Every year, travelers wait for World's 50 Best lists to come out—and not just the master list, which reveals the best restaurants in the world every July (Geranium in Copenhagen took the top spot this year), but also regional awards that dive deep on Asia, Europe, the Middle East & North Africa, and—announced just last night—Latin America. For travelers who book their vacations around tasting menus and wine lists, these awards put a stake in the ground: these are restaurants really worth flying for.
At a ceremony in Mérida, Mexico, last night, chefs from all over Latin America gathered to hear the full list, waiting with bated breath for the number one to be declared. It's official: Central, in Lima, Peru, is once again the best restaurant in Latin America.
The best restaurant in Latin America: Central in Lima, Peru
Central, of Lima, Peru, is helmed by married chefs Virgilio Martínez and Pia León (she is also behind Kjolle in Lima, which is in eighth place on the list).
It's no huge surprise: the restaurant previously won the top award in 2014, 2015, and 2016, before losing the throne to Maido (Lima) and Don Julio (Buenos Aires) in recent years.
But ask anyone who has dined at Central if it deserves to top this list, and you'll hear resoundingly rave reviews. Set in the seaside district of Barranco, this Lima institution is at the forefront of modern Peruvian cuisine and has featured regularly on the likes of Chef's Table. The menu is a first of it's kind. Designed by Martínez and León, it takes diners through a dozen ecosystems of Peru; each dish uses endemic ingredients cultivated at a set elevation, from 10 meters below sea level to 3750 above, with a spotlight on heritage plants, herbs, and fruits that even most Peruvians have never heard of.
To represent 190 meters above sea level, for example, guests are served the oft-Instagrammed “Amazonian Water” dish, featuring watermelon, coca leaf, and whole heads of pacu fish (a jungle swimmer similar to the piranha), teeth baring up at diners. There's also “Blue - Green Ocean," at sea level, with fresh Pacific ocean scallops, sargasso (a type of weed that floats on the ocean surface), and cucumber. The menu then journeys high into the Andes, with the “Moray” dish (3600 meters above sea level) showcasing cabuya (an Andean maguey plant), muña (a medicinal plant known as Andean mint), and qolle (a marigold-hued flower). There's a simplicity to it all, with just three key ingredients per dish, yet each item on the menu tells the story of a unique part of Peru.