NOTE: I am not a food critic. This is not the Food Network. This entry was taken from the perspective of someone who wanted to experience dining in this restaurant that was ranked 5th in the world.
Since we booked our trip to Peru, other than Machu Picchu, it was evident that those who’ve visited this country raved about the food. During my research, I came across a blog entry that listed The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, not just in Peru, not in Central or South America, but in the world.
Three of the 50 best restaurants are in Peru. That caught my interest. If you know me well, you’d know that I’m all about the experience, the local food, the hole-in-the-wall type of places. But, the opportunity to dine in one of the world’s best….hmmm, the thought never crossed my mind.
Booking reservations at Central wasn’t the easiest. You can book directly via their website, and you’ll need to include your credit card information to hold your reservation. However, I wasn’t exactly the quickest one to book. I didn’t plan ahead. It wasn’t until a few days before our trip when I decided to book, and failed because this restaurant gets booked months ahead of time.
American Express Concierge, please help me
On Thursday, April 19th, I called American Express Concierge, a service available to me being an American Express Platinum card holder. The concierge had helped me get the best seats on Broadway’s Hamilton, and most recently, I received free Orchestra ticket upgrades when Frozen on Broadway began its run in February. I’ve never tried their service with booking restaurants, especially, one of the 50 Best Restaurants in the World. I was 5 days away from my trip, and I was basically asking for a miracle.
Amex Concierge took my request down, and promised to call me back by 6pm the next day. No promises due to the difficulty of the task. To make matters worse, I asked Amex to try and get me three reservations to 3 of the Best Restaurants in the World. Well, I’ve got news for you. Amex failed. They didn’t get 3 reservations. They got me 2 of the 3 best restaurants in the world. Hahahahahahahaha….thank you, American Express.
Since getting the reservation, I’ve talked to quite a few friends about our trip. They knew about Central, and mentioned the restaurant and how difficult it was to score reservations. I had told them that we had plans to dine at Central, and were shocked to hear that I got reservations. Well, actually, they weren’t shocked after all. If anybody could get seats at Central, it’d be DaddyTravels.
What to know about your booking at Central
Once they take your credit card information, you are also advised of the meal or dinner or lunch that you’d be having. You see, Central isn’t exactly just any other restaurant. It’s not a steakhouse, not exactly a seafood restaurant. There are no different menu items to choose from. It is quite popular for their 17-course tasting menu called Mater Elevation. We were given a time to dine at 7:45pm (that’s the time the restaurant opens for their dinner service).
The door promptly opened at 7:45pm (and not earlier). Upon entering, I saw the bar to the left and the main dining room straight ahead with the kitchen facing the dining room directly. Glass doors and glass walls divided the kitchen and the dining room. It was fascinating to see crew orchestrate a perfect symphony of dinner creations.
Mater Elevation – Central 17-course meal
The show began once we were seated. I am not going to even attempt to describe each of the 17 items. I would surely do it some injustice if I tried. I did take pictures of everything we ate, and have included the description per the menu. When you look at the menu, you’re not exactly looking at it to “order” the items at your leisure. It was meant for you to follow along. The waiters/servers described each of the 17 items.
The items came in serving plates or bowls, and were beautifully and carefully executed to describe the experience. Each item on the menu comes with a number to its right ( i.e. xxxx m). This tells you the elevation where the ingredients were taken from the highest above sea level, or right below sea level. This was not a place where you find a typical restaurant menu. Central focuses on ensuring that you get a “taste of Peru” and all the richness and goodness of the ecosystem in this country. It didn’t rely simply on the basic staple ingredients. Each flavor, each item, I must admit, were flavors I’ve never tasted in my life. It wasn’t an evening where I said, “Oh, that tasted like the one I had in New York City!” Nor, did I say, “I remember having this in Lisbon!” It was nothing like that. The presentation and the plating of the dishes were definitely a memorable experience. One thing to note, not everything was edible. Part of the description or narration provided by the servers included a reminder of what you can, and cannot eat. The plates had rocks, sea sponges, what not. It made me think of the environment that the ingredients were gathered from.
The 18th item not on the menu
At the end of the 17th menu item, we began to wind down, and out came another item with a candle. It was a birthday chocolate cake or brownie for Nancy. Thank you, American Express and Central for remembering.
The cost to eat at the 5th Best Restaurant in the World
This dining experience, Mater Elevation, the tasting menu of 17-course meal was worth $170 per person ($340 for me and Nancy). Pretty pricey? Not gonna lie…..it was. But, how many times in my life do I go to Peru. How many times in my life to do I get to dine in one of the Top 50 restaurants in the World?
Plus, this dining experience was a way for us to celebrate Nancy’s birthday. There was a wine pairing option, and we did not go with that. We drank distilled water during the entire ride and that was perfectly fine.
Shortly thereafter, we asked if we could see the kitchen and take pictures. Without hesitation, we were guided to the kitchen, met the staff and took a few pictures.
Virgilio Martinez, the master chef behind the goodness at Central was in Moray where he is now managing his new restaurant. It would’ve been great to see Virgilio.
I noticed that only those with a reservation were able to dine at Central. It took over three hours or more for the entire experience. Dining at Central wasn’t the kind of dining where you’d say, “I’m going to Central for lunch, I’ll meet you there!” It took some planning, and in this case, with a bit of connection and luck, many thanks to American Express Concierge for pulling off this last-minute booking.
If you have the opportunity to dine at Central, do so. It’s all about the experience, an experience I don’t get feel or taste everyday.