In the beautiful country of Peru lies a vibrant culture, lots of llamas, a rich history, and exceptionally good food. Whether you’re into ceviche, fried meat on a stick off the street, or fine cuisine, Peru has got it all. My family and I are major foodies, so when we found out that a well-rated restaurant was so close to where we were visiting, we knew we had to go. Today we’re going to focus on Central – the world’s 4th best restaurant according to Eater and

The Backstory

Tanya Sashi

To start off, Virgilio Martinez Veliz, owner and chef of the restaurant, bases the menu off of Peru’s unique environment. Most menus are organized to be horizontal in the sense that they serve dishes from different regions around the world. However, Virgilio was innovative with his vertical menu — he serves dishes from different altitudes.

The meal is supposed to take you from the sea, through the Amazon, and to the Andes, focusing on the elevations of each various ecosystem. On the menu, they even list the elevation at which they grew the ingredients in each dish. It is not just a meal; it is an experience. We were even lucky enough to see Virgilio and his wife as we left the restaurant.

For a place with such a high rating, you better get what you pay for, and this is completely true at Central. The meal consists of 17 delicious courses, all of which are delicate and served in small portion. Our entire meal lasted around 4 hours, and I wish it had been longer because it was that good. There were three of us, so everything came in groups of three for us to share. Let’s go through the meal.

*Note: Each course is bite-sized, but some come with multiple small dishes. After seventeen courses, we were very full at the end of the meal. The dishes grow in size as you progress through the meal. Since there were so many courses, it's hard to remember the details of every individual course, but I do remember that they were all out of this world.

Course 1: Rock Mollusks

Tanya Sashi

You will notice that for each course, a lot of the appeal came from the presentation. We were not supposed to eat most of the decorations, which I was tempted to do (and accidentally did later on in the meal). For this dish, we used the silver spoon to dive into the small container holding a sea snail-mussel-sargassum-limpet concoction. It was unreal. Such a small dish had so many intense flavors. A nice surprise was the crispy leaf, which is eaten in order to cleanse the palate.

Course 2: Desert Plants

Tanya Sashi

This course consisted of three parts. We started with the powdered sweet potato leaf, which was tastier than I expected. Next up was the middle dish, which was crunchy and filled with intense, meat-like flavors. Not to mention, the dollop of yellow sauce was fire. The third dish was almost like a crunchy zucchini. The middle dish was my favorite just because of that yellow sauce.

Course 3: Lofty Andes

Tanya Sashi

This was one of my favorite courses. You can't go to Peru without trying its potatoes. Over 4,000 different kinds of potatoes grow in the Andes mountains. These potatoes are cooked in the same ground in which they were grown, which is an ancient method known as Huatia. So yes, they are cooked in dirt, but this brings out the earthy flavors of the potato, which makes it that much better.

We took our singular potatoes and dipped them into the sauce on the left. Let me tell you about this sauce. This sauce contained pureed alpaca and was even better than the first yellow sauce I raved about. I want this sauce on everything I ever eat because it was unbelievably flavorful. I did not even realize I was eating meat until I read the menu and alpaca was listed. Put alpaca in everything please.

Course 4: Thick Stems

Tanya Sashi

This was interesting. I do not recall exactly what was inside this dish, but the surrounding onion shell complimented the inside filling very well and had a savory, mustard-like taste. The middle potatoes were just decorative... such a tease I know. The third part was a drink that was sweet and refreshing.

Course 5: River Scales

Tanya Sashi

Travelled down to the river for this dish. Four small river shrimps marinated in a lovely sauce were laid on top of a thick sauce, placed on a leaf, and topped off with beautiful flowers. Presentation was 10/10, taste was 12/10. This was a fun dish.

Course 6: Forest Cotton

Tanya Sashi

This was an interesting course. These flavors were unlike those of the other dishes, but they were still great. I think the drink on the left was my favorite part because the taste was so strong, and the flavors hit your tongue instantly. Only a tiny sip was needed to experience its intensity.

Course 7: High Jungle

Tanya Sashi

This course was amazing. The cassava in the middle was my favorite part because it was so buttery and just fell apart in your mouth. I would be content having only those for my entire meal. The bread paired with the sauce was probably the best bread I have ever had, and I have eaten the breads from Bouley in New York (article pending). The air potato on the left was the best concoction of a “chip” I’ve tried, and I'm still waiting on Lays to come out with this flavor.

Course 8: Marine Soil

Tanya Sashi

This dish had one of my favorite presentations and was definitely the most fun to eat. The orange sea urchins were so soft and gooey in my mouth; I loved the textures. The seaweed complimented the dish and the ribbons of melon added the final touch. There were even clams hidden inside the melons. The sweetness from the melon and the umami flavors from the seafood made this dish unforgettable.

Course 9: Tree Skins

Tanya Sashi

This dish had avocado, so I automatically fell in love with it. I'm not a big fan of quinoa, but the crunchy quinoa in this dish was so good I couldn't believe it was quinoa. There were some other things in this dish I cannot recall, but it was simple yet delicious.

Course 10: Land of Corn

Tanya Sashi

I can't remember all of the ingredients in this dish, but I remember it did have sour tastes and there were many different textures involved. From the hair-like topping to the brittle yellow and pink flakes, it was a very unique dish.

Course 11: Colors of Amazonia

Tanya Sashi

I first fell in love with this dish because of its remarkable presentation. Believe it or not — the colorful ribbons are actually a type of fish. These ribbons were everything. I felt bad eating them because they were so pretty. The dish contained a hint of guanabana, and the black and white shavings complemented the fish very well. I took a lot of photos of this dish for obvious reasons.

Course 12: Coastal Harvest

Tanya Sashi

Scallops + chili + spices + savory sauce = happiness. These tasty scallops were carefully hidden underneath a crispy top layer and then dusted with spices. Just the right flavors came together to make this course very satisfying — and it wasn't overwhelmingly spicy.

Course 13: Sea Coral

Tanya Sashi

This exotic dish consisted of octopus, crab, and squid with “sea lettuce." The foam made it really look like an image from the ocean and the squid resembled coral. I loved the artistry in this dish and how the ingredients were related to what it resembled. You can tell from all of these dishes that deep thought and artistry went into the presentation and amplified the taste.

Course 14: Low Andes Mountains

Tanya Sashi

The meal thus far consisted of seafood and was not very meat heavy, so this pork dish was a unique treat in the lineup. The pork was covered in a black mashwa sauce, which is a very rich sauce that made the pork extremely savory and delicious. We ate this very slowly to really take in all of the flavors. It was topped with panca chili peppers and kiwicha, which is actually an ancient Peruvian superfood seed. This was one of my favorite dishes.

Course 15: Humid Green

Tanya Sashi

As we near the end (sad), we start on dessert. This was a nice, playful mixture of tart and sweet flavors. There was a soft ice cream-like scoop underneath the crystal-green candies. The dish had an underlying lemon flavor, which was refreshing and really helped cleanse our palates for the rest of the desserts.

Course 16: Amazonian White

Tanya Sashi

As I mentioned earlier, in one of the dishes I accidentally ate something that was supposed to be a decoration. I bit into the frozen shrimp on the right, which I thought was edible and definitely not frozen shrimp. This was the only thing that did not taste appetizing, but that was my fault, so I’ll forgive Virgilio. The more important part of the dish was a lot better. It had bahuaja nuts, cacao, cherimoya (a fruit that tastes like pineapple), and a Peruvian mango called taperiba. It was sweet, fruity, and the coconut shavings on top made it the perfect mix of flavors.

The Final Course: Medicinals and Plant Dyes

Tanya Sashi

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. Feeling very full and content with life, we enjoyed the last hurrah of the meal. Everything here consisted of Peruvian plants. The green drink was the perfect refresher for the end of this flavorful meal. 

There you have it — 17 unforgettable courses at the world's 4th best restaurant. In my opinion, though, this is probably the best restaurant. I would definitely come back here, and I'd love to bring someone who has never done anything like this because it is an experience anyone would be lucky to have. I can’t wait to see what Virgilio does next!