Pía León

“My diners will see Peru.” At her acclaimed restaurant Kjolle, chef Pía León – named 2021 World’s Best Female Chef by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants – serves ingredients that reflect the biodiversity of Peru: citrus from the Amazon rainforest, tubers from the Andes mountains, Sacred Valley pork and prized sea urchin from the country’s northern coastlines. The chef and mother has also been instrumental in the success of three-time Latin America’s Best Restaurant, Central, where she worked alongside husband Virgilio Martínez for 10 years. In Pia’s guide for The Local Tongue, her recommendations on where to eat and drink in the Peruvian capital are as diverse as the country’s landscapes and culture.

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Home of Nikkei Cuisine

My favourite restaurant in Lima is Maido. Chef Mitsuharu “Micha” Tsumura is a close friend, so I feel at home every time I visit. He cooks Nikkei cuisine, which is Peruvian ingredients cooked with Japanese technique. The seco de cabrito (baby lamb and canario bean) dumplings are excellent. Don’t miss the sea urchin kamameshi rice or the crudos, which are all impeccable. 

The Best Ceviche in Lima

You can’t visit Lima without eating ceviche at La Mar. My family goes often for the hospitality and the freshness and amazing quality of products used. We always order the catch-of-the-day ceviche, the ceviche with erizo (Peruvian sea urchins) and the shrimp causa – a cylinder of whipped potato topped with shrimp that’s creamy and has just the right amount of acidity. The pasta alle vongole with lime and chilli pepper is also a favourite. 

A Peruvian Institution

Astrid y Gastón is one of the best restaurants in the city. Since it opened in 1994, it has represented Peruvian gastronomy and has initiated a movement of appreciation and respect for Peruvian ingredients. Astrid y Gastón is directed by chef Gastón Acurio – who is a chef we all admire – and pastry chef Astrid Gutsche. Astrid has dedicated her life to researching Peruvian cacao, which is featured heavily on the dessert menu. 

Astrid y Gastón – Photo courtesy of Giancarlo Aponte

Specialty Coffee, Chocolate and Cocktails

Locals love going to specialty coffee shop Ciclos Café. The coffees are made using different extraction methods and an array of Peruvian coffee beans roasted by expert Felipe Aliaga. Upstairs you can find the best chocolate in Peru at El Cacaotal. It’s directed by Amanda Jo Wildey, an anthropologist who’s dedicated to finding the best quality cacao beans in the country and building relationships with growers. If you visit, be sure to do a chocolate tasting. Another local favourite is Lady Bee, a cocktail bar in the Miraflores district that uses ingredients from all over the Peruvian territory. 

Where You’ll Find Me When I’m Not in the Kitchen

When I have time off and want to relax, I go to Isolina. It’s a great place to try criolla food or traditional Peruvian comfort food. The menu is family-style with generous dishes like tripe and fried blood stew or black bean tacu tacu (Peruvian beans and rice) with liver and onions. The ceviche here is also incredible. I also love going to El Mercado by chef Rafael Osterling. The restaurant has a great, casual vibe and the seafood dishes are fantastic. 

Food That You Can’t Find Anywhere Else

If I have something to celebrate, I go to Mérito. Chef Juan Luis Martínez, who used to work with us at Central, is a great friend and is super talented. He’s Venezuelan and the food he cooks is a mix of Venezuelan and Peruvian cuisine. It’s really exciting food that you can’t find anywhere else. The restaurant is small and cosy. It’s a very comfortable place to dine. 

Cacao chuncho, chaco, chirimoya at Kjolle – Photo courtesy of Ken Motohasi

A Young Chef To Watch

Chef Jason Roman is a young, talented chef with a clear vision. His restaurant Awicha is under-the-radar, but one that people should visit. Jason is a third-generation chef and his cooking is inspired by the food he ate growing up. The dishes are very comforting and the restaurant is just as warm and super easy-going. 

Where To Find Peru’s Best Produce

The Sunday farmer’s market in Barranco is a really nice thing to experience. It has an incredible selection of producers and growers and artisanal products from different parts of Peru. You can also find amazing fresh produce at Agrofili, a fruit and vegetable store. Bayas Peruanas offers a variety of berries from the high Andes.

Our guides are fact-checked and updated regularly. Read more here. 

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