The World's 50 Best Restaurants list for 2017 was released last week. The annual compilation, oft criticized for being too Eurocentric and overly focused on very expensive restaurants run by male chefs, had Daniel Humm and Will Guidara’s Eleven Madison Park as number one this year (just five other American restaurants made the grade). But what caught my eye was number five on the list, Central Restaurante, in Lima, Peru, which is the only joint among the 50 that I've dined at.
Founder Virgilio Martínez Véliz and Pia Leon are the pair of brilliant chefs behind Central, which is located in the traditional district of Miraflores. Central's aim is to redefine Peruvian cuisine by introducing little-known indigenous ingredients from Peru's coastal region, the Andes highlands, and the Amazon rainforest, and utilizing them with an inexhaustible curiosity to create stunning and delectable cuisine.
I dined at Central under unusual circumstances. Back in 2014, a flock of food bloggers and other media folks from Miami and New York were invited to fly on JetBlue’s inaugural non-stop flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Lima, Peru. The trip included such illustrious local luminaries as Dirk DeSouza, Liana Lozada, and chef Todd Erickson. After a few days in Lima, we were taken to Cusco and Machu Picchu. On the final day of our trip, we were to fly from Cusco to Lima, dine at Central, and leave for an overnight flight to Miami. Our plane, however, was delayed due to a storm. So when we arrived in Lima we rushed straight to the restaurant, changing our clothes in the airport, and after the meal we rushed back to the airport to catch our flight home.
Maybe that's one reason I don't recall many of the unusual ingredients that composed the dishes I photographed. Also: I drank a coca-infused pisco sour that had me singing aloud, knocking over wine glasses, etc. I generally hold my liquor well, so I'm pretty sure I was drugged -- by the fifth best restaurant in the world! Or maybe not. In any case, I had a good time. Forgive my lack of details. I remember that one ingredient we had was arracacha, a root vegetable from the Andes. And that there was clay in one of the desserts.
I started with coca-infused pisco sour and coca-infused bread (uh-oh!):
It was a tasting menu; some tastes were smalI:
Bright salad with black quinoa, beets, and wildflowers:
Octopus with lentils, black olive & curry sauces:
Flowers and tubers on salt block:
The cubes are the edible part:
Dining room and kitchen:
Chilean wine, which was better than the Peruvian wine they served:
A second dessert, this one with clay from the Amazon: