The Peruvian restaurant again Central makes the whole country celebrate. the chefs Virgil Martinez Y pia leon traveled to the award ceremony of the 50 Best Latam 2022 in Yucatan, Mexico, where Central was named Best in Latin America. Provecho visited the local barranquino to know in depth the details of the Mundo Mater experience from the hand of his chef Virgilio Martínez.
Our purpose was to know and show what it looks like and what it feels like to live the experience of being in one of the most important restaurants in the world together with the ranked chef, a privilege that we can enjoy in Lima. Virgilio guided us on the trip through Mundo Mater, an exploration of 14 ecosystems in Peru, and with him we toured the heights, soils, and underwater landscapes of the country, as well as flavors that are as familiar as they are new.
From the entrance the experience begins. You cross the garden-orchard of Central, in Casa Túpac. This landscape keeps the flowers of different colors and species that in turn will decorate the dishes on the menus, as well as fruits, herbs, leaves and other plants that accompany the path to the entrance of the restaurant. We sit at the bar next to the kitchen where Virgilio began the explanation.
It is important to know that it is a guided trip of about 3 or 4 hours, depending on the time each diner takes to enjoy the dishes. Each step carries a recycled paper chart that indicates the color palette that will be seen at all times and represents the ecosystem in which it is located, in addition, you will have at hand the description of what the plates contain and the level of height above (or below) sea level from where the main products of the dish are extracted. The dishes, each one very particular and different from the others, are made by artists, which increases the visual richness that comes from the food itself and goes in harmony with the ecosystem of each step.
“The Mundo Mater menu begins at sea. We have clams, razor clams, crab, squid ink, squid body, they are preparations that in one step –or moment– we put three elaborations. The crab is beaten with the meat part, with the juice from the bones and the juice from the head. We pass the razors through spirulina”which gives it an intense blue color.
The second step travels towards the river with a raw shrimp tartare and loche squash stuffed with shrimp and squash skin. The third takes us directly to the Peruvian jungle with the textures of the flying potato (aerial tuber) and the visual enjoyment of the nuances of the yacon yogurt and its juice. “We make two masses and the idea is that you can dip them here,” says Virgilio, pointing out the textures made with the flying potato and the yogurt. And the fourth is a sample of the diversity of corn from the Sacred Valley, pigments and textures. This step includes elements such as kiwicha, sweet potato leaves, and crispy corn.
time to enjoy
Until now we have traveled ecosystems from 10 meters below sea level to 1350 m asl, according to the Mundo Mater menu. “We also do something interesting, which is to show the product so that people have a reference. I put the yacon so you can see where the juice comes from and so you can know it”, indicates Virgilio. In addition, cocoa, the belly of a paiche cured with achiote oil, flying potatoes, dried heads of pacú fish, corn, among other elements are shown throughout the tour to improve visual knowledge of the tour.
“We are at 20% of the menu”, affirms the chef as if to have an idea of the breadth of the steps and the number of dishes that each one contains. It is recommended to take the time to taste patiently: “In the kitchen we are always attentive because it is part of hospitality. You have to really know how people come, what they are coming for and if they are really in a hurry or not. Most come to have a good time”, since, in addition, the reservation implies several hours in the afternoon.
Sea, Amazon, soil and height
The next salty dishes until before the desserts will configure ecosystems located from 5 meters under the sea to 3750 m asl. the heights of our sierra.
The next step will work with the texture of the paiche. The skin of this huge Amazonian river fish is used to prepare a leather on which the paiche belly is served in its respective container. It goes with crispy mishquina, tucupí and jerky. Follow a dish based on razor broth with grouper, spicy and decorated with flowers from the garden of Casa Túpac and capers. This dish is more dynamic because it is served in a ceramic sphere that you must uncover to find the surprise dish.
The seventh step is made as follows: “This is a dish that we have taken from the sweet potatoes that we have in the front yard. What we are making is a crispy sweet potato leaf and the sweet potato skin. We used two sweet potatoes, one orange and one purple. Below you will find the shells that are raw, it is a cold dish”, describes Martínez.
The eighth step we submerge under the sea to taste a plate of hot octopus with two cooking. It goes with a seaweed cream, a crisp of the same seaweed, sea lettuce and codium (algae): “We do a game of textures and layers of flavors. You chew and you find something different; For example, here you will see the algae, you will taste and smell it; but, later, you will find a seaweed cream and below with the octopus”, explains Virgilio reinforcing the idea of showing a playful and experimental menu through colors, textures, designs and unexpected flavors that go in an unimaginable harmony .
We go up to the cold air of the highest ecosystem of this trip. A step related to the restaurant Mil, in Cusco: “Now, we work the potatoes and cook them in chaco (edible medicinal clay).” Also, this potato that is eaten by hand is served with cured beef and a beaten puree, for morada seca, an emulsion of herbs, muña and cushuro. Virgilio explains that the elements of this dish are closely linked to the Peruvian sierra, not only because of the potato, but also because of the green muña oil “to enhance the flavors of the grass, of the sierra.” It goes with some strings of egg yolk that cover the vessel where this dish is served. “Like you don’t know what you’re running into.”
The tenth step includes a freshwater fish from our jungle: the pacú. “We make a salad with the pacú, we put a sauce of coconut milk, chili pepper and watermelon. Macambo on top, granadilla, cocona and tree tomato or sachatomate”, indicates Virgilio who also uses the dried heads of the pacú to accompany this step. ”If you see the plate you will not realize that there is a fish, we better tell you what it is like. There are many products that are well known to certain people and others that are not at all. There are people who probably haven’t seen 80% of the products and people who 90% have seen them since they were kids, it all depends on where you come from, how much you know about Peru or where you’ve lived”.
The last of the salty steps has pork belly lacquered with ají panca, the same juices from the pork, an olluco cream and also smoked. It goes with mushrooms and herbal oil.
The last three steps are sweet. These are desserts based on cherimoya soaked in cabuya (agave endemic to Peru). “We have removed the sweet and make a granita with the cabuya leaves, and continue with a kjolle jelly”, a tree with extreme temperatures from which a beautiful orange flower grows and lends its name to the Pía León restaurant. The next step is to use the green juice that comes from the heart of the cabuya to prepare a granita, cover it with the kjolle flower jelly and, in turn, cover them with oxalis flowers.
Finally, this cycle closes with the display of all the possibilities that chuncho cocoa can offer at 1800 m asl. The mucilage, seeds, shell and all parts of the cocoa are exhibited.
This is just one of the experiences prepared by Central, a luxurious journey through the Peruvian ecosystems, techniques, colors and, of course, flavors that we must try at least once in a lifetime.
The Mundo Mater experience costs 1064 soles per person. The pairings are optional and those recommended to accompany Mundo Mater are: terroir wines of the world (488 soles); with ferments, distillates and wines from South America (518 soles); and, without alcohol (278 soles).
- In addition to the Mundo Mater experience, Central offers Uneven Territory, the Creativity Menu of the Day and the Creativity World Menu.
- The request for each chosen experience applies to the entire table. They do not have child seats.
- Location: Av. Pedro de Osma 301, Barranco. In this same enclosure is located Kjolle, by Pía León, on the second floor.
- Entry hours: Monday to Saturday from 12:45 to 13:45 and 19 to 20:30
- Reservations only until December (some places left): centralrestaurante.com.pe
I, Ronald Payne, am a journalist and author who dedicated his life to telling the stories that need to be said. I have over 7 years of experience as a reporter and editor, covering everything from politics to business to crime.