A journey through the elevations tasting menu at Central
Much has been said of Peruvian cuisine: that thanks to pioneers like Gaston Acurio, it has made its mark on the world stage in terms of fine dining, that it puts the spotlight on the Andean region’s unrivalled biodiversity, or even that thousands of potato varieties can be found in Peru (and naturally, in its flavorful cuisine).
For Chef Virgilio Martinez and his team of chefs and researchers, gastronomy is just another way of understanding the vertical geography of his country. In this way, the tasting menu at Central, his flagship restaurant based in Lima, ranked among the top five restaurants in the world, offers a culinary journey featuring flora and fauna from each elevation’s ecosystem. Ingredients range from the Pacific Ocean to the Andes, to the country’s high and low jungles, and even levels of extreme altitude. The Central kitchen thereby serves as a laboratory for experimentation as well as a storeroom for products that tell the stories of dozens of small farmers from all over Peru.
Keep reading for kriteria's visual tour through the Mater Elevations Tasting Menu, a comprehensive journey through 17 altitudes of Peruvian biodiversity, and perhaps one of the greatest contemporary expressions of Peru’s cultural heritage. centralrestaurante.com.pe
1. Rock molluscs
SEA SNAIL · MUSSEL · SARGASSUM · LIMPET
The shells pictured are not edible, but came accompanied by an algae crisp to be dipped in a mussel tartar with mollusc and sea snails.
2. desert plants
HUARANGO · CACTUS · SWEET POTATO LEAF · LOCHE
This dish consisted of three separate bites, we especially enjoyed the sweet potato leaf and the traditional Peruvian juice, leche de tigre, featuring an unusual herb called "verdolaga."
3. Mil Moray
POTATO · TREE TOMATO · ALPACA · MUÑA MINT
The server told us to dip the potatoes, which had been cooked on a bed of mineral salt rocks from the region of Maras, in a minty sauce covered in dehydrated alpaca heart shavings. At this point things were just starting to get interesting!
4. thick stems
OLLUCO · CHINCHO · ONION · FIELD MUSTARD
A tasty, potato-based duo consisting of a straw-like roll-up filled with a sweet mousse, accompanied by a tasty potato-based sauce. The 'olluco' is a type of Andean potato that comes in yellow, orange, pink and red, and it was brought with the dish to showcase its primary ingredient.
5. waters of nanay
PIRANHAS · COCONA · ACHIOTE · HUAMPO BARK
Yes, those are piranhas! No, we didn't actually eat the heads, but atop were served two strips of piranha skin, fished out of the river Nanay, and fried in oil flavored with achiote seeds. On top, dollops of citric cocona fruit sauce.
6. forest cotton
RIVER SHRIMP · LLANTEN · HUITO · PACAE
These are lentil fritters topped with shrimp. Not pictured, a cottony-textured pacae fish and a gingery broth for an extra kick.
7. high jungle
MACAMBO · CASSAVA · COPOAZU · AIR POTATO
The smoky coca bread was certainly a highlight of the meal, accompanied by an air potato crisp and butter-like condiments.
8. marine soil
SEA URCHIN · PEPINO MELON · RAZOR CLAM · SEAWEED
A fresh dish to start the next round of dishes and wash out the last's smoky flavor. The cucumber was delicious and almost sweet, while the signature taste of sea urchin pervaded the whole dish's flavor.
9. tree points
AVOCADO · KIWICHA · ARRACACHA · LAKE ALGAE
This dish presents a bite of tiny kiwicha grains, from the amaranth family, served with avocado, lake algae and arracacha, a tuber native to the Andes.
10. land of corn
KCULLI · PURPLE · CHULPI · PISCORUNTO
A potpourri of four different types of corn, including 'kculli' which is used to make the typical Peruvian 'chicha morada' drink.
11. amazonian plain
CHURO · CECINA · BLACK CHILI PEPPER · BELLACO
A foamy, scrumptious and savory part of the meal that reminded us almost of a warm soup, with a rather different consistency.
12. coastal harvest
SCALLOPS · YELLOW CHILI PEPPER · MILK · TUMBO
An unexpectedly satisfying milk crisp served with scallops, the traditional Peruvian yellow chili pepper sauce and sauce of tumbo, a fruit closely related to passion fruit.
13. sea coral
OCTOPUS · CRAB · SQUID · SEA LETTUCE
The sea coral dish definitely reminded us of the ocean, with octopus and crab topped with squid ink crisps and algae foam.
14. high andes mountains
PORK · BLACK MASHWA · MACRE · KAÑIWA
Baked pancetta marinated in a miso-like emulsion of black tubers, plated like a flower-covered forest bed. Need we say more?
15. amazonian white
YACON · COCONUT · WRINKLED LEMON
The first dessert features the crispy root vegetable yacon cofermented with brown butter sauce, served with coconut and lemon.
16. lower andes
CACAO · CHACO CLAY · CUSHURO · MUÑA
This dessert is all about chocolate! It may not look like it, but those gelatinous pieces are actually the viscous body that cover cacao beans.
17. medicinals & plant dyes
CONGONA · MATICO · MALVA · PILIPILI
A refreshing, herbal beverage eased us into the end of an unforgettable meal.
Address: Santa Isabel 376. Miraflores, Lima, Peru
Phone Number: (+51 1) 2416721 / 2428575 / 2428515
Follow them on Instagram: instagram.com/centralrest