Central: 16 courses at a world class restaurant.

We ate at one of the world’s top restaurants, and yes, we took photos of everything.

Central has consistently ranked in the top 10 best restaurants in the world, coming in 5th and 6th place in 2017 and 2018 respectively. So it only made sense that we check it out in our short 48 hour stay in Lima. As we entered the building nestled in the heart of the Barranco district, a guard greeted us warmly and lead us inside.

We managed to make lunch reservations just a few days prior for the four of us. Seeing as we don’t normally go out to fancy dinners with our little ones, we considered it a bold move!

Apart from a brief diaper blowout debacle, our 3-hour culinary experience went incredibly well.

The set menu, entitled the “Elevations of Peru”, comprised of 16, yes, 16 (!) courses. Each course was, fittingly, designed with Peruvian ingredients from various regions found or grown at different elevations, all the way from below sea level to 4350 meters above.

And each course was a real work of art.

Our waiter explained each course as it was brought out. He pointed out what parts we could eat, how to eat them, what order to eat them in, and what parts were (inedible) decoration. I was embarrassingly relieved that all the courses came with a walk-through; there is no way we would have been able to deduce this on our own.

I would equate the whole experience to eating at O Noir. At O Noir you eat as a blind person would – you don’t see what you’re eating and every bite is a surprise. At Central, although I could see everything, I still had no idea of what to expect from each bite – it was nothing like I’ve ever seen or tasted before.

So, without further ado, here’s our visual guide to the 16 courses, complete with our less-than-professional-commentary.

Elevations of Peru

1. RED ROCKS (-10m)
PIURE · PERCEBES · RAZOR CLAMS

You only eat the orange cracker thing in the left bowl, the white morsel with the star in the middle bowl, and all the purple stuff in the right. The waiter actually warned me that the white star piece will be an explosion of flavour in my mouth. He was not wrong.

2. DESERTIC COAST (110m)
CACTUS · CLAMS · YUYO SEAWEED

Cactus! Yum! This tasted a bit like candy.

3. HIGH ALTITUDE FARMLANDS (3750m)
BLACK MASHWA · DUCK · YELLOW MASHWA

I think this was our favourite! Tasted like dry noodles. This also came with a duck confit. Not going to lie – I was QUITE concerned eating raw duck in Peru 😐

4. AMAZONIAN RIVER (110m)
PACAE · UNGURAHUI · ARAPAIMA

There was a specific order to how you’re supposed to eat this – take a sip of not-orange juice, bite the white stuff, leave the paper-looking thing.

5. HIGH JUNGLE (890m)
COPOAZÚ · DALE-DALE · SACHATOMATE

This was also up there on our list of favourites! The orange and black dips had a really great kick to them.

6. SEA TERRAIN (15m)
SQUID · HUARANGO · SARGASSUM

I guess this one did feel exactly like eating sea terrain. Super salty! We had the Spanish menu for half of our meal, so we REALLY had no idea what we were eating. Not that the English translations helped too much, but in this case it would’ve been pretty accurate!

7.WATERS OF THE DESERT (88m)
AVOCADO · SEA URCHIN · LOCHE

Our dishes between Danny and I were mainly the same, except since Danny doesn’t eat shellfish some of his courses were substituted. On the left is the sea urchin in shrimp broth and on the right was avocado in vegetable broth. I must admit – the avocado dish won that round!

8. EXTREME ALTITUDE (4350m)
KCULLI · KIWICHAS · CHOCLO CORN

These corn chips were pretty damn great.

9, MIL MORAY (3590m)
TUBER · CLAY · LLIPTA

These two (2!!!) tiny potatoes were baked in clay found at 3590m. I think this was my least favorite dish 🤷‍♀️

10. AMAZONIAN LAKE (190m)
PIRANHA · COCONA FRUIT · YUCA ROOT

Ever had your food stare back at you? This meal had about 12 eyes on me as I ate that tiny piece of piranha on top. I’m glad the waiter explained that I shouldn’t eat the piranha heads.

11. MARINE VALLEY (-25m)
SCALLOPS · MACRE PUMPKIN · SEA LETTUCE

From herein we realized what the pile of grains on the table was for. It’s quinoa, for table-quinoa-artwork of course.

12. PLAIN FOREST (135m)
AMAZONIAN SHRIMP · CECINA · BELLACO

This foam was actually somehow incredibly delicious.

13. ANDEAN WOODS (2980m)
LAMB · OLLUCO · SHEEP’S MILK

This lamb was pretty darn tender! I’ve never really tasted anything quite like this, since the sauces gave it such a different flavour!

14. AMBER FOREST (240m)
YACÓN · RUGOSO LEMON · COFFEE

Lemon + coffee beans = ❤️

15. GREEN MOUNTAIN RANGE (2100m)
CACAO · CHACO CLAY · COCA LEAVES

Frozen mint, jelly and some sort of sweet creamy thing. Wasn’t a huge fan of this “dessert”

16. MEDICINAL PLANTS (1600m)
CONGONA LEAVES · HUAMPO GEL · KJOLLE FLOWERS

We initially didn’t order anything for Toddler since we thought we would share with her. It took us just shy of four courses to realize that she was not going to have any of it. Long story short, we ordered her some pasta and there is no way we could have made it through our 3 hour lunch otherwise.

Halfway through lunch I began to feel a little queasy. After having read more than enough Poo Poo Peru stories, my mind began racing… They served us basically everything that the internet said to avoid. Some dishes were just so bizarre and different from anything I’d ever had. I comforted myself a bit and remembered that we were in a world-class, top 5 restaurant… after all, how bad could it be?! A few courses later, the feeling subsided, and I’m happy to say that, in the end, we survived. 🙂

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