On the Costa Verde coastline of Lima, Peru, residents of the city stroll along the boardwalk, enjoying the view of the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. Couples stop to kiss at the Parke del Amor, while joggers and skateboarders take advantage of the last light of day. And diners settle down for fresh seafood and strong cocktails in the finest restaurants in the city.

Here are 3 excellent Lima restaurants that will introduce you to Peruvian cuisine at its most indulgent. There are also tips on how to eat like a local at the ubiquitous cevicheria shops, and how to shop in the open-air markets, where you can find everything from aortas to aphrodisiacs. 

Fine Restaurants

Situated on a lone wharf jutting out from the cliffside in the neighborhood of Miraflores, La Rosa Nautica is easily one of Lima’s most romantic restaurants. Here, the Pacific Ocean gently swells underfoot as diners enjoy the perennial mild breezes. The cupola-shaped restaurant is the only establishment on the wharf, located just past the Larcomar shopping center.

Try any seafood dish, or go during happy hour and sit at the lounge, where you can relax in comfy window-side couches. If you are unfamiliar with Peruvian cuisine, start with an appetizer plate and try a little of each seafood surprise: ceviche is the most famous of Peruvian seafood, but octopus, camarones, and scallops are also popular. Peruvian seafood rice, sea bass, and arroz con mariscos make good entrées. Finish the meal with a chocolate soufflé or simply a cortado espresso.

Here an insider’s tip: to enjoy Peruvian ceviche to the fullest extent, assemble the “perfect bite” on your fork: a slice of white halibut, marinated in lime; a slice of cold sweet potato; and a sliver or two of purple onions. This combines the main elements of ceviche into one fantastic bite.

A bit further inland is the Huaca Pucllana Restaurant. Also in the Miraflores district of Lima, this restaurant boasts an unusual setting: its open-air patio lies adjacent to a pre-Inca adobe temple. The Huaca Pucllana was built over a thousand years ago, and its layers of vertically-aligned adobe bricks are a stark contrast from the suburban neighborhood that now surrounds the temple. The restaurant opens in the evenings, just as the sunsets and the lights around the temple turn on, providing an impressive backdrop for this 5 star restaurant.

Choose from Peruvian favorites such as aji de gallina or ceviche. The gallina is a tenderly-cooked hen draped in a flavorful, creamy sauce, and in general, it is the best chicken dish you’ll find in Peru.

Eating Like a Local

Once you’ve had your fill of Lima’s 5 star restaurants (and there are plenty more, such as Astrid y Gaston, or any in the Larcomar shopping center), you may want to branch out and try eating like a local Limeño.

Cevicherias (also called Cebicherias) are found around the city, and vary from small shacks to major establishments. The majority of the best cevicherias are found in Miraflores, the priciest of which is El Kapallaq. Located in an old mansion at Avenida Petit Thouars 488, this cevicheria is run by a surfer-turned-chef, and the menu favors generous sauces and oils.

Make sure to also stop and shop at the Mercado Surquillo, one of the best open-air markets in Lima. Located within walking distance of the Ovalo Miraflores, the Mercado Surquillo was recently renovated to encompass food festivals, held each weekend. Locals come to the Mercado to load up on fresh veggies, meats, nuts, and herbs, and then also grab a bite to eat for lunch. Enjoy a platano smoothie along with an empanada or two. Then stroll through the Mercado, admiring the various animal parts hanging in the sun.

Watch this video to learn more about the Mercado Surquillo.

~ By guest blogger,  Kaitlin McMichael, travel writer at South America Travel News