Dining Review: Central Restaurant, Lima Peru

The second fancy restaurant that I ate at in Lima was Central, which has been lauded in numerous places, including San Pelligrino’s list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants (Central was number 15 in 2014). I made a reservation for 8pm, which is the first seating. Sounds late to me to have 8pm be the first seating, but that seemed typical in Lima, and everyone who was seated at 8pm was English-speaking (and rather casually dressed, although the restaurant is definitely upscale).

Also, apologies in advance for the bad pictures.

I had pre-ordered the tasting menu, so no regular menu was offered. The tasting menu is conceptually based off of different elevations of Peru and the ingredients found therein. The chef Virgilio Martinez Veliz definitely tries to introduce novel ingredients that are indigenous to Peru, which means I had never eaten a lot of the foods that I sampled.

Looking down on the main floor

Looking down on the main floor

Menu for the night

Menu for the night

The first four bites were bites from the sea, coast, mountains, and jungle. First bite was squid on top of a seaweed cracker, which had a fresh sea flavor without too much brine. The native corn was a completely unfamiliar flavor to me–it tasted vaguely like chicha morada. The creaminess of the corn contrasted well with the crisp crackers.

Squid on top of seaweed cracker; sweet potato with camomile

Squid on top of seaweed cracker; native corn

Yacon root covered with a bit of pepper was next. It was a bit like eating jicama with a little bit more of a peppery kick. The final bite was sweet potato with chamomile, which tasted like a fall harvest.

Yacon root

Yacon root; sweet potato with chamomile

The bread presentation was impressive. There was a cocoa leaf bread, cacuts fruit bread, and tuber bread served with toasted butter. The butter could have used a tad more salt, but it tasted almost like caramel without the sweetness.

Bread presentation

Bread presentation

Up next was scallops served in something crunchy like quinoa and a ceviche-like sauce with passion fruit and avocado. This was a solid course, with a good contrast of the crunch of the grain against the scallops, combined with the more familiar flavors of ceviche from the sauce.

Scallops in something like quinoa with a ceviche sauce

Scallops

The next course with octopus served in a soup with purple corn, olive, and limo chili. I enjoyed the octopus as it was grilled well and had some chew, and the soup was delicate with just a hint of heat at the end from the limo chili, but I didn’t really understand the other aspects of the dish.

Octopus with soup

Octopus with soup

The next course puzzled me. It was essentially like eating raw shrimp, which can be a wonderful experience (like at a good sushi bar), and it was creamy, but it was also stringy and slightly unpleasant. The frozen herbs were interesting on their own, but I wasn’t sure how this plate tied together besides the elevations theme.

Raw shrimp

River shrimp, native herbs

This course was similarly odd. It was like eating mashed potatoes with balls in it. Granted, the potatoes were tasty, but it didn’t seem like much beyond it. I also thought the other thing on the plate was a hunk of meat, but it was just a decorative root.

Mashed potatoes with balls

Frozen potato

The following course was my least favorite of the night. It was arapaima, which is a large freshwater fish native to the Amazon, but I did not enjoy it. This was just salty and chew and confusing, so much so that I didn’t finish the plate. The sauces didn’t add to the dish, and I didn’t enjoy the presentation.

Salty chewy

Arapaima; also, when did splatters become fancy food presentations?

Up next was lamb and things it eats/produces. The lamb itself was tasty and cooked well, but it was covered in an overpowering sauce. Some of the other elements on the plate helped to counter the richness of the sauce. This plate was too salty and sticky and crunchy.

Lamb with things it eats

Lamb

The first dessert was interesting, full of things I had never eaten and probably can’t pronounce. There was citrus and nuts and fruit, and each element was individually interesting, although I wasn’t sure how well they all went together.

Dessert #1

Dessert #1

The second dessert was chirimoya with cacao, which was simple, tasty, and cute.

Cherimoya with cocoa

Chirimoya with cacao

Finally, there was a selection of bonbons and a house-brewed drink. The bonbons were generally good; the drink had a somewhat unpleasant smell but a mostly pleasant taste. Mostly.

Bonbons

Bonbons

At the end of the meal, I received a lot of stuff. I’m not sure the point of it all, but it included cards representing each of the courses I had eaten and each elevation.

Lots of stuff

Lots of souvenirs

The chef also made rounds throughout the night to talk to each of the guests. He was very gracious.

The chef

The chef

Overall, I enjoyed my meal at Maido more than this one at Central. While both used novel ingredients (to me) and had interesting concepts, I felt like the food at Maido was generally more delicious while I was mostly left feeling puzzled at Central. The price point was also similar at 325 soles for the menu plus 7.50 for a small bottle of gassy water (the current Elevations menu appears to be 388 soles per person).

One thought on “Dining Review: Central Restaurant, Lima Peru

  1. Andy

    Came across this post and was a little confused that you were unsure what you received at the end – Martinez offered you knowledge. Something that is hard pressed for these days. I guess you do not fancy someone telling you about where your food comes from.

    Reply

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