Monday, January 30, 2006

El Gato Volador's List of Favorite Restaurants in Central Lima

Look very carefully at this map. This is the heart of historic and colonial Lima, and within these 56 square blocks, known as el damero de Pizarro, or Pizarro's chessboard (after the Spanish founder of the city) are located some excellent places to eat, especially for lunch. Since a trip to the colonial heart of Lima is obligatory for every visitor, why not get a sense of what some of the food options are?

This is my own list of personal favorites in the damero de Pizarro

As you can see, there are two main plazas in this part of Lima: Plaza San Martin, and the Plaza Mayor (which used to be called the Plaza de Armas, and many people still refer to it as such). Connecting these two plazas is the pedestrian-only Jirón de la Union, or simply
el Jirón, as it is known in this area.

Jirón de la Unión is a dividing line -- streets that cross el Jirón change names. If you look carefully at the map, you will see that to the right of Jirón de la Unión a street has one name, but to the left, it has a different one.

The word
jirón is an antiquated Spanish term for street that is only used in Lima.

While there are a lot of
pollos a la brasa, roast chicken restaurants, there are also some other very good restaurants that are not too expensive and offer far better quality than many of the places you may see.

This virtual tour starts off from Plaza San Martin heading to the Plaza Mayor along Jirón de la Unión. After three blocks we reach the intersection of Jirón Huancavelica (on the map, the name appears on the upper left), which is also Jirón Miró Quesada. We turn left onto Jirón Huancavelica.

In that block, before reaching Jirón Camaná, are two excellent Peruvian restaurants.

El Mesón del Almirante
Jirón Huancavelica 151, between
Jirón de la Unión and Jirón Camaná

One is El Mesón del Almirante, or The Admiral's Tavern, because it is directly across the street from the house of a famous Peruvian admiral, now a museum called the Casa Museo Miguel Grau.
This restaurant has been one of my long-time favorites in central Lima, and over the years I have been going, the food has been consistently very good.

They feature a wide assortment of Peruvian dishes in the style known as
criollo, which is traditional of Lima and the coast. They always have good deals for lunch. I've spoken with the owner who is very much comitted to preserving the culinary traditions of traditional Lima cuisine. She told me her desire was to continue in the tradition of the long-gone but very famous Peruvian restaurant Rosita Rí­os. However, in doing research for this blog, I discovered the restaurant was up for sale, I don't know if it sold, and if the new owners can maintain her high standards of cuisine, but I will check it out the next time I am in Lima.

Right next door, is another excellent central Lima restaurant.

El Fayke Piurano
Jirón Huancavelica 165, between
Jirón de la Unión and Jirón Camaná

El Fayke Piurano is not a hole-in-the-wall but it is not very fancy either. However, they serve excellent seafood dishes in the style of the northern region of Piura, which is a vast desert facing an ocean with abundant sea life. The word fayke refers to a tree common to Piura.

In general, Peruvians do like some spicy dishes, but usually they prefer to add hot sauce to dishes that are not too spicy. There are not that many Peruvian dishes that are already spicy. The two exceptions that come to mind are the cuisine of Arequipa and the cuisine of Piura. Generous use of Peruvian ají­ and the infamous rocoto kicks up the taste a few notches at El Fayke Piurano, so if you can't handle the heat, let them know "
no ají­" or "no muy picante".

I love their choros a la chalaca, which are large mussels topped with chopped onions, tomatoes and ajÃí. Also quite good is the
parihuela, which is a large seafood stew. They make great ceviche, and their arroz de mariscos is rice laden with all sorts of seafood. Prices are very reasonable.

From the Jirón de la Unión, instead of turning left onto Jirón Huancavelica, we turn right onto Jirón Miró Quesada, and we come to a very unique establishment that seems oddly out of place in central Lima.

Manhattan Café Restaurant

Miró Quesada 253,
between Jirón Lampa and Jirón Azángaro


Manhattan is where the suits from the nearby Government Ministries and bank headquarters go for lunch and cocktails. Very dark and clubby inside, the food is quite good but pricey. They specialize in both Peruvian and international cuisine. The waiters know their craft very well. There is a full bar. Being inside the Manhattan is like being in a quiet oasis away from the hubbub that is central Lima. The Manhattan is only open for lunch weekdays.

If we head down Jirón de la Unión or Jirón Carabaya one block closer to the Plaza de Armas, we reach Jirón Ucayali, where there is a very historic restaurant and bar.

Hotel Maury

Jirón Ucayali 201,
corner of Jirón Carabaya

Hotel Maury is a historical hotel in central Lima that offers three restaurant options. But more importantly, the famous pisco sour is claimed to have been invented in the Bar Maury. At the least, a visit to the Bar Maury is in order while in central Lima. The bar is located through the main entry to the left and features an abstract mural of historic Lima.

Across the hotel lobby from the
Bar Maury is the elegant Salón de los Espejos. This refined restaurant is decorated with ornate mirrors and offers good lunches, which are not very expensive. Outside, on Ucayali going away from el Jirón, are two less expensive options that belong to the Hotel Maury. One is the Maury Chifa, a Chinese restaurant, and the other is the Maury Express, which offers Peruvian food.

Further along Jirón Ucayali is another good restaurant.

L'Eau Vive
Jirón Ucayali 370,
between Jirón Lampa and
Jirón Azángaro

L'Eau Vive is a restaurant run by an order of nuns as a charity. There are other branches in different cities worldwide. The restaurant is housed in a colonial home, so it has great atmosphere, and the good sisters offer good food at reasonable prices. The sisters are a multicultural lot -- the last time I was there my server was a nun from Gabon.

If you are in the mood for Chinese food, you can simply continue along Jirón Ucayali for another three blocks, across busy Avenida Abancay and past the Mercado Central, or Central Market, to the 700 block of Jirón Ucayali, which is also known as Calle Capón and is the heart of Lima's Chinatown. There are a number of places to eat there, which merit their own entry. Please exercise caution in this very crowded and busy part of the city.

At last, Jirón de la Unión reaches the Plaza Mayor. The intersecting street is Jirón Callao to the left, and Jirón Huallaga to the right. At the corner of
el Jirón and Callao is another good eatery if you are in the mood for a hamburger, Peruvian style.

Jirón de la Unión, corner of Jirón Callao

Bembos is a a popular Peruvian hamburger chain, and the company prides itself on the quality and consistency of its food. There are many different types of burgers to be had, complete with all types of tasty sauces. If you are feeling like an economical burger meal, this is the place for you.

Continuing along the side of the Plaza Mayor on Jirón de la Unión,
directly across the street from the Cathedral is another pedestrian-only street called Pasaje Santa Rosa. Turn left and just a block away is another good inexpensive dining option.

Pardo's Chicken

Pasaje Santa Rosa 153

In a country full of
pollos a la brasa, roast chicken restaurants, Pardo's Chicken is the premiere Peruvian chain. The quality of the food at Pardo's Chicken is much better than at other similar establishments. Aside from chicken, they also serve steak, grilled meats, and salads.

There are two more stops in this virtual gastronomic tour of central Lima. To reach them we cross the Plaza Mayor, and at the Cathedral, turn left on Jirón Carabaya, and head along the side of the Presidential Palace. Where Jirón Carabaya dead ends at Jirón Ancash, is one of the most traditional locales in Lima.

Bar Cordano

Jirón Ancash 202,
corner of Jirón Carabaya

Bar Cordano has been a fixture in central Lima life for over a hundred years. Although it no longers sees the same amount of clientele as in its heyday, it still remains an institution. Some claim that the pisco sour was actually invented at the Bar Cordano and not at the Hotel Maury. The Bar Cordano is a good place to pop in for a refreshment as you wander between museums and monuments. Inside, the atmosphere feels as if time has stood still.

Sadly, I have heard conflicting reports that
Bar Cordano had been closed down in recent months and the building demolished due to its age and general condition. I am still working on confirming this information; if anyone knows, please leave a message. If true, it will be a loss for central Lima, since Bar Cordano is an inimitable and timeless establishment.

Finally, our last stop on the tour is reached by heading along Jirón Ancash, away from the Presidential Palace, until we reach Jirón Lampa, where the Plaza and Church of San Francisco are located. At Jirón Lampa, turn left and walk to the end of the block, to the entrance of the newest park in central Lima, and our last stop.

Restaurante La Muralla

Jirón Lampa, first block, overlooking the
Parque de la Muralla

The Restaurante La Muralla is the latest addition to fine dining in central Lima. Opened by famed local restaurateur Michael Alarcón, the locale overlooks the very pretty and new Parque de la Muralla, where you can see the remains of the walls that used to surround Lima. Since its opening, Restaurante La Muralla has received very reviews.

Chef Miguel Hueytia offers culinary creations like Cebiche La Muralla, traditional
anticuchos, and a wide variety of meat and seafood dishes.

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

TAGS: Peru, Peruvian, food, cooking, cuisine, cocina, comida, gastronomía, peruana


Anonymous said...

I am actually partial to "Micky's" for parrilladas and pollo a la brasa. I love the chimicurri that is served with the parrilladas. I actually had the honor of meeting "Micky" on my third trip to Callao...


Anonymous said...

There is a "sandwich shop"/bar in the corner of Camana and (I believe)Ica... my family has been going there for years for one of the best sandwich of "jamon del pais". The place is very simple and looks like a whole in the wall where Limeño families (like mine) have been going forever. I went there during the procesion of "el señor de los milagros" and there was a line snaking around the corner just to get a table. If you know it's name... I don't recall, please put it up.

ishmaelabroad said...

Apparently there is also now a T'anta restaurant/deli (of Gaston fame) now located one block from the Plaza Mayor. I believe it is right down the pedestrian walk from the Municipality (perpendicular to Jr. de la Union).