Lima Criolla offers authentic Peruvian food to North Austin

Stephen Acevedo

When Peru native Susana Vivanco took up residence in Austin 10 years ago, she decided the best way to keep her country’s culture alive in her new home was through cooking. Her latest restaurant, Lima Criolla, does exactly that.

“When I started this business, it was because I wanted to promote my culture,” Vivanco said. “That has always been my passion.”

Lima Criolla is completely family-run and boasts an extensive collection of authentic Peruvian dishes that Vivanco grew up cooking and eating in her hometown of Lima.

“I learned to cook from my grandma,” Vivanco said. “In my restaurant, all the cooking is like my grandma’s home recipes. It’s not a commercial thing. Everything in the restaurant is exactly like
eating at home.”

Vivanco said a big part of staying true to the culinary history of Peru is going out of her way to find all of the original ingredients used in the dishes she serves.

“I try to keep the quality good by using only the original ingredients in each dish,” Vivanco said. “It’s hard to find a lot of these original ingredients, but I don’t want to take shortcuts.”

For Vivanco, managing Lima Criolla is more than just running a successful business. It’s about spreading love and appreciation for the country of Peru as a whole.

“I love Peru and it makes me so happy when people visit and tell me how good their experience was,” Vicano said.

Vivanco is also using her business to directly help Peruvian citizens who have recently been affected by a series of devastating floods. In order to provide further assistance, Vivanco is currently organizing a fundraiser with her friends and associates to send whatever help is needed back home.

“Peru, in the last week, was flooded on almost all of its coast,” Vivanco said. “A lot of people, especially poor people, lost everything. My country is doing great with efforts to help them, but it’s
not enough.”

If her food is going to be the fuel of her fundraising efforts, Vivanco should have no trouble raising money for Peru. The food she serves at Lima Criolla is fantastic, and her menu’s biggest shortcoming is that there are too many good options to choose from.

The Arroz con Mariscos brings together deliciously spiced rice with a smorgasbord of fresh seafood like mussels, shrimp and calamari. Despite all the seafood in the dish, the abundant seasonings used prevent it from being too fishy and instead boasts a flavor similar to Spanish paella.

Another highlight worth trying is the Aji de Gallina Limeño. This Peruvian classic features shredded chicken breast smothered in a sauce made from pecans, yellow peppers and parmesan. It’s like a hybrid of a mole and a curry. Served only with a hardboiled egg and some steamed rice, this dish is simple, but delivers a memorable taste.

One of the more interesting options on the menu is in the appetizer section. The Causa Limeña is pureed potatoes stuffed with shredded chicken and served cold. It might not look that appetizing at first, but tasting it will immediately prove why this is one of Peru’s most famous meals. It’s like a delicious combination of potato and chicken salad spiced with a perfect amount
of seasoning.

To wash down these hearty dishes, try the chicha morada, a beverage made primarily from purple corn. The beverage has a distinctively sweet flavor combination of cinnamon, clove and tropical fruit.

Dining at Lima Criolla feels like eating in someone’s personal kitchen. A lot of care clearly goes into each dish, and the results are superb.