Dining in Peru

New York Times Travel writer ANN MARIE GARDNER discovers that in Peru, the hottest spot to be might just be in a restaurant. The unique blends of food that make up Peruvian dining are delicious and the scene at the cafes is vibrant. Her article begs the question Who Needs Clubs When Everyone Is at the Cafe?

“In a country where the restaurant scene is in full gastronomic swing, La Mar, in the prosperous district of Miraflores, is the most exciting new spot, embodying a cuisine that is bringing together disparate ethnic influences both on the dinner plate and in a new national pride. The owner is Gastón Acurio, a celebrity chef who also runs the more formal Astrid y Gastón with his wife, Astrid. Perhaps it is because he is the son of a former prime minister and senator, Gastón Acurio Velarde, that Mr. Acurio holds an avid interest in the power of culinary success to bring not only international recognition but also, by extension, a feeling of national identity that can move Peru forward.

“Food is becoming a powerful symbol of what we are, and the most important thing about our food is the mixture,” Mr. Acurio said. “We are proud of that mixture now.”

The word that describes their mixture of Andean, Spanish, Italian and Asian — in both food and culture — is criollo.”The moment we became as proud of what we are as we are of our food,” Mr. Acurio said, “is the moment the country can turn.”

Eating is the gateway to Lima’s social scene, and one day and night, beginning with lunch, is enough to get a feel for the social landscape.In the same way Americans eat sandwiches for lunch, Peruvians eat ceviche (raw fish soaked in lime juice) or other fish. La Mar is a cevichería, one of hundreds in Peru. Like other cevicherías, it is open for lunch but not for dinner. “Seafood is for lunch, ” Mr. Acurio said. “A long time ago, you would get sick at night from the raw fish, so it became a habit at night to eat meat and pasta.”