Central Restaurante – 2016 #4 Restaurant in the World, Lima

The second of the our reservations at two of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants was the #4 ranked restaurant Central Restaurant located smack in the middle of Miraflores (about half a mile from the apartment we were staying in). We opted to do a lunch reservation and brought along the newly engaged couple (C’s sister and her fiance) – it’s more fun to share with more people! The menu titled “Mater Ecosystems” provided each course with ingredients found at various altitudes.

We started with cocktails – although wine or juice pairings were also an option (we didn’t notice the juice pairing until well into the meal – whomp, whomp – it would have been fantastic). While I can’t recall the exactly, but I think what I ordered was the Pisco Torontel · Aperol · Elderflower Tonic.

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Spiders on a Rock -5M (Sargassum, Limpet, Crab) Our first course consisted of a thin crisp (cheese?) with a crab meat filling set on what could be a rocking coast line.

Valley of the Tree 230M (Avocado, Panca Chili Pepper, Paico) The second course came with avocado in three forms, the first beings fresh chunks of avocado covered in Panca chili pepper. The next being a piece of crunchy brown bread with avocado mousse and edible flowers (beauty through adversity). And lastly an avocado puree covered with petals on a softer sponge.

High Jungle 860M (Yucan, Baston, Bark) This course was not necessarily my favorite. It’s wasn’t bad or not tasteful but maybe seemed that they had been cold too long – almost with a frozen interior (which lent nothing to being able to taste the flavor). It’s always great to try new vegetables, but I was hoping for more with this.

River Scales 180M (River Snails, Gamitana, Sangre di Grado) As the name says, this course was river snails – not something I would have picked out on my own likely, but the snails were sliced very thin and arranged on thin crisp (which did get stuck in my teeth), so the flavor was mild and relatively enjoyable for being my first time eating river snail.

Andean Plateau 3900M (Tunta, Annato, Coca) This was the bread course – a dense corn type bread, a thin bubbly crisp, and bread cooked/smoked in coca leaves (not pictured). Two spreads – a browned butter and a tomato salsa/condensed puree?

Marine Soil -21M (Clams, Sweet Cucumber, Lime) Despite my general dislike of clams and mussels, I really enjoyed this dish. The clams were thinly slices with a great citrusy sauce and covered with seas cucumbers. Yes, sea cucumbers and they were probably the best part about this (sweet and crispy, delicious).

Extreme Stem 2875M (Oca, Mashwa, Elderberry) Another fantastic course – basically the potato or root vegetable dish. Thin starch paper, translucent potatoes, and then potato bites I think look like olives – all with an elderberry sauce that I could drink plain if that was acceptable.

This is what the potatoes look like when whole – Peru has over 300 varieties of potatoes. Being raised on potatoes in Minnesota, I would love this type of variety.

Close Fishing -10M (Octopus, Coral, Barquillo) I know I’ve been saying that almost every course was a really good course, but this was probably my favorite. Grilled octopus, or just octopus in general, is not something I never thought I’d say I like – especially since I’ve tried it more than a few times and could never get over that rubbery texture. Well this octopus was incredible tender and easy to eat (the roasting smell wafted through the restaurant throughout our meal – I probably drooled every time). The coral was made from egg white and also set with a crispy corn chip (?). And once again the sauce was amazing and I can’t find a way to describe it other than that – amazing.

Let’s try and get as close to the sauce as I can, because maybe that will help me smell it again. Seriously though, someone needs to invent a way to trigger smell recall in our brain (or capture it in a camera like device for posterity).

Low Andes Mountain 1800M (Quinoas, Beef, Airampo) Now clearly the photo above is not beef because I opted for the vegetarian option for this. Lime cream (or was it quinoa milk), balls of goodness (black quinoa?), green and blue powders (blue-green algae?)- I actually had no idea what I was eating but it was damn good and incredibly rich. Although after some other research into their vegetarian menu I think it might be the Altiplano and Lake (Black Quinoa and Lime Cream) or Psuedocereal (Andean grains, ciagua, chili pepper, airampo).

I snagged a picture of C’s beef dish – also set in quinoa with shaved beef heart – yep. And apparently it was tasty. All three other dinners thought it was potentially their best course. The airampo gives some of that bright red color.

Green Highlands 1050M (Lucuma, Cacao, Chaco Clay) Now for the first of the desserts – a chocolate ice cream with lucuma cookie (but not quite a cookie – crisp?), and white chocolate with clay curls. Seriously freaking good.

Valley Between the Andes 2190M (Roots, Sanki, Sacha Inchi) Our last dessert course included a camomile type gelatin square and what we thought were chocolate candies.

Well, the thin chips were chocolate but the others had a gel texture with a liquid center. Still good.

Solar Mucilage 200M (O.I. Water, Theobromas) Our last course and palate cleanser (at least for me) was basically sun water. I thoroughly enjoyed the slightly sweet, acidic, salty, beverage while it wasn’t really anyone else’s favorite (more for me!). I never knew water could taste like that but is was weirdly addicting.

All in all we had a fantastic experience – which is exactly how I view these types of restaurants. You come for the food and are slapped in the face by the experience. The only thing I might change is to ask for a better lighting table next time. (…My eyebrows completely disappeared in the photo above because of the lighting – and it was a constant battle to not get shadows over my food pictures.)

Dream trip, dream food.


Peru: Lima

Welcome to Lima, this very sunny, foggy/smoggy, 9 million bodied capital city of Peru on the Pacific Coast. We arrived here in the middle of the night our first night and were at once smacked in the face by the humidity and traffic. We spent one full day in Lime before our excursion to Cusco and then returned for another almost week. Our first day is not really worth mentioning as we spent most of the day trying to figure out our SIM card situation for our phones – very different than Europe or the US, and realizing just how lost we were with the language barrier.

While we made our way into a couple of the other more up scale neighborhoods of Lima (San Isidro and La Molina) we stayed in a fantastic AirBnB apartment in Miraflores. Not being as adventurous we did stick to primarily tourist or expat areas. One things I will note is that it was much hotter (mainly because of the 90% humidity) than I thought and there is definitely not AC everywhere – I was also battling on and off travelers illness. I definitely missed my dry desert climate.

The second week back we stayed nearer to the beach and lots of fantastic restaurants – two coming up, the current #4 and #14 restaurants in the world. We spent much of the week as we do most vacations walking around, exploring, all while waiting for the next meal.

Here are just some snaps of our time in Lima.

Parque Kennedy in Miraflores – also home to (likely) hundreds of feral cats that appear to be well fed and just lounge in the sun all day.

The typical breakfast – three classes of beverages (water, tea, and juice), some sort of egg, and bread or toast.

The central government square – Plaza de Armas. After which we also stopped at the catacombs (but no pictures were allowed).

The cutest coffee shop – Arabica, which we finally stopped in for a beverage our last day.

The best breakfast arepa (sandwich) at Arepa Cafe Miraflores. Owned by a very friendly Venezuelan guy who lived in Miami for a while previously.

Of course you can’t talk about Peru without mentioning the ceviche. I’m totally sold.

We had a fantastic seafood dinner at Alfresco.

After a walk along the beach we stopped in for milkshakes. Maybe not the best idea for someone with moderate lactose intolerance, but it was tasty.

A tremendous plate of meat from Rustica.  And yes, those are chicken kidneys and hearts.

Our last lunch of the trip all together was spent at Amaz. Lots of good food that I probably can’t remember everything at this point. I do however remember being all fished out. I didn’t even know that could happen, but after so many meals from the sea I was ready for some land mammals.

We have casava, chicken rolls, and pork with rice.

All in all an amazing trip and I can’t wait to see more of South America!


Peru: Machu Picchu

Sunday morning we were up and on our way to Machu Picchu! Ever since my 8th grade geography class this has been a place on my bucket list. Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century, which doesn’t actually seem that old to me considering the ancient Greeks and Roman were 2,000 years or more ago. The Incan empire itself only  lasted about 100 years (amazing how much they did in that 100 years). Machu Picchu was never found by the Spanish and was only rediscovered to the Western World in 1911 by Hiram Bingham.

From our hotel in the Sacred Valley, we hoped on a van that brought us to the train station at Ollantaytambo, where we boarded the Peru Rail Expedition train to begin out 1.5 hour journey to Aguas Caliente which is the town at the base of the climb to Machu Picchu. Once in town, we momentarily lost our guide and then boarded a bus to take us to the top.

As you can see, Machu Picchu is one happening place – tours in many different languages all over. While there were a lot of people and potentially frustrating for getting a good shot without someone wandering through, once past the entrance area it wasn’t so bad. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t have enough time to climb Huayna Picchu (the peak across) on this trip.

With fear that my scalp was going to burn for the 3rd tim on this trip I bought a Machu Picchu/Peru hat. And without planning, it matched my shirt for the day! For the “hiking” portion of our trip we opted to bring along our camelbacks, which was an excellent idea for always having clean water.

This place really is spectacular.

We ventured along one of the ancient Inca trails to this bridge. Not sure if you can see this perfectly, but beyond the bridge (which is probably no more than 18-24 inches across), the trail climbs up, up, up to stairs that continue up the mountain. These trails cling to the mountain side and are typically only wide enough for one person or a llama – talk about scary for those ancient Incas.

We continued our tour back into the Room of Three Windows. And to tour some surrounding structures. Portions of Machu Picchu are in continuous rebuild or repair to give visitors a better idea of what it might have looked like when inhabited 500 years ago.

As a little side note on the Incas and their Peruvian descendants – they have crazy good eyesight – they could make out distant rock formations with impressive detail, and they are fantastic, sure footed long distance runners (altitude is not a problem). Really the only reason they don’t win more Olympic races is that their legs, and therefore their strides, are shorter (comes with living in the mountains I guess rather than the savanna).

Once back down the hill, we stopped for lunch at Toto’s and some shopping in Aguas Caliente.

Walking by this stream that cuts through the center of town, it really did seem like some sort of fairy tale retreat. Like a place I could get lost in for a while, just cut myself off… other than the 4G cell service I got all around town. Foot bridges criss crossed high above while there is the ever present sound of rushing water. Rivers, mountains, all ever green – I could be happy here.

That afternoon we boarded our train back toward Cusco, 2 hours by train and then another 1 hour and 45 minutes by bus since that train was no longer running all the way to Cusco. We finally arrive tired and starving once again to our Eco Inn in Cusco for the last night before heading back to Lima.

Read more about Cusco here.


Peru: Cusco

After about a three week hiatus, I’ve been struggling to decide where to begin. There’s so much to tell, especially in relation to food and also just the jaw dropping beauty of nature bursting at its seams.

Maybe to begin I’ll say – at the end of April we spent 10 days in Peru, some was heart burstingly grand and others was gut wrenching, umm, well just physically that.

Although we started our adventure with a day in Lima I think the best for this recap is to start in Cusco and then work back to the food in Lima. (All foodies will want to stay tuned.)

After some flight delays, we arrived in Cusco to hit the ground running which actually made no time for lunch (needless to say, C was not thrilled since we left our apartment at 7am and really didn’t get a meal until 9pm that day). This is the main reason I don’t exactly have any stellar food reviews for Cusco is that we hardly had a chance to eat during that whole 4 day tour. We opted for a tour in Cusco and Machu Picchu since we were a group of 6 and no one really wanted the hassle of arranging all of the travel (at least I certainly didn’t).

We began with a tour of the Basilica Cathedral and some ancient sites around Cusco (Qorikancha, Saqsayhuaman, Tambomachay). The basilica was neat, but after seeing some of the most grand cathedrals and basilicas in the world on previous travel,  I was a little too hangry and also out of it from the coca tea at this point to fully appreciate it. Photos were not allowed inside.

It was interesting to see some of the Incan remnants in Cusco and how the Spanish tried to build over them… The Spanish were not the greatest at making structures that would last in an area with so much seismic activity. Basically the Incan structures still stand with no natural damage while the colonial structures are continually in need of repair.

We drove up to the top of the hill surrounding Cusco to see Qorikancha and Saqsayhuaman. I couldn’t resist trying a little yoga, but the spot I picked was really, really rocky and uneven – not ideally for trying to balance with shoes on.

Most of our small group for Cusco below. For this trip we tagged along with C’s sister, her fiance and his family.

We awoke early-ish again the next day to start heading to the Sacred Valley and places along the way.

We went to a weaving factory (actually two, one the night before as well, but I didn’t get pictures I was so exhausted) where they showed us how they use naturally dyes to color the wool. I thought it was pretty neat and bought some woven items.

Neat we traversed a but of dirt roads to find our way to Moray where we learned about the microclimates the Incas set up for farming – to get an idea for scale, each tier is about 5-6 ft tall. This is one of three.

We went to the Maras Salt Mine, although calling it a mine is a little misleading, they’re more like salt pools. They fill all of the pools with salt water from a spring and then allow the water to evaporate leaving the salt behind which can then be collected. Pools are owned by different families in the village and they typically farm during the waiting time and throughout the year for additional income.

We went to Ollantaytambo to climb another Incan temple and observe some of their grain storage across and town below. The religious site itself was never completed as it was interrupted by the Spanish and was abandoned as the Incas fled.

That night we stayed in the Sacred Valley at Sonesta Posadas del Inca Sacred Valley Yucay which was a beautiful spa like retreat. It reminded me a lot of our stay in Ojo Caliente. You could stay there for a week without ever having to leave – bar, coffee shop, breakfast and dinner restaurant, spa services, and even art and babble vendors. I wish we could have stayed longer.

While at Sonesta Posadas here are a few food pics I managed to snap – cheese plate and Pisco Sour at Happy Hour and then Manicotti for dinner.

After our night in the Sacred Valley, we were ready to awake the next day to head to Machu Picchu.

More to come!!