Central is a high-end restaurant in Lima, well known for being on the San Pellegrino “Worlds 50 Best Restaurants” list. It’s supposed to be one of the most difficult reservations to get in Lima, but we managed by walking over during the day and asking at the front desk if they had anything open in the next two months. They found a lunch for us in the next week so off we went!
Central is aggressively and delightfully Peruvian. The dishes use Peruvian ingredients, many of them locally sourced. The menu is called “Mater Elevations” and is organized by regions at different elevations, and the ingredients from them.
Rather than walk through the menu, dish by dish, I’ll describe what it’s like. The space is very modern, clean, light and airy. The dishes come usually in groups of three for each “elevation” and usually combine beautiful presentation in line with the region as well as clever preparations that showcase technique, ingredients, and are delicious to boot. The presentations are reminiscent of the regions, so the seabed course is served on actual gooseneck barnacles, the “Amazonian Waters” piranha crackers are serve on frozen piranha heads, the tubers are on plates that refer back to terraced mountain fields, and so on. The unusual ingredients are more than a gimmick, in each region there is a balance between the comfortably familiar, and the challengingly new. Baked native potato with a pesto of a herb completely new to me. Cocoa bean with a gel made from the mucilage of the cocoa pod and served with a coca leaf granita.
At the end I felt like I’d had a world class degustation, but also taken on a tour of Peru and shown ingredients that I’d never seen or heard of before – deliciously. When the Spanish came back from the “new world”, they brought potatoes, peppers, avocados, corn, tomatoes, beans, pineapple, squash, and chocolate. As it turns out, there are even more things that have so far escaped the world’s attention – and they’re delicious.