One of the most exciting parts of my recent trip to Peru was having the privilege of exploring the city of Lima, which is absolutely exploding onto the international culinary scene. This coastal city is the home of some of the best restaurants in South America, and the world, and after doing some research, I immediately honed in on Central Restaurante as my top pick to visit while there. Central was rated the best restaurant in South America in 2016, as well as the #4 restaurant in the world. But while one may think of a top restaurant in NYC or SF as one where a jacket is required and white glove service is de rigeur, the Central experience defied all traditional fine dining conventions. The people sitting next to us were wearing jeans and trainers, you waited outside the front door of the restaurant until your reservation time arrived, and the space was seated by zone so as not to interrupt the flow of the menu. And it was a fantastic divergence from convention.
The whole idea behind Central is that is explores the incredible diversity of Peru’s ecosystems. The country is made up of three distinct areas that have different climates, different growing seasons, and different resources. The coastal regions (such as Lima), the mountains (such as Cusco), and the jungle to the east of the mountains (the Amazon) were brought together in Central’s tasting menu and all differentiated by elevation. Each course on the menu featured the elevation where the ingredients were found next to it, so you could see as you tried different compositions exactly which area each was coming from.
Some of my personal favorite dishes were “colors of Amazonia,” which featured raw Paiche fish with Peruvian pijuayo and ungurahui fruits, “jungle scales,” which featured Amazonian river snails topped with shaved edible flowers, and “green highlands,” which featured different colors of chaco clay paired with raw cacao and topped with maca and cushuro.
Check out my Instagram hashtag #caro_in_peru for some additional photos from Central and from my trip!