Summer or winter, you can be sure that most Peruvians have one dish in mind: Ceviche. This dish has become number 1 on the list of traditional Peruvian cuisine, the dish Peruvians will never get tired of recommending, the go-to dish that keeps you coming back for more … and more. However, I’m always asked one question – ‘Best Ceviche in Lima?‘ So, I decided to set upon a quest. Below, (after strenuous ceviche sampling) I have compiled a list of my Top 5 favourite ceviche restaurants in Lima.
But what makes ceviche so popular? Well, I believe it’s just one of those dishes that has that unusual ability to join so many outside elements together, managing to create a certain harmony between you and the world around you: rain or shine, summer or winter, happy or sad, slide me over a plate of ceviche and a bottle of your coldest beer and everything just comes together and makes sense!
And what makes a good ceviche? Well, being a total ceviche-lover and having tried this dish hundreds of times, I’d have to chalk it down to two key factors: a perfect balance in the ingredients and the freshness of the fish. With such simple ingredients to this plate, you’d think it impossible to mess it up, but as I’ve found out the hard way… yes, it is very possible to have a bad ceviche experience.
With all that said, if you’re ever looking for the best ceviche in Lima – then look no further! Here’s my Top 5 Pick.
1. La CantaranaTucked away in a side street in Barranco (what some call the Bohemian side of town) you will find a not-so-little hole in the wall called la Cantarana, which translates to The Singing Frog. This cevicheria is a notable hot spot for the famed dish, along with the other seafood plates it offers.
People flock to this restaurant, willing to wait in lines that extend to the street, oftentimes waiting 30 to 45 minutes in the sun to be seated. Such dedication and sacrifice can only be attested to the notoriety that precedes this establishment and the unforgettable tastes that follow once seated.
The ceviche is delicious. The beer has the perfect chill. The servings are just right, and the joint is on point. The inside of the restaurant itself tells a story of an owner with plenty of character, colour and vivacity. This character can be seen in the many different framed photos, assorted flags and collected sports memorabilia that cover the walls of this establishment.
Although the busy ambience gives this more of a pub feel, the no-nonsense waiters provide a speedy service, making this a place to tick off your list.
How to get there: Turning off the main road of Miguel Grau that goes directly into Barranco, you will find it parallel to Grau in a side street of the Alfonso Ugarte road.
Address: La Canta Rana – Genova 101, Barranco, Lima
2. La Mar
This is a more upscale option, but a modern expression of the many different, contemporary styles of ceviche and seafood dishes that come from the progressive side of Lima.
Owned by famed chef, Gaston Acurio, this place is meant to impress, and it does! Located on the ceviche hub of Lima, Avenida La Mar, you can be sure to try out an array of different styles of ceviche, including a popular ceviche of black shells, a nikkei or Peruvian/Asian fusión style, or their Eco ceviche that is a non-fish, vegetarian option.
It features other dishes such as the tiradito (a spin-off of ceviche with laminated fish soaked in a sweeter, heavier sauce), grilled octopus, and whole fish cooked in various styles. The flavours definitely bring the ocean to your plate and the service doesn’t disappoint.
How to get there: Pardo street starts at the Saga mall in Miraflores. You go down that road to the end, then turn right into La Mar Street. A few minutes down and you will see the restaurant on the right side.
Address: La Mar – Av Mariscal La Mar 770, Miraflores, Lima
3. Chez Wong
The mystery surrounding this restaurant is sure to pique one’s interest. This hidden gem is located in the heart of La Victoria and its owner, who doubles as chef, Javier Wong, has a cult following of sorts due to the unorthodox way his restaurant is run.
No menus can be found and no options are given. You are served whatever the chef sees fit to serve you, no rewriting of his dishes or asking for something to be prepared a la my style. His restaurant, his rules.
One of his better known plates is the sole ceviche which he cuts, cleans, skins and prepares in rapid fire time. This is usually followed by a saltado or stir-fry dish. However, be prepared to be served whatever personalized ceviche dish he has in store for you. Whatever ceviche you’re served up, you can be sure it is the dish in its purest, most unadulterated form.
Although his modest restaurant blends in perceptibly with the backdrop of this grittier side of town, his craft certainly stands out making him a sensation in this field.
How to get there: The quickest way is to take the metropolitan bus going to Lima, getting off at the Paseo de la Republica station. Going down Av Canada which is parallel to the highway, and turning down a side Street on the right you will find this hidden place.
Address: Chez Wong – Enrique León García 114, La Victoria, Lima
4. Bam Bam
Ceviche con sentimiento – Ceviche with feeling! This is the second name given to this place and what usually follows the name of the restaurant when recommended.
This little restaurant located behind a central Marketplace in Surquillo is where you can shamelessly get down and dirty with their generous helpings of not only ceviche, but other dishes such as tacu tacu a lo Bam Bam (which is beans and rice fried together, topped with mixed seafood and smothered in a dangerously delicious creamy seafood sauce), or arroz chaufa (stir-fried seafood rice that goes well with any dish).
Considering the size of their servings, which are good for two, and the constant flow of people that fill up their humble joint, they have managed to maintain a high standard and quality to their food.
The best thing about their food though is that its home style cooking definitely expresses passion and feeling, something that bigger, fancier restaurants fail to translate in their dishes, making this a real favourite to many.
How to get there: Bam Bam is located directly behind Surquillo Market, just over the Paseo de la Republica highway, a couple of blocks from Mc Donalds at Parque Kennedy in Miraflores.
Address: Bam Bam y sus Conchas Negras – Jr.luis Varela Y Orbegozo 215 (antes Huascar), Surquillo
5. El Muelle
Another gem located in the artsy, more residential district of Barranco, this simple restaurant is one of those comfort spots that is a mere walking distance from any Barranquiño home. Its comfort level is the kind where a double-take before stepping out of your house in flip flops and pyjamas is non-existent.
No fancy pictures or decorations can be seen. The tables and chairs are simply made of plastic. You don’t breathe in that toxic, pretentious air you may feel hangs heavy in other, more notable restaurants.
The food itself is the best part. The ceviche has a freshness to it that is crisp and makes you want to nod in approval. You can also opt for a variety of different dishes to be served in a platter, enjoying different seafood flavors with each bite.
This combo dish is a popular one as it not only has a little bit of everything, but is great for a fun get-together with friends and definitely gets any conversation going.
How to get there: Going down the inner main road of Barranco of San Martin, you will find it on the right side. crossing the Street is the other aforementioned cevicheria, La Canta Rana.
Address: El Muelle – Jr. Alfonso Ugarte 206, Barranco, Lima
Nicola King is an Australian journalist that is travelling the world in search of good food, nice people and the best stories.