Setting up shop at the JW Marriott Lima, we set out to explore Lima for a couple days on a layover. While Lima was not originally on any of my target travel cities, I found an amazing restaurant and a city that exceeded my expectations.
- Trip Motivation and Planning
- LAN Flight Experience
- Tambo Del Inka Resort
- Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley
- JW Marriott Lima
- Exploring Lima
- Exploring Easter Island and the Moai
- W Santiago
- Exploring Santiago De Chile
To get a lay for the city, we decided to sign up for a touristy bus tour through one of the kiosks inside the Larco Mar outdoor mall. The kiosk agent told us to return to the Marriott across the street and the bus would pick us up out front. The bus arrived a few minutes later and took us to another bus meeting point where we met our tour guide and new bus. The tour guide was a cheery local with a great accent and a deep knowledge of Lima. We hit all the main tourist attractions and surely received 25 dollars worth of value. Admittedly I don’t remember what everything was but it was all quite enjoyable. Here are a few pics I snapped.
View from Larco Mar outdoor shopping mall
We made stops at San Martin Square, the Plaza Mayor and a few other major points of interest. The areas around the tour stops were clean, friendly and safe. I was very impressed with the colorful architecture and seeing Pre-Inca, Colonial and Modern history blend together. Other South American cities set my expectations rather low. This experience was very pleasant.
Dinner at Astrid y Gaston
The tour was excellent but at the end of the day it was what it was. The memory that truly stood out from our ‘layover’ in Lima was finding a dining experience so incredibly fantastic at such an affordable.
I had mentioned before about stumbling across this website linked through a CNN article which ranked the World’s 50 best restaurants. At the time, I was familiar with a few of the New York and Chicago restaurants that top this list though I had never dined at any of them. I fully understand how people can pay 250+ dollars per person for a meal and I am often tempted though my frugalness ultimately squashes the urge. I found a restaurant on the list in Lima. (Two actually but this was the highest rated) The restaurant was named Astrid y Gaston and was the second highest ranked restaurant on this list in all of Central and South America.
Noticing the restaurant was less than 2 miles from the JW Marriott Lima where I was staying, I contacted the concierge and arranged a 10PM dinner (Everyone eats extremely late in South America by US standards). I never thought in my life I would be dining at a restaurant on the list of the World’s 50 best restaurants but there I was.
Let me start by saying Astrid y Gaston is an incredibly fantastic restaurant. With a large staff on hand at all times, the service is second to none. They have achieved that level of anticipatory service where they know what you want next before you even know it.
The menu was expansive with an emphasis on vegetable and fish dishes though we promptly set the menu aside and let our friendly waiter choose each of our meals. We knew we wanted Ceviche and Pisco Sours but left the rest up to him. I am not sure exactly what all he selected but not a single dish missed. I am not much of a food critic but I know an amazing restaurant when I taste one. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.
Throughout the meal, diners were walking back into the open kitchen with permission to take pictures with the brother chefs and kitchen staff. I felt like I was being cooked for by a celebrity.
After polishing off 3 appetizers and 3 entrees, we were offered dessert. We were so stuffed and it was about midnight at this time so we declined. Little did we know, they were simply offering additional dessert choices on top of the JENGA box of treats all diners receive. Each tray revealed a yummy treat from the pastry chef. What a unique way to end a fantastic meal!
The most amazing thing…
For three people drinking Pisco Sours and Red Wine (We drink fast) throughout a 2+ hour meal each having an entrée, appetizer and dessert, the total bill came to 200 USD after tax and a generous tip. May I remind you this is currently selected as one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Unbelievable.
The bottom line
Lima is an exciting and vibrant city. While there are still safety concerns in certain parts of town, the tourist areas were safe, clean and friendly. Lima offers a unique intersection of world class cuisine and affordable prices. As I alluded to above, the finest restaurants in the world tend to locate themselves in the most expensive cities in the world, though Lima is the exception.
When playing the points and miles game, one of the key concepts is to locate a unique trick or tactic that enables you access to an experience you normally couldn’t afford or find. I believe this is one of those instances. This is a World’s Top 50 restaurant at prices you may find when your group has one too many El Presidente Margaritas at Chili’s. The next time you find yourself laying over in Lima, grab a cab to Astrid y Gaston and eat your heart out (affordably). Bon Appetit.