Flower PowerA few years back, when Lima's Central Restaurante was closed because of zoning issues, Peru's celebrity chef, Gastón Acurio, was one of many who petitioned for it to be reopened. I knew that meant the young chef at Central, Virgilio Martinez, must be doing something truly special. Virgilio's restaurant is located in Lima's hip Barranco neighborhood. I stopped in solo one afternoon for lunch and was dazzled by the dishes his servers put in front of me: charred purple corn with scented octopus, lentils, yuzu, and bok choy; "mask of the suckling pig" (or pig face) with tart green apple, baby tomatoes, and galangal; and suckling goat with chickpeas, goat cheese, and lemon verbena. Each course was plated like a work of art and was a beautiful riddle on the palette. My enthusiasm for my food earned me a tour of the open kitchen and the rooftop garden, where servers pluck flowers or clip herbs for dishes like the citrus gelée with edible flowers (pictured above). Chef also gave me a tour of his incredible chocolate cellar, where he shows off his favorite chocolate bars from around the world.
Fine Dining at Central
The talk of gastronauts the world over, Peru's undisputed top meal is chef Virgilio Martinez's tasting menu at Central. Fiercely dedicated to native ingredients from all corners of Peru, Martinez captivates foodies on his culinary journey from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean to the top of the Andes and all points in between.