Central: Latin America’s Best Restaurant Is Located In Lima, Peru

Federico Tibytt

Led by chef Virgilio Martínez, Central offers exquisite ceviche, seafood, homemade pastas and desserts delicately prepared in a perfectionist's environment.

Peruvian cuisine is experiencing a significant renaissance that has taken the world by surprise. Over the past decade, Peruvian chefs and restaurants have garnered the attention of international gourmands and the specialized press.

Central Restaurante in Lima
Pía de León and Virgilio Martínez

To confirm this trend, Restaurant Magazine crowned Virgilio Martínez’s Central restaurant as the best in all of Latin America in 2015. Central placed fourth in the same magazine’s famous list of the Top 50 Restaurants in the World.

Virgilio Martínez has consolidated himself as an undeniable star in the international gastronomic scene. At the tender age of 42, his work helps define the culinary identity of a country with thousands of years of history. His dishes are inspired by his culture but feature subtle international influences and an indisputable personal stamp.

Martínez’s international background includes studies in Lima, Ottawa, and London. He has worked and perfected his craft in places as diverse as Colombia, Spain, Southeast Asia, Paris and New York, where he was fortunate to be a disciple of the famous André Soltner

Central Restaurante in Lima
Chef Virgilio Martínez (L) travels throughout the country looking for endemic products

Armed with a considerable international reputation, and full of love for the culinary legacy of his people, Virgilio decided to invest his life savings into creating a restaurant that represented his personal approach and his passion for cooking. His mother was the architect in charge the Central restaurant project, which opened in 2009 in Lima’s posh Miraflores neighborhood.

With a sober interior decor, the building’s open kitchen is the focal point. The workspace is surrounded by glass walls and is the realm of chef Pia de LeonVirgilio’s wife and chief assistant—as well as the eight members of his all-Peruvian staff. The tables are strategically arranged in a sort of theatrical presentation, where the restaurant’s guests have a full view of the elaboration process of the dishes they are about to enjoy.

Central Restaurante in Lima
1, 2, 3, 4 The restaurant and its chefs place special attention to the all Peruvian ingredients used in the dishes’ preparation

Martínez prepares the menu at Central taking as a starting point the agricultural diversity of Peru. Just like the Inca cultures that inhabited the area during pre-Columbian times, the chefs explores the different altitudes of the valleys and mountains, taking from them the indigenous materials he needs for the restaurant. Many of dishes are made with unique local ingredients such as chuño, Andean potatoes, and mountain cattle. The culinary range of his native Peru is brilliantly featured in each of his dishes. Also, water served at the tables of Central is filtered, ozonated and bottled right on the premises.

Central Restaurante in Lima
1, 2, 3, 4. Beautiful presentation and exotic flavors at Central Restaurant

Passionate about gastronomy and anthropology, Martínez makes yearly culinary exploration tours throughout this amazingly rich Andean country. These visits allow him to improve his techniques and bring new products into his kitchen, such as celeriac, airampo, tunta, quinoa, malluca root, and elderberry, among many others.

The restaurant offers exquisite ceviches, fish, seafood and mollusks, homemade pasta, and desserts made with local fruits, delicately prepared in a pristine and perfectionist environment, where the chef controls every single detail. Martínez functions as a great orchestra conductor getting ready to present a perfect concert to each of his guests.

For its international prestige, innovative spirit and finesse, Central Restaurant is one of the places you must visit when traveling through Latin America. ■

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