"The World's 50 Best Restaurants", an annual list of the world's finest places to dine, according to a panel of 1,080 culinary experts from around the globe, was initiated back in 2002 by the British magazine Restaurant and has now become as relevant to many connoisseurs and industry players as other leading international guides. They have judges in 27 voting regions worldwide, and in addition to the global guide, they also publish specific picks for Middle East & North Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Last month, after revealing their results for 2023, I noticed that Lima had accounted for more restaurants than any other gastronomic city (i.e., New York or Paris), so I decided I had to spend a weekend there and try, if not all of them, as many as I could.
Last month, after revealing their results for 2023, I noticed that Lima had accounted for more restaurants than any other gastronomic city
I landed in Lima on a Friday afternoon, with just enough time to check in at my hotel, take a quick shower, dress up – because it matters - and head to my first gastronomic destination of the weekend. My agenda was packed thanks to the assistance of my local colleague Gonzalo Pajares, one of Perú's most respected food journalists.
Between Friday night and Monday noon, I was going to visit: Kjolle, number 28 on the list; Maido, number 6; Mayta, number 27; Cosme, number 69 (in the Latin America's version) and Alado, not yet in the list but most probably, soon to be. I was going to spend more time sitting at a restaurant than doing anything else, but isn't this the dream of any food journalist and sommelier like me?
Friday night, dinner at Kjolle
Owned by Pía León, Kjolle is an impressive restaurant where the creative splendor of feminine energy reigns. Architecture, music, and even the tone of voice of the service staff emanate peace and gentleness. The setting is highly refined, and by that, I don't mean bling or evident luxury but an elegant showcase of the richness of the Peruvian heritage from the Incas and the Andes.
The tasting menu consists of eight moments, an amount that does not harm the stomach
As for the gastronomic experience, I found in Kjolle absolute integration. Each course connects with the one that precedes it, as well as with the drinks that are carefully picked by its remarkable sommelier Diego Vasquez (@diegovluque), who is evidently connected with Pía and therefore chooses the right drinks to finish each story. The tasting menu consists of eight moments, an amount that does not harm the stomach and allows you to enjoy the experience from the beginning to the end. León was awarded the Best Latin American Female Chef in 2021, and together with her husband, Virgilio Martinez, they own Mil (@milcentro), a research center and restaurant in Cuzco. For further information and to book a table, go to www.Kjolle.com or @kjollerest on Instagram.
Saturday noon, lunch at Maido
I arrived at Maido ready to make the most of my experience. I knew they had the option of ordering à la carte. Still, I had already decided to go full throttle with the eleven-course tasting menu and its pairing: either a well-curated selection of outstanding wines or an alternative set of unusual and delicious non-alcoholic beverages created by the Argentinean sommelier Florencia Rey (@florcita_rey). I couldn't resist going for the virgin pairing selection.
His endless creativity, plus a samurai-like attention to detail, results in a mega-daring cuisine
During our four-hour feast, we were lucky enough to enjoy the company of Micha Tsumura, chef and owner of Maido, who, more than a chef, is a mad scientist with an outrageous superpower to extract as much flavor from the ingredients as possible. His endless creativity, plus a samurai-like attention to detail, results in a mega-daring cuisine that thrives between the minimalism of a fresh tuna sealed on a volcanic stone and an elaborate slowed-cooked stew of pig's trotters and cow's stomach. An overall magnificent experience that is worth a trip to Perú. Do not miss it. For further information and to book a table, go to www.maido.pe or @mitsuharu_maido on Instagram.
Saturday evening, dinner at Cosme
After having experienced two serious tasting menus, I was craving something different. Perhaps a more relaxed setting with the option to order what I wanted to eat and drink. Somebody heard my prayers, and this was precisely what happened when we arrived at Cosme that evening. James Berckemeyer, chef and owner of this popular restaurant in San Isidro, had set for us a large round table that we were going to share with Micha Tsumura, Alvaro Clavijo (chef and owner of @elchato_rest), and two other food journalists. He explained that he was not into tasting menus and that the best way to enjoy his food was to bring different -regular size- courses to the table and have a family-style meal.
The food was terrific; Berckemeyer is a well-structured chef with professional European training
This was by far the best experience of my weekend in Lima. The food was terrific; Berckemeyer is a well-structured chef with professional European training. Having worked at El Celler de Can Roca, Arzak, and Agli Amici (all awarded with Michelin Stars), he is tremendously technical and sophisticated, and each of his dishes exhales professionalism and gastronomic excellence. For further information and to book a table, go to www.cosme.com.pe or @cosme.pe on Instagram.
Sunday evening, dinner at Mayta
Our joyful gathering on Saturday night continued Sunday; we had lunch at Cosme, and after that, we all went to dinner at Mayta, owned by Jaime Pesaque, an award-winning Peruvian chef who suggested what to have and joined us at the table for an after-dinner drink.
The summit of the experience happened when the table was served; Pesaque's proposal is all about color and explosive taste
What an experience I had at Mayta. Not only it meets the highest standards in terms of architecture and interior design, but the ambiance is by far the nicest of all the places I went to that weekend. High ceilings, dimmed lights, soft-colored wood, and plants all over the place made me feel like I was near the oceanfront of a very sophisticated city.
However, this wasn't the best part.
The summit of the experience happened when the table was served; Pesaque's proposal is all about color and explosive taste.
I ordered oysters to start, followed by fantastic octopus tentacles, and finished with shrimp rice wrapped in an omelet shape with a crunchy crust that made us all sigh. Mayta is a must in Lima. For further information and to book a table, go to www.maytalima.com or @maytalima on Instagram.
Monday noon, lunch at Alado
I woke up with mixed feelings that morning; sad because I was leaving Lima that evening but also happy because I still had one more restaurant to visit: Alado, the youngest "baby" of James Berckemeyer, which he had conceived before 2020 but which for obvious reasons was not able to open until March 2022.
An absolute gem that serves smoky, tasteful seafood, homemade pasta, and of course, steaks and a superb Angus beef burger
Alado is all about fire and grill. A Josper –the miracle hybrid of grill and oven that imparts unthinkable amounts of flavor to food– is the axis of James's proposal for this fine dining spot reserved for locals, which is still untouched by the phenomenon of gastronomic tourists. An absolute gem that serves smoky, tasteful seafood, homemade pasta, and of course, steaks and a superb Angus beef burger. I must confess I was hung over from the multiple drinks we'd had the night before, but I solved that problem quickly with a heavenly Bloody Mary brought to me by their remarkable mixologist. Alado was simply the cherry on top of my gastronomic weekend in Lima, and I strongly recommend it. For further information and to book a table, go to www.alado.com.pe or @aladorestaurante on Instagram.
Where to stay
The neighborhoods to stay in Lima -for an enjoyable gastronomic experience- are Barranco, Miraflores, and San Isidro. Most of Lima's fine dining restaurants are in either; they are all close by, and it is relatively easy to go from one to the other. While Barranco is the bohemian, hippie-chic option, San Isidro is more traditional and classy. Miraflores is in between, with a rather commercial and diverse atmosphere.
The neighborhoods to stay in Lima -for an enjoyable gastronomic experience- are Barranco, Miraflores, and San Isidro
Although I am in love with Hotel B in Barranco (www.hotelb.pe), a "Belle Epoque" restored mansion from 1914, this time, I stayed at the Hyatt Centric in San Isidro and had a memorable experience. The service is very warm and close, and my lovely 115 sq. feet King Deluxe room offered all five-star hotel amenities. The location and the food and beverage service, operated by one of Lima's most renowned hospitality brands, the Aramburu Group, is a plus.
To book a room, go to https://www.hyatt.com/hyatt-centric/limct-hyatt-centric-san-isidro-lima.