A 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.
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Central: Lima's Best Dining Experience
If Lima is known for one thing, it's gastronomy. The city has become the culinary capital of South America and the streets are dotted with incredible dining options from hole-in-the-wall cevicherias to high-end cuisine. We did our best to choose wisely with dinner experiences and had some incredible meals during our four days in Lima. The stand out? Central.
Central offers a range of smaller plates along with entrees. We opted to split six small plates to share (plus dessert, of course). Everything was fantastic. Incredibly so. The tuna confit and scallop lines were standouts, but everything blew me away. Taste, presentation and innovation were all in play. Plus, service was over-the-top fab.
To top it off, Central has a bar downstairs that was THE best bar we experienced in Lima. (Plain ol' bars are rather hard to come by.) The bartenders were whipping up cool renditions of a typical pisco sour with varieties like Szechuan and Passionfruit-Cardamom with impressive attention to detail.
Hearing that we were on our honeymoon, the general manager came by to share his well wishes and to offer us a tour of the place. We headed into their lab (where new menu items are thought up), to their bottling area for water that's bottled in house, plus a garden where herbs are grown and picked on the regular. In a city filled with incredible dining options, this is a must for your list. Five stars all the way.