Whether you are flying into Lima to get to Cusco / Machu Picchu, or using it as a launching pad for visiting other parts of Peru’s diverse ecosystem, you will likely have a day or two to explore the growing city. What you may not have known is that in recent years, the city has evolved into the gastronomic center of the country, and is now the home of two of the top 10 restaurants in the world (yes, the world – check out the rankings here). Given the restaurant list spans across the far reached of the globe, we knew we had to take advantage of the opportunity to try both while we were in Lima. Hence, after booking our flights to Peru earlier this year, we started saving up, and once we were about a month out, we made sure to book our tables at both Central (No. 6 in the world) and Maido (No. 7 in the world). What will follow is an account of our meals, my opinion of the experience, and a lot of photos.
Calle Santa Isabel 376, Miraflores, Lima
+51 1 242 8515
A quick debrief on Central – started by the husband-and-wife Chefs Virgilio Martínez and Pía León, it is designed to be an embodiment of all that is Peruvian. After travelling to the far reaches of the country for several years, the Chefs have been able to source interesting and unique produce from land, sea, and mountain. The menu is fixed (as expected), and you can choose between a 12-course (549 soles / $163 pp) or 16-course (575 soles / $171 pp), and although we had a flight to catch and were relegated to the shorter course, I would say the extra $8 would be worth the premium to get an additional 4 dishes from the world-class restaurant. With that said, the 12-course provided plenty of food, and we both walked away quite full from the meal.
The decor was clean and understated, and the ambiance matched the intended vibe. Rather than the hustle and bustle usually associated with an open kitchen, a calm serenity pervaded throughout the dining hall. Before the meal began, and with each course, a member of the staff walked over to explain the dish and provide helpful hints on how to eat the food (helpful for dishes where entire piranha heads were given). Now brace yourself, the food pics are coming.
The above dishes were just 5 of the 12 courses we received, and ones that I thought were most unique and beautifully plated. The element we loved is that with every course, there was a theme – that drew upon the ingredient’s source ecosystem and almost always combined multiple textures to deliver the flavor. Although it was a dessert, “Mountain Rain” (green moss-like bowl) was one of my favorites; where something so simple as the ice chip garnish really brought to life the dish and the name. Adding a few more pictures below for your browsing pleasure.
Final Verdict: Honestly, we couldn’t have asked for anything more. Our anticipation and expectations were well met with creative dishes, and the flavor profiles were both innovative and on point. Quality and attentive service didn’t hurt either. We fully recommend visiting Central if you are in Lima – you won’t regret it.
399 San Martin Street, Miraflores, Lima
+51 1 447 7554
A quick debrief on Maido – started by Chef Mitsuharu ‘Micha’ Tsumura, who is a Lima-born Peruvian Nikkei (Japanese descent), the restaurant seeks to offer a unique Japanese-Peruvian fusion, with a key focus on seafood. The “Nikkei Experience” fixed menu offers ~10 dishes (varies throughout the year), and is priced at around 450 soles pp (or $130-140 pp). The restaurant is in the middle of the Miraflores district and could almost be confused for a nice condo unit if it weren’t for the “bouncer” outside and the small Maido signage. The interior ambiance is that of a hip, trendy, night-time lounge – and is a different world compared to Central. We opted to sit at the sushi bar as well, which gave us a great view of the action behind the counter.
Now about the food, I’m not sure if we were too excited or held the bar too high, but we walked away thinking it was just “decent”. Don’t get me wrong, from a pure objective basis, I think the quality and flavor profile was very solid – but when Maido is supposedly one of the top ranked restaurants IN THE WORLD, you just expect more. One of our greatest issues was how salty the dishes were. I’m usually not a big stickler for such things, but that night, it just was ubiquitous in so many dishes. I will say the dishes were very well presented.
Again, I want to reiterate that the courses were quite innovative and were unique in how they married the Peruvian roots with Japanese flair (or vice versa). And the restaurant was quite full, so definitely was popular with many visitors and locals. Below are a few more pictures of the rest of the dinner.
Final Verdict: Overall, it’s tough to say that we didn’t enjoy the meal, because we certainly did. But there were more misses in the lineup than we would have expected, and the salt content was a bit more than our palates preferred. If you are a fan of Asian fusion, Maido is worth a try, but if you only choose ONE top 10 restaurant in the world in Lima, I would point you to Central.