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I want to start this one by saying, “I love my job!”. Located on the Oranjestad Harbor, this hidden gem now holds a special place in my heart…
... And stomach! Don’t let the word “hidden” fool you, though. Lima Bistro is quickly becoming a local and visitor favorite. You know how when you mention a restaurant, you get mixed opinions? Some love, some hate? With Lima, all I ever get is, “Isn’t it amazing?!” or “So good, right?”. I am now one of those people after my visit. Let me tell you all the reasons why.
When owner and chef, Teddy, moved to Aruba, he quickly went from Executive Chef to Director of F&B Operations at the Aruba Marriott. In 2020, however, when the pandemic hit, he had time to reminisce, as most of us did, and realized how much he missed the flavors of Lima. While talking to an investor friend, he mentioned opening a restaurant on the island. He was recommended to open a restaurant that serves Caesar salads and other “basic” dishes, which was sure to make lots of money! Teddy said no, this place needs SOUL. He refused to open another uninteresting and forgettable restaurant. He was going to try something different. Something that takes him back to his roots. “If people like it, great! If they don’t? Great!” he thought. In November 2020, he left Marriott to follow his vision, and by June 2021, Lima Bistro opened its doors.
His guiding light and brand identity is the Polaris Star, better known as the North Star. Growing up, being the “bad at school” middle child, he still managed to pass his classes anyway. His mom always said, “You must have a star in your life.” So with this star in mind, Teddy would always find his way home somehow.
💡Fun fact: Teddy chose the Oranjestad location instead of Palm Beach because the ocean smell from the harbor reminds him of Lima.
Walking to the restaurant was already an interesting experience. The ocean-front harbor location is scenic. The breeze and light sounds of the water primed me for what was to come. I was greeted by the hostess, who also happened to be the manager. She gave me the option to be seated either outdoors or indoors. I live in this warm weather all year, so of course, I prefer air-conditioned dining. I was immediately impressed by every little detail that went into creating this atmosphere, from the colors used throughout to the many Peruvian “knick-knacks” used as decor; all from Teddy’s personal collection, I was later told.
The bulls represent blessings, the Tree of Life means prosperity, and just like those, there are many other beautiful pieces that all hold meaning to Teddy. The soft music, open kitchen, sizzling sounds, and happy staff made me feel at home. These people know what they’re doing. The beachy vibes, wooden floors, and uniformed staff perfectly fit the outside surroundings like everything was simply meant to be this way.
Fresh and warm homemade sourdough bread was brought to the table and served with “aji amarillo” (made with carob honey) and spicy mustard. Our server Abbie, as were all the other staff members, was super friendly and attentive. I was brought three signature cocktails as I waited for the appetizers. Before you call me an alcoholic, I did not drink these alone. I tasted them, loved them, and gave them to my guest. She, on the other hand, might have a drinking problem. But that’s not what this story is about. My favorite was the passion fruit pisco sour. Super refreshing and sweet! Most of their cocktails are based on pisco, Peru’s national liquor, made of grapes.
The first dishes arrived, and our photographer almost did a backflip. They brought out the scallops! He yelled. Let me tell you, after I tasted these scallops, I understood the excitement. Juicy, flavorful, topped with crispy sweet potato. The only downside? There were only 2… Teddy explained that for him, it’s better to serve smaller portions of a quality product than big portions of mediocre ingredients. And my taste buds agree wholeheartedly.
Next, I tried a fusion dish with wakame, tiradito nikkei, a traditional Peruvian raw fish dish in a spicy sauce. I’ve never had a sweet & sour ceviche before. Very tasty! But I already had my eyes on the market ceviche topped with calamari on the next plate. A little fun fact about me: I love calamari! The combination of the spicy, saucy fish and crispy calamari on top was a match made in Xa’s stomach heaven. The last appetizer I tried was the richest, creamiest squash “pasta” I’ve ever had. I never thought I’d see the day I’d consider ordering a squash-based dish when dining out. It had THAT much flavor.
Teddy prides himself on the fact that he serves unique dishes that show creativity and “wow” diners. Unlike other restaurants that create a menu and stick to it for 25 years, he believes keeping his guests interested with new ideas and flavors is important. He also encourages his chefs to try new things and gives them the freedom to be creative. “They all bring something to the table,” he says. Teddy, his chef, and sous chef travel for inspiration periodically and dine at the best restaurants in the world to get new ideas for Lima Bistro. Most recently, “Central” in Peru. The diverse team of internationals makes for a truly unique experience. Most importantly, the team is proud of what they do!
💡Fun fact: Teddy has a Spotify playlist with music from his past and songs his parents used to dance to on the patio. This is the same playlist you hear at Lima. He has over 100 followers on this playlist and personalizes it for his loyal guests.
“Lima is the team” - Teddy Bouroncle.
Now it’s time for the main event, and my body is ready. *Aggressively rubs hands together*. Abbie brought out a grilled tuna steak on a bed of sauteed yakimeshi rice. I must admit, it’s the first time I’ve had tuna steak, but it won't be my last. When I told one of my best friends, she got so upset that I didn’t invite her. This tuna steak happens to be her favorite dish at Lima.
Next up was the most mouth-watering short rib, made with “chicha morada” (which is actually a traditional Peruvian beverage), cashew puree, and baby carrots. The short rib is cooked for 3 hours and melts in your mouth. Just fantastic comfort food that has been taken to the next level.
Lastly, my personal favorite, and also one of their best sellers: the “lomo saltado.” Another traditional Peruvian dish and is essentially a beef stir fry with onions, tomatoes, and french fries. This nostalgic dish for Teddy was a must on his menu. As a child, he would come home from school on a Friday to his mom’s lomo saltado. Lima uses fried halved potatoes as a more “upscale” twist to the dish. Served with white rice, I couldn’t get enough of it… The steak was so tender and full of flavor. The rice mixed with the sauce was like a religious experience for me, precisely as Teddy described it. It also reminded me of after-school meals my Colombian “honorary grandma” made back in the day. You know how in Ratatouille, Anton Ego flashes back to his childhood as soon as he takes his first bite of the, well, ratatouille? That’s how I felt. It’s “simple but brings back memories,” Teddy says. What more can you ask for when dining out?
💡Fun fact: All 3 of Teddy’s restaurants on the island are on TripAdvisor’s top 10 list.
So, they brought out dessert, and I'm actually laughing while writing about this because Teddy looked over and said, “My crème caramel is the best,” with an almost arrogant look on his face. I, of course, said jokingly, “I’m gonna be brutally honest and extra judgy when I try it then!” Well, let me tell you, this little flan with homemade ice cream on top, and crumbles on the side, made me do a little dance. To which Teddy said, “If you’re dancing, you can’t deny my statement.” It is indeed the best crème caramel I’ve ever had in my life. You win, T!
The morning of this interview, I had this intense craving for cereal with warm milk (Frosted Flakes, to be exact). Something I used to love as a kid and as a college student but haven’t had in years! Well, this beautiful ending to a wonderful evening was a deep-fried French Toast injected with condensed milk and topped with some more of that homemade vanilla ice cream. It was like a reverse cereal-with-warm-milk experience. Holy %#@! This was GOOD! I think about it every night before I go to bed, and I will have this as my last meal if it ever comes to that.
To close off, I will leave you with this. Lima is about Teddy’s love of his home, Peru, his passion for food, and providing excellent service. You can see that in how he talks about his life, the restaurant, and the staff. There’s a mutual respect that you simply can’t fake. Lima Bistro is now one of my favorite restaurants.
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Xa On The Go is a series in which I explore, taste, and experience all Aruba has to offer, one spot at a time. Join me as I try some of the most hyped restaurants on the island, experience fun activities, and explore Aruba’s wonders.
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