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Virgilio Martinez: A taste of Peru

Chef Virgilio Martinez has helped put Peru on the food map with Lima restaurant Central. He reveals his favourite places to eat, from Cusco to the coast

Virgilio Martinez: A taste of Peru
Colores de Amazonía. Image: César del Riío

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Peruvian food is undergoing a revolution -— a rediscovery of homegrown products, mostly from the Andes. Chefs are amassing knowledge on the use of tubers and vegetable roots, along with ancient Andean grains and corn varieties. Ingredients and cooking techniques are migrating from the Andes to the coast, making a big impact in restaurants: a boon to small producers in the mountains, who now have many new routes to market.

Seafood stars

Peruvian staple ceviche is a raw, marinated seafood dish. I like to use sole, onions, and ‘tiger milk’ (a citrus marinade). Try it in Lima at Chez Wong or La Mar, a cevicheria that elevates seafood to new heights, with causa (potato salad with seafood and veg) and nigiri (sushi). A new must-try, Jerónimo, mixes Peruvian and Mexican cuisines.

Sky-high dining: Andean eats 

El Huacatay: Located in Peru’s Secret Valley region, El Huacatay serves typical Andean dishes. Try the trout tartare with guacamole and a calamari sauce, and Huacatay-style alpaca carpaccio. 

Chicha: At the Cusco and Arequipe branches of Chicha, try chef Gastón Acurio’s Andean superfood chupe (Peruvian chowder), made with quinoa, olluco (a potato-like tuber), and zapallo (pumpkin), with tofu, coconut milk, yellow curry paste and mint. 

Insider’s Lima

El Pan de Chola: An amazing panaderia (bakery). Buy a loaf or head to the buzzy cafe for pizza, pastries and sandwiches, served with great coffee. Avenida La Mar 918, Miraflores

Maido: An innovative restaurant, serving Nikkei (Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine) — a big thing in Peru. Don’t miss tiradito, a blend of Peruvian ceviche and Japanese sashimi. maido.pe

Solna: A Peruvian-Creole tavern (one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants), serving comfort food refined by chef Chef José del Castillo. Avenida San Martín Prolongacion 101, Barranco.

Fiesta: Gourmet, home-style Moche food (Northern Peruvian) devised by Chef Hector Solís, whose arroz con pato (rice with duck) is now as famous as he is. 

Virgilio Martinez is owner/head chef at Central (at five on the 2017 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list), set to move to a new spot in Lima this July. He also owns Mil, high in the Andes near Inca ruins in Cusco. Get a taste of Virgilio’s cuisine at Lima in London.

Published in the April 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)