There are certain restaurants that I always return to when I have the chance. Central is one of them so whenever I am in Lima I will book at least one table. Eating at Central is an all consuming experience where Virgilio takes you on a trip covering 17 altitudes and ecosystems covering rainforrest, high mountains and costal climate. The menu will off course change quite often, but the same route through Peru is used for all menues.
With 17 dishes the menu off course starts with a series of snacks where the presentations off each dish is usually a work of art in its self.
A small pre menu snack. Razorclam and musseljuice.
Rock Mollucs -10 m
Sea snail, barnacle sargassum limpet. The first ecosystem was a crispy “chips” with a topping of sea snails and mussels. With a soft taste of the sea, it was fresh and delicious
Dessert Plans 180 m
Huarango, cactus and sweet potato leaf. A delicious cold and refreshing cactus, dried sweet potato formed like a leaf and to finish it off a cold loche drink. Especially the cold cactus was delicious.
Lofts Andes 3900 m
Potato, shaver dried alpaca heart and muna mint. A very light potato “cooked” inside clay like the locals do it high up in the Andes. Here served with a muna cream and shaver dried alpaca heart. I still love this dish. Serving something so simple and down to eart at a restaurant at this level takes guts.
Thik Stems 3400 m
Olluco, chincho, onions, field mustard. This “bite” is still one of my all time favorite dishes The crispy and sweet onion and the cold “butter” filling creates a dish that is perfectly balanced in flavours, textures and temperature.
Waters of Nanay 450m
Piranhas, cocona, anchiote, humpo bark. One of the best presentations of a dish I have ever seen. Then again having a piranhas as a possibility is pretty unique. The fried piranha skin in it self is not spectacular. The deepfried piranhas were off course delicious.
Forest Cotton 300 m
River shimplí, llanten, huito, pacae. A quite delicate dish consisting of 3 servings. A fluffy “shrimp cotton piece”, a shrimp taco and a juice to end with. Lime was a recurring theme in this dish. Especially the fluffy cotton was quite good.
High Jungle 1900 m
Macambo, cassava, copoazu, air potato. Off course the bread serving at Central is something else. For me the highlight of these were the small almost arepa like piece of bread with the browned butter. So smooth and delicious.
Marine Soil 0 m
Sea urchin, pepino melon, razor clam, seaweed. One of my personal favorites at Central. The sea urchin in Peru are quite mild compared to those you usually get in Northern Europe, so served with juicy sweet melon the combination is very good.
Tree Points 1200 m
Avocado, kiwicha, arracacha, lake algae. It seems that Tree Points represent the bitter dish and often uses warm avocado. Last time I went to Central I didn´t enjoy this particular dish and even though I preferred this version with the algaes and beautifull quinoa it will never be my favorite.
Land of Corn 2010 m
The Land of Corn is however one of my favorites. The crispy corn, rich umami sauce and small corn “meatballs” is just such a great combination and the first umami rich dish where the previous have been very light and focus on seafood.
Amazonia plain 600 m
Churo, cenina, Black chili pepper, bellaco.
Coastal harves 20 m
Scallops, yellow chili pepper, milk, tumbo. This is one of my favorite dishes at Central. The light and airy “crisp”, the heat from the chili and the scallops are just just a delicious combination. Cutting through the crisp to find the scallops and yellow chili sauce is just such a delight.
Sea Coral -10 m
Octopus, crab, saudi, sea letttuce. It seems that octopus is a bit of a theme for me this year. Big pieces of octupus insie a crispy cage served with a green rich sauce with taste of the sea made for a both beautifull and delicious dish.
High Andes Mountains 4100 m
Pork, Black maswha, magre, kaniwa. Safe to say that at this point I was quite full making it hard to make a Real impact.
Humid Green 3700 m
Caigua, cushuro, sweet lemon, chaco clay. After 2,5 hours of eating it was time for dessert. Off course it was a very beautifull one with what I remember to be a fruity ccushuro sorbet” and rich cacao. In Europe “red berries” and cacao always goes well together and the cushuro is the Peruvian version of this.
Amazonia White 400 m
Cacao, chirrimoya, bahuaja, taperiba. I think all South American chefs loves working with cacao and Virgilio is definently no exception. The next dish was yet another cacao dessert, but this time in a sweeter version. At this point unfortunately it didn´t leave a huge impression.
Medicinals and plant Dyes 3050m
Congos, matico, malva, pilipil. All meals at Central finishes with different medicinal plants to help with the digestion after a long meal. At this point these small drinks and gels feels good to have and nice to end the meal on a very light note.
With this being my 4 visit I am starting for feel more familiar with the cooking style of Virgilio and some of the classic uses of spices and chillies that are used in classic Peruvian cuisine and off course also at Central. Similar this was the first visit where I actually got a dish that I had tried before. The experience was a combination where the familiarity gave a nice relaxation while still full of surprises as Virgilio pushers boundries of modern gastronomi.
An issue for Central and basically all Peruvian restraurants and probably also most other latin American restaurants is the winepairing. As the prices are generally less than half of that of a similar European restaurant the wines are generally just not up to the same standard as this is simply not possible at that costs. Maybe two winemenues could be an option for those tourists who don´t mind paying similar to that of a wine menu in Europea or America to get a pairing that matches the same quality as the food. In my mind this is the one thing that is messing to make the experience complete and maybe make it possible for Central to take the final step up to nr. 1 on The Worlds 50 Best list.
2018 is bound to be a very exiting year for Virgilio and his wife Pia as Central is moving to a new location in Lima, they are opening a restaurant outside Cusco and Pia is opening her own more laid back restaurant Kjolle. Whether or not I will be back in Peru only time will show, but knowing me I will eat at atleast one of them.