche -diced raw fish marinated inlime juice and hot peppers- is surely number one on the list ofdishes you must taste. There is at least one cevichería in every neighbourhood, so it won't be hard tofind one. Our suggestion goes to superb Pescados Capitales, alunch-only cevicheria in Miraflores.

A second must goes to Asian restaurants in Lima, both Chinese and Japanese, which,predictably, have a strong Peruvian influence. Chineserestaurants -known as Chifas-, can be counted by the hundreds.Usually down-to-earth neighbourhood eateries, these offer a farerich in seafood and chicken. Japanese restaurants and sushibars, on the contrary, are less widespread, and more upscale andexpensive. Their forte is a year-round supply of the freshestand most variegated seafood, which is delightfully transformedinto sushi, sashimi, and rolls. Our favourites are Wa Lok forChinese, and Matsuei (where Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, Nobu's chef andowner, perfected his skills) for Japanese.

A last word for Lima's Criollo restaurants. Their cuisine is a vivid andtasty demonstration of the rich cultural fusion undergone byPeruvian gastronomy over the centuries. Besides the obviousSpanish and Andean fusion (a.k.a. Criollo), in their menusyou'll discover much Africa (tacu-tacu and anticuchos), China(lomo saltado), and Japan (ceviches and tiraditos).

Bon appétit!

About the author:Journalist, impenitent traveller, and aficionado cook, Ferrer isone of The PeruGuide's founders, as well as its editor for Lima.


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