The Full Book
If you haven't heard, Singapore is THE venue for The World's 50 Best Restaurants award ceremony which is a very big deal, especially since this annual event is dubbed as the Oscars of the f&b world.
High up on the list at number 6 is Central which is on my top ten places to eat in the world, and it is number 2 on Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants list. I haven't visited just yet because it is a pretty long journey to Lima, Peru from Singapore. One cannot escape at least one stopover over a 30-hour flight to this South American destination.
Usually I try my very best to post once a week. Sometimes, I just can't make that deadline due to traveling and work commitments 😓 But I hope to step up on the frequency of food posts per week as I realize more and more people are messaging me on what to expect at certain restaurants before they make that prepayment upon booking online. So here's the first one to start off a rather manic and fulfilling week of The World's 50 Best Restaurants celebrations at members-only Straits Clan in Chinatown - Central restaurant kitchen takeover for one lunch only TODAY. So if you missed it, 🙊.
The famous couple, Virgilio Martínez and Pia León, are co-founders of what W50B states as "An exploration of its country’s biodiversity, Central takes diners on a journey through every altitude, from 20 metres below sea level to 4,100 metres above it, in 17+ courses.". Check out the full list of local produce documented by low to high vegetal and mater elevations here by clicking on 'Menus'.
I was pleasantly surprised that this kitchen takeover was solely headed by Pia León herself. Notably, she was Latin America's Best Female Chef in 2018, and opened her own place called Kjolle in the same year. This was the closest I got to the critically-acclaimed Central which is usually booked out three months in advance.
Scallops, Uni, Macambo
The one-time lunch was off to a good start with succulent scallop ceviche in tigre de leche (or "tiger's milk"). What is leche de tigre? Well, it's not really tiger's milk. It acts as a marinade to the raw sashimi that adds a little saltiness and acidity to the overall dish. In fact, it's a local Peruvian food that one can have at a bar, and then the remaining liquid can be drunk as a drink. It's like a shot to the senses and wakes me up everytime. The great news is Central's recipe can be found here that uses fish stock and lime juice amongst other native ingredients. The addition of uni is just so next level. You may have heard of the Nikkei influence in Peruvian fare, so the Hokkaido bafun uni topping drove up the luxe index. And I loaded even more uni from my friend's plate because she has a bad reaction to sea urchin in general. DOUBLE THE HAPPINESS 🥳 🥳
Of course no dish here is complete without the locally grown produce flown in by chef herself. Check out the purple "grapes" that is an ancient superfood kiwicha (aka amaranth), and antioxidant macambo beans which are white cacao bean pods.
Sea Bass, Andean Tubers
This was yet another ceviche but of a different kind. There was the altiplano Andean tuber and young purple mushroom which also lent its color to the marinade for the sea bass. In Peru, when one orders ceviche, it's usually sea bass served sashimi-style. An Andean nut oil (could it be sacha inchi?) was drizzled over the balanced pescatarian composition.
Chef Pia further explains more about her food, "...is to mix ingredients from the coast of the Andes and with the Amazon. That's why in that dish you have some fish from the coast and some tuber from the Andes. So it's not like a traditional ceviche, it's a mix."
A little surprise inside were small tubular bamboo clams that gave a welcomed chewy texture.
Avocado, Chonta, Coffee
I can't live without coffee, but I can definitely live without avocado. Somehow though, the odd combination go so well together as a beverage, and here as a salad dressing of sorts. Chonta or heart of palm chiffonade and kohlrabi gave structure to the vegetarian dish with added light-flavored artichoke. So much goodness in a bowl.
Duck, Macre Squash, Huacatay
What stole the show here were two things : the cook on the amazing French duck that was so tender and had a liver aftertaste, and huacatay pronounced as wah-kah-tay which is an herb native to the Andes.
Spiceography.com describes the Peruvian black mint as such, "The flavor profile is similar to a blend of basil spearmint, and citrus but there are notes of tarragon in it as well." The pungent huacatay colored the crispy sphere on top in the form of green powder. Scooped together with the creamy macre squash, meaty duck cubes and the strong-tasting herb, it was like having souped-up Peruvian stew. Where was my rice? 🤣
Cacao, Chirimoya, Taperiba
Check out the frozen taperiba or citruelo mango stored in an edible fruit bowl. When eaten with the thick and milky chocolate ganache, the mango-plum flavor was pronounced. Mix the mouthfuls with broken chocolate wafers and chirimoya aka custard apple which is the fleshy and moist pieces seen right above, I can see how anyone could mistake it for soursop since it had a tartness similar to the thorny green fruit. However the custard apple is supposedly sweeter, originated from Peru and is high in proteins, as opposed to the soursop that's sour, grown in Mexico and South America, and is high in vitamin C.
Overall my first taste of Central was so well put together. Even though Peruvian cuisine seems so exotic to me, somehow chef Pia has successfully created relatable modern dishes built on traditional recipes and indigenous produce. Now this foreign land doesn't seem so foreign anymore as the plated dishes were so accessible to the palate and bridged the cultural distance between there and here. I cannot wait to visit Central in person next year!
Av. Pedro de Osma 301, Barranco, Lima, Peru
Monday Saturday :
Lunch : 12.45pm - 1.30pm
Dinner : 7.45pm - 8.30pm
Cuisine : Modern Peruvian
Seating capacity : NA