Central restaurant in Lima, Peru
Cris Bouroncle—AFP/Getty Images


Lima, Peru

Run by Virgilio Martínez and chef Pia León, a husband and wife duo, Central’s goal, Martínez says, is to help diners “understand what we see in nature.” To that end, the tasting menu travels through Peru and each course features ingredients that grow together in an ecosystem at a particular altitude: ­scallop and seaweed from the ocean, piranha and yuca from the Amazon, or goat and olluco (a tuber that looks like a potato) from the Andes. Diners have been wowed by the food—so much so that Central, which opened in 2008, just moved to a new location and opened several spin-offs. While the menu may at times seem overwhelming—it features some 230 ingredients, including little-known stuff like cushuro (a caviar-like cyanobacterium), chaco clay and yacón root—Martínez promises that guests are in good hands. “We know what to do, how to be with the unknown,” he says. —Merrill Fabry

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