Central Restaurante, Lima

We were fiscally irresponsible and went to another fancy lunch before we left Lima.
It was no. 50 on the
World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Central Restaurante, conveniently located for us in the Miraflores neighborhood.

We walked over for a late lunch and arrived at 2:30, sin reserva. We actually walked right past it at first, as this place didn’t have signage and was on a residential block, with just a man at the door.

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We got seated after not too long, and were served the breads above, with “black” (negro) butter with sea salt, organic extra virgin olive oil, another butter that was super rich and fatty tasting. The breads were made with some Peruvian ingredients, such as the purple corn and potatoes. Overall nice. We couldn’t help but compare it to Astrid & Gaston, and think their bread spread was much more diverse and impressive.

The restaurant was very modern, with an open kitchen behind glass, many employees up in a flurry of activity. The clientele looked like fancy people. There was also a family of 6 with some teens. The restaurant has a 3-hour tasting menu which you must book well in advance, which I hear is $$$$ – it would have been fun, but I don’t think Fernando can eat that much these days (his stomach shrunk with his weight loss and we sometimes joke he has the Lap Band).

The menu items were pricey! We are on sort of a budget (needed for a 5 week trip!), it was arbitrarily set at $50 USD/day total, but on such gastronomy days, it is out the window. We weren’t sure if we should order an appetizer plus 2 entrees. We were convinced to order the “hot ceviche” (Ceviche Caliente) which I had spied on the menu for a starter, but didn’t look at the price. It was the most expensive thing we ordered, at S/.75 ($28.50). They have as many appetizers as entrees on the menu, which ranges from S/.65-95.

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They kindly split it for us into 2 portions. We actually enjoyed the beginning and end of our meal the most. It was like a juicy shrimp and other seafoods in a tasty broth. It was served in mini copper pots and with 2 things that looked like coal, but was a yucca (I think) in squid ink. They like to serve food on pieces of stone (granite?). The plating of the food was part of the experience. Our waiter told us to dip the little “coal pieces” into the broth.

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Fern enjoying the Ceviche Caliente.

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Again, this place is about presentation and plating. Based on recommendations of our waiter, who spoke basic English, I ordered a fish dish. It was served with crab noodles, and he had a little vial of crab sauce which he uncorked and poured over my dish. It also came with a little copper pot of more crab noodles. The dish it came on looked like a water color art piece.

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Fern also ordered an Amazonian inspired fish dish. It had some Amazonian ingredients like red berries, which we didn’t know about. It was served with buttery mash potatoes, but local potatoes that were yellow and tasted different than we’ve had before.

Central’s menu was mostly seafood heavy, which was fine with us. They had this thing we thought about ordering, “21 Day Suckling Piglet” which I wasn’t sure what it meant – like maybe they cure or salt it for 21 days? Fern read the Spanish menu and he thinks it mean that the piggy is only 21 days old…oh no. The menu also had goat, beef short ribs, rabbit…something for everyone as long a you’re not a vegetarian and don’t eat fish.

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Fern and I shared our entrees, and we felt that it was good, but not great. So, we couldn’t figure it out. This place was recognized as one of the World’s 50 Best, but we just thought it was good. It was a bit of molecular gastronomy, and it was probably our first time trying this type of cuisine.

Was it like an artsy film, or experimental dance performance, that we just didn’t get? Or was it that we’ve “been around” and eaten quite a bit, that it just didn’t meet our expectations? One has to expect a lot from no. 50, right? It is getting harder and harder for us (a First World Problem) to have a really great dining experience these days. When someone tells us that something is supposed to be “amazing,” it can hardly ever be that for us.

We recall a dining experience at Wolfgang Puck’s CUT restaurant in Las Vegas (good place), place for steaks. We went for “Fernandopalooza,” Fernando’s 30th birthday celebration dinner. Fernando’s brother, Mauricio, was seated next to me, and when he took very his first bite of his steak, he was like “MMMMmmmm,” in dining ecstasy! We chuckled at him, and he said, “You DON’T understand, you guys eat so much (like good all the time, or something).” We envy him and that feeling, and it is hard for us to achieve that kind of ultimate dining ecstasy these days.

Another aside, I don’t think a “great dining experience” is 100% about the food. It is also about the company, the conversations, the service, and the food, in totality.

Back to this meal…so we were going a bit back and forth on whether to order dessert as we were 1) full, and 2) unsure if we should spend more on food that might be just good and not great. But we picked a few things and asked the waiter what he recommended of our choices. We settled on the cherimoya dessert with sheep’s milk (I wasn’t sure about that part, as I stay away from goat, sheep, Guinea Pigs (“cuy” in Peru), and Alpaca…but it was fine). It was a work of art! It was S/.28 ($10.64). They kindly split the dessert for us too.

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It was served on an extemely cold stone. The cherimoya was decorated with chia seeds and it looked like a leopard to me. The pink parts (some sort of sorbet?) reminded me of sea urchin or some sort of sea animal – I looked past that and ate. It was delicious! It made me want more cherimoya (which Tina & Raffi sort of introduced us to, thanks guys!), it was very fresh and sweet. I haven’t found cherimoya here in Brasil yet (Fern doesn’t think there is any here, but what does he know about all fruits, I say?), and that was our last day in Peru. It was an awesome way to end the meal.

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Unexpectedly, we were given this sweets spread at the end of our meal. While the portions of food weren’t huge, we were pretty full. The sweets came on creative plating, like stones and granite. We had tricolor marshmallows (not our favorite), chocolate truffles, and 50% and 80% chocolate.

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It was like art so we had to take photos of it!

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Overall, we thought Central Restaurante was good, not great. It was really creative food and visually appealing. It was however pretty expensive. After adding 10% tip, our total was $118 USD. Again, I think for the quality of food and compared to similar quality of dining in the US, it was still a value. However, I am not sure the price was worth it for us. But, we are glad we tried it and not we are back to being more fiscally responsible in Brasil (due to need, as things are pricey here!).

Update: A year later, Central quickly climbed from #50 to #15. Whoa!

 

 

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