Restaurant reviews

Central Restaurante: On the cutting edge

By Kim Allen-Jones

Central, Lima’s palace for innovative, high-end, high-tech cuisine, has unveiled a new tasting menu.

Central Restaurante: On the cutting edge

All photos by Marco Simola

This is the second time I have had the opportunity to write about Central for Peru this Week, and it continues to be my top pick for best restaurant in Lima. Chef Virgilio Martinez Veliz has just created a new tasting menu, which is even more exciting than the last. He is a master of the latest cooking techniques, and continues to take his culinary ideas to a level rarely seen in Peru.

Chef Virgilio’s passion for taste is apparent in his latest project. The restaurant has installed a water purification plant on top of the restaurant. The water is served at the restaurant under Central’s own label in recyclable glass bottles.

The first time I visited the restaurant, I knew I was some place special. The first tasting menu was amazingly good. The new tasting menu is outstanding; seven plates are savory and two are desserts. Sommelier Jose Miguel Burga will present a wine paring with the tasting menu for an additional $25 per person.

The menu at Central is not fusion. It’s Peruvian cuisine taken to the higher level. The chef uses all of his worldwide training and natural instinct to create dishes from local ingredients that are truly Peruvian. Abuela never cooked like this!

Every course is thoughtfully prepared starting with the assortment of four different breads served accompanied with different salts (including one that is colored with edible blue ink), seasoned butters, Spanish olive oil, and aji goat cheese spread. The starter for the tasting menu is tartar of scallops dressed with sauce of leche de tigre and cocona fruit that is poured by your waiter. Served along side this plate is a dish of glistening roasted sweet potato cubes.

Fish from the jungle is served as a ceviche soup. Served with the soup are carefully cut towers of yellow potato hollowed out and filled with a parsley emulsion along with carbon de yucca. This blackened yucca is added to the soup to give the broth extra texture and a slight smoky flavor.

The chef uses the latest technique of sous vide cooking to prepare several of the main plates. With this method, foods are cooked in vacuum sealed packages at low temperature for a long period of time. The result is a product that has not lost any juices so important to flavor during the cooking process.

The food also has a consistent degree of texture throughout. Because this method of cooking is relatively new and the equipment is expensive, not very many chefs have the skill or opportunity to work with this type of cuisine.

Especially delicious is the sea bass with Thai flavors. The sea bass is cooked sous vide, pan seared on one side for color and texture; served in a sauce of coconut milk and mushroom garnished with a bright green scalloped shaped mould of gelatin lemongrass. A confit of XO-flavored onions and a dish of buttered rice finish the dish perfectly. This was the simplest looking plate with the most amazing flavor.

Also prepared sous vide is the baby goat. Cooked very slowly for 24 hours and than roasted, the goat comes out incredibly tender. This dish is served with a side dish of chickpea puree.

Every plate on the new tasting menu has something unique to surprise and delight. The desserts are no exception. Inspired by a popular East Indian treat, gulab jamun – fried sweet dough balls, they are served with drops of sweet Andean mint sauce, saffron sauce and a canelle of thick homemade yogurt.

From Indian street food the chef takes us to the height of sophistication with the Mandarin orange parfait. This elegant dessert combines mandarin mousse topped with a dark chocolate chiymoya filled bon bon pared with a scoop of chiymoya sorbet and garnished with cocoa nibs.

Of course, Central has a complete al a carte menu. Not on the tasting menu, but we ordered it anyway because we had to have it is the chocolate cava. Served on a cross section of tree trunk this dessert is a chocolate lovers dream.

Whether you are visiting Peru on vacation or live here full time, Central is a world-class dining experience you won’t soon forget.

The nine-plate tasting menu costs $80 per person.

Central Restaurante
Santa Isabel 376, Miraflores
Tel: 242-8515