Review: Central

4 July 2016

I was still stuffed from that lovely lunch at La Picantería, but had to get ready for dinner. Tonight was another highly-anticipated dinner, the much-heralded Central. It’s constantly listed as one of the best places to eat in South America, though sometimes I fear the hype. That 50Best list has come up with some massive duds over the years, and this year’s list (which I had seen after I made all the bookings) were no different. Central was #4 in the world this time…

I got to Central a little early and it was pretty bad form for them to make us wait outside in the rain. But when time came, they opened up and got people re-distributed and seated. I think they separate people who had different menus? But I was downstairs and had a nice table with full view of the kitchen at work. Ah, relaxing now…especially with cocktail in hand…

A coca, berry and pisco cocktail, how nice to start this meal! And what’s good to see is the service seems to be very smooth here, which is a pleasure to see after a few odd service days in Colombia — such as at Criterion. But there was a loud American group making quite a lot of noise upstairs, and I’m so glad I’m not up there. Clapping and lauging at a joke? What’s next, whooping? It’s a fine dining restaurant, folks, not an Applebee’s…

Anyway, as the cocktail ended the food began. First up, the snacks…

01-sargassum-limpet-crab

The first one didn’t work too nice as the crab flake broke, although it tasted quite nice with limpet cream. Wee sour, but good. Next up, a cute cracked tray for the trio of avocado.

02-avocado

Nice, from the puree in the croqueta to the chilli-crusted, a nice bunch of morsels for the remainder of the cocktail. The skin-turned-bread is also a fun touch here. Good stuff! A local white poured and we move to more snacks.

03-corn

This is a tasting of corn, the crunch is nice with a touch of sweet in the morsel on the left. The cream on the right is nice, a good balancing combination of sweet and sour. Nice, lovely corn flavours come out very well here. Next up is a duo that confused me a little.

04-05-yacon-snails

On the left is the yacón, or the Peruvian ground apple, which was very delicious — though the plating was very confusing…or disturbing… On the right I can’t make it out, it’s supposed to be snails on the crispbread…it comes through the flavour, but… Well that was interesting!

BTW this is the last trip using this terrible Galaxy S5 camera, I do apologise for these not-so-good photos… We move into another phase with the bread service…and the aroma is intoxicating…(literally?)

06a-bread

The potato cake was okay, the tunta flake too, but the star was the bread in the centre being smoked by coca leaves…I ate some of it, but left it, knowing the smoke will go more into the bread the longer it waits…so I saved it… Then a Mosel riesling is poured and we move onto clams.

07-clam-cucumber

Oddly the star of this dish are the cucumbers. I actually used them to make mini tacos with the clams, lol. Worked really well all the flavours. The next dish is one that could have been so amazing but…

08a-tubers

It’s a tasting of Amazon tubers. Fabulous flavours on them, but I really wish there was more! Too thin to really appreciate their flavours! It left me really wanting, especially as they left this on the table as a demo…

08b-tubers

Oh my, I really wish there was more. Oh well, that was nice tho. Oh by the way that was paired with a barley and quinoa based stout…

So far this has been quite good. Not as good as Leo in Bogotá, but quite good. We get a sparking from Catalunya and move to the next dish — paiche.

09-paiche

The fish is lovely here, though the cream is a bit heavy (hidden below) for this dish. The quality of the fish is excellent. We move on and the next item is the scallop.

10a-scallop

Mmm, these are surprisingly good. I was told they come from the north. Even better than the one I got at Criterion the other night, the sweetness was not subtle here, it just naturally sprung out. I’m very surprised by the quality of the scallops here in South America, they are fabulous! Switching to an Italian white, we have some odd octopus…

11b-octopus

This is a bit tricky here, as you can’t really see them below this, but it’s pretty solid stuff. The chips were interesting, through the sauce was strong for them. Good stuff. Again, a lot of solid dishes, few are mind-blowing, but all solid so far. But next up was the weak dish of the night, the chicken.

12-chicken

Even with a nice wine from Languedoc couldn’t save this dish, sadly, The chicken was boring, the cream was stifling. A very, very mediocre dish. All the other stuff in the cream, from nuts to tapioca, didn’t survive the brutal creaming…too bad. Oh well, it happens.

Next up was a dish that scared me a bit, as I am known to not be a fan of that thing everyone likes…no, not kale (I love kale), but quinoa…

13c-veal-quinoa

It’s actually a veal dish, and the veal is ridiculously tender and quite good. The quinoa is surprisingly good, and the visuals are a huge one here. A wee flake on the side (sorry, my photo of it is real bad) didn’t add much. But as I ate more into this dish, I kept tasting a misplaced egg yolk…was it just me or what? Tasted odd. Anyway, a good dish, and the last savoury of the night.

I took a breath and tried to chill before the dessert courses come. It’s been very good, again not mind-blowing, but very good. Oh, if I didn’t mention, I kept eating that bread through the dinner until it was gone. The smoke did indeed permeate it more and more, and it tasted better the longer I left it. The bread was fantastic, one of the highlights of the night. Then we start…

14-apple

This is a nice combination of rose apple and lemongrass and many other things, loving the exotic fruits being used also. That’s one of the best parts about being down here is getting these wonderful fruits. The next dessert too…

15-cacao-lucuma

This one features the lucuma, alongside cacao. Fabulously rich chocolate here… Excellent, one of the top desserts of the year. Then next came all the remainder of the menu…

16-17-roots-chocolate-potato-cocoa

On the really nice but somewhat disorienting dish are a few treats, from chamomile gel to chocolate. On the frozen chunk (yes, it’s frozen) is a potato chip with cocoa — with a nice bit of coconut water. I ended up drinking the entire bottle it was so refreshing… That and a coffee (and of course the Pedro Ximenez pair), and we finish this nice dinner.

I was full at the finish. The food was excellent. Nothing really stood out as blow-me-away stuff, but it was excellent overall. Balanced. Nowhere as good as Leo tho, I have to say, even with the use of rare local ingredients. Was good to chat with chef Virgilio Martínez Véliz a bit during the service, he came out to chat with me twice — which was nice. We talked about his Michelin-starred restaurant in London as well, Lima*. I finished and paid a hefty amount for the meal and headed out reasonably happy.

Maybe not #4 in the world, but it’s good, and easily one of the top places in South America. Talented chef, solid service, excellent ingredients — this is why people like the place. Well-deserved reputation.

I nearly broke my neck a few times walking back to the hotel as the pavement here is ridiculously slippery when wet. Got back and chilled, happy with my Lima food adventures so far!

Central
Santa Isabel 376, Miraflores
Lima, Perú

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2 thoughts on “Review: Central

  1. Pingback: Review: Maido | melhuang1972

  2. Pingback: My Top 10 Dishes of 2016 | melhuang1972

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