In many global cities, fusion has become a byword for twenty -first-century gastronomic excess: see New York’s pizza burgers and Singapore’s instant noodle sandwiches. But not so in Lima, the city whose culinary tradition took root as a Hispanic riff on the Incan cooking pot. Later, waves of early nineteenth-century Chinese immigration to the city gave rise to creole cuisines such as Chifa, the Chinese-Peruvian flavour combinations that remain a fond favourite with everyday Limeños; in classic dishes such as arroz chaufa, fried rice with plump white corn, or lomo saltado (beef tenderloin flash - fried in a wok with soy sauce). Chifa's cousin arrived with Japanese migrants in the 1890s, who came to work as fishermen on Lima’s rich shores, married Peruvians, and in Nikkei, a cuisine rich in sashimi and bright citrus flavours, recreated a taste of home.
Today Nikkei is one of the most refined of Lima’s fusion cuisines, its apotheosis the fine - dining Peruvian-Japanese restaurant Maido, whose Osaka-trained head chef Mitsuharu Tsumura has given the Peruvian capital the surprisingly glorious barbecued guinea pig (the hallowed food of the Andean Incas) with yucca cream. Meanwhile the chefs behind Novoandina, or the Andean culinary renaissance that began in the 1980s, have also taken up the baton for Lima’s globe-plunderingculinary iconoclasm in dishes such as Cucho La Rosa’s iconic quinotto (quinoa risotto, today the star of me nus from London to LA) and celebrity chef Gastón Acurio’s chicken liver anticuchos (an Incan form of kebab) served meltingly pink with spicy salsa ají amarillo.
Mitsuharu Tsumura struck out on his own at the age of 28, and Maido in Miraflores is the result: a cool bamboo and paper screen-lined space that’s the perfect backdrop for Tsumura’s fresh- from-the- pacific sashimi and nigiri and, pièce de résistance, a 15-course Nikkei taster menu featuring such glories as yucca-sauced guinea pig and liquid nitrogen tiradito served, unforgettably, in a smoking petri dish.
Of the many Chifas (Peruvian-inflected Chinese restaurants) in Lima, Wa Lok is the most fondly regarded. For nearly two decades it has been turning out steaming plates a soda of its Cantonese- Peruvian novelties to salivating Limeños; from kum pou kay tien (chicken stir-fried with asparagus and aji peppers) to langostinos picante al horno (spicy baked langoustines), and a sweet and spicy take on pato pekinés (Peking duck). Whatever you choose, don’t neglect to start your meal with Wa Lok’s spring rolls, which, golden-fried and bulbous with Amazon vegetables, are justly famous. Here , at Wa Lok’s classier outpost in Miraflores, you’ll get the white tablecloth treatment and staff with competent English (the Barrio Chino original is the one for a clattering, Chinese canteen atmosphere). Both branches boast (for good or bad) a 200-item menu and a cornucopia of exotic ingredients, from sea cucumber to surreal fungi.
Before you leave, pick up a flaky minpao pastry filled with a sweet bean paste, the perfect edible souvenir, from the bakery stand near the restaurant entrance.
Whilst you’re here, have a walk around El Barrio Chino, a must-visit while you’re in Lima. The city’s China Town is the bustling culinary hub you’d expect from a country with the largest Chinese community in Latin America. Shop for Chinese ingredients, slurp on udon noodle soup and gorge on delicious fried yucas.
This modern Peruvian joint is a hit with well -to-do young Limeños, who decant into La Lucha’s four branches in their hair-gelled multitudes to fall upon carob-wood roasted pork with sweet potato and onion, ham with salsa criolla (coriander, chilli and pickled beet) and the unctuous veg mixto sandwiches served on pillowy rounds of clefted Peruvian bread with sides of papas fritas and huacaína mayo. The chain is the brainchild of food-loving entrepreneur Hernán Quispe Vivanco, who cut his teeth at fusion restaurant La Tiendecita Blanca before striking out with this casual gourmet lunching concept. Your crispy haired companions will wash their creole sandwiches down with luminous yellow Inca Kola; you’ll want to opt for the exotic frozen Amazonian-fruit smoothies, including guanabana, which is known for its recuperative powers. And that’s the beauty of this place. While the chirpy Americanisms might be a little too much for some (your sandwich is served to you by your name and bouncy pop music backdrops the diner-style decor), La Lucha’s breezy air-con and zippy service are a gift after a long morning’s sightseeing.
Occupying a spot on a busy shopping street in well -to-do San Isidro, Dánica is the labour of love of Vanessa Siragusa and her partner Gustavo Michelsen, Limeños of mixed European heritage who have brought their experience in old-world hospitality (Siragusa studied at the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners and both studied at Le Cordon Bleu) to bear on an innovative Italian-Peruvian fusion menu that’s one part mamma’s trattoria and two parts new-Peruvian pizzaz. Star of the show is the risotto de lomo saltado, a creamy and deeply savoury take on the Peruvian soy -marinated beef steak stir fry. Also unmissable is Siragusa’s bruschetta, topped with tomato confit and roasted Amazonian peppers, or Piedmontese-style veal with avocado sauce. In a city in which many mid-range restaurants plump for an ersatz international decor, the homely, chalkboard-strung ambience is a welcome change. Doubly welcome is the personal touch from Siragusa, who often delivers appetisers to your table herself, chatting with palpable enthusiasm about seasonal vegetables and the latest flavour - matched Italian wine imports.