Latin America’s No.1 restaurant is a tour of Peru’s biodiversity
The draw: In its three years as The Best Restaurant in Latin America, Central has been, well, central to Lima’s transformation into one of the globe’s must-visit dining destinations, while chef Virgilio Martínez has led a new generation of Peruvian cooks.
Chefs’ Choice: Still in his 30s, Martínez has achieved much for his country’s gastronomy in recent years, helping to promote Peruvian cuisine around the world and working with his sister Malena’s research project, Mater Iniciativa, to help discover and educate on local agriculture and ingredients. This year, as recognition for his tireless work, he was voted by his peers to win the Chefs’ Choice Award, sponsored by Estrella Damm.
The concept: An exploration of its country’s biodiversity, Central takes diners on a journey through every altitude, from 20 metres below sea level to 4,100 metres above it, in 17+ courses. The tasting menu is a reflection of Martínez and his sister’s research into ingredients in the Andes, the Amazon and the sea.
The menu: Diners can expect a colourful journey through Peruvian cuisine, taking in some better known dishes like ceviche while presenting many exotic fruits, vegetables and herbs that most customers won’t have heard of – let alone be able to pronounce. Courses on the Mater Elevations tasting menu include Spiders on a Rock with mussel, crab and abalone; Marine Soil with razor clams, sweet lemon, pepino and starflower; and Close Fishing, an octopus dish with yuyo, barquillo and squid.
Other projects: Martínez also owns Lima and Lima Floral in London and is working on various new concepts with his wife and head chef Pia León, including a restaurant in Cusco to be run in association with Mater Iniciativa. Martínez also featured in the 2017 Chef’s Table series on Netflix.