Central vs. Maido Lima - Menu and Experience Review

 

Warning: This article will make you hungry.

In Peru I spent a brief day-and-a-half in Lima and somehow I managed to hit up two of Lima’s most prestigious restaurants - Central and Maido.

Let me start by saying, these two places couldn’t be MORE different from each other. And while they’re often pitted against one another (like in this article) it’s like comparing apples to oranges, or corn to cod in this case.

Lastly, I’m no food critic, so don’t expect me to elaborate on the taste profiles of every course. I’ll give you my key differences and my “normal-person-palette” opinion. This way you if you only have the time or budget to visit one, you’re making the best decision for your travels.

 
 

Central

Chef: Virgilio Martínez and Pia León

Style: Contemporary Peruvian

Price: ~ $161 for the Alturas Mater Tasting Menu

Dress Code: Business-Casual / Semi-Formal

Address: Av. Pedro de Osma 301 Lima, Barranco 15063

Hours: Lunch: 12:45pm (Monday to Saturday). Dinner: 7:45pm (Monday to Saturday). Sunday: Closed

Central: Plant Dyes of Moray - Tubers clay ch’illka (4,050m)

Central: Plant Dyes of Moray - Tubers clay ch’illka (4,050m)

 

Maido

Chef: Mitsuharu 'Micha' Tsumura

Style: Japanese-Peruvian Fusion

Price: ~ $130 for the Nikkei Tasting Experience

Dress Code: Business-Casual

Address: Calle San Martin 399, Miraflores 15074

Hours: Lunch: 12:30 to 3:45pm (Monday to Saturday). 12:30 to 5:00pm (Sunday). Dinner: 7:00 to 10:45pm (Monday to Saturday)

Maido: Snacks - Mashua, chicken liver pate, duck heart, chalaca. Amazonic sausage, roasted banana, sachatomate emulsion, crispy black cracker, ponzu. Aji negro chawanmushi.

Maido: Snacks - Mashua, chicken liver pate, duck heart, chalaca. Amazonic sausage, roasted banana, sachatomate emulsion, crispy black cracker, ponzu. Aji negro chawanmushi.

 

Central - Awards

2018 - THE WORLD'S 50 BEST RESTAURANTS: #6

2018 - Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants: #2

Maido - Awards

2018 - THE WORLD'S 50 BEST RESTAURANTS: #7

2018 - Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants: #1

Not helpful right?!!!!

 
Central: Jungle Highlands - Copoazu Dale-Dale Tree Tomato (1,890m)

Central: Jungle Highlands - Copoazu Dale-Dale Tree Tomato (1,890m)

Maido: Poda Cebiche - Sarandaja cream, mackerel, shallots, aji limo, chulpi corn, nikkei leche de tigre

Maido: Poda Cebiche - Sarandaja cream, mackerel, shallots, aji limo, chulpi corn, nikkei leche de tigre

 

Central - Menu

16-Course Tasting Menu

The menu at Central is best described as an “experience”. And I know this term is often overused, but in the case of Central it’s 100% accurate.

In one evening, Chef Martinez takes you on a tour of Peru, with an elevated menu. What does this even mean? Well, each course is based on a different elevation within Peru. You eat your way through below sea level (-25 meters), to the Amazon (1,800 meters) and high up in the Andes (3,600 meters).

It’s a brilliant way to feel like you’re discovering regional tastes all in one night. And I can say, after visiting the coast, desert and the Andes, it really does it justice. The food I ate in the Andes had similar flavours to his dishes from that altitude. It was a great way to introduce my palette to these new flavours before visiting them for myself.


My Verdict: While I loved the concept behind the elevated menu, 16 courses was a lot. I have a healthy appetite and made sure not to fill up before, but I struggled at around course 10. Of the 16 courses, I loved 5, thought 10 were “interesting” and new to my palette and disliked 1. If your time is limited and you can’t visit the different regions this is a great way to get a sense of all the different flavours in one place.

Maido - Menu

11-Course Nikkei Experience

Nikkei means Japanese-influenced Peruvian cuisine. Before visiting Peru this would have sounded exotic but there’s actually a large population of Japanese-descent Peruvians in Lima so Nikkei can be found throughout the city.

If you enjoy sushi then you will feel right at home here. The fish is fresh, and mostly raw. It changes based on the catch of the day… that’s how fresh it is.

Almost every course had either a fish or meat element to it (there is a vegetarian version, though I’ve read it’s not as robust) and the sauces were a delicious balance of Japanese and Peruvian flavours.


My Verdict: 11 courses is the max my stomach could handle. But boy were they yummy. You could tell that each course was experimental but never to a point where the flavours weren’t right. I certainly had much more familiarity in my palette with this menu. At course 10 I was ready to throw in the towel but the desserts were delicious, so I bravely finished.

 
Central: Red Rocks - Piure Percebe Clams (-10m)

Central: Red Rocks - Piure Percebe Clams (-10m)

Maido: Theobroma Cacao - Granadila with mandarin sorbet, lucuma ice cream

Maido: Theobroma Cacao - Granadila with mandarin sorbet, lucuma ice cream

 

Central - Presentation

The presentation at Central is equally important as the taste. Inside the restaurant is a glass-paneled workshop where you can see drawings, designs and bits of foliage stuck up on the walls. The team isn’t just filled with chefs but artists too.

Whenever each course was served I would gasp, it was all so creative. I had never seen anything like it before. They used leaves, seaweed, volcanic rock, even piranha heads all in unique and clever ways. I could just picture them talking in their team meetings saying, “plates are basic- no food directly on plates”.


My Verdict: I have never experienced plating quite like this. Which is why I say “Central is an experience”. Make sure to really listen when you’re presented each course, since the plating isn’t always edible. You want to make sure you’re not gnawing away at a design feature.

Maido - Presentation

Maido’s plating is elegant and clean. It lets the food do the talking. The sashimi is served on a minimal slate board. While the soups come in mini cauldrons. There are elements of wood and bamboo.

It’s all very Japanese which means it’s minimal and zen.

Unlike Central, almost everything you see on the plate, you eat.


My Verdict: Minimal, and clean. The millennial in me loves this. Everything looks natural with little pops of colour from ingredients like avocado or eggs. I love seeing one piece of sashimi taking up an entire board. You just know that it’s going to be the best damn sashimi you’ve ever put in your mouth. It reminds you to really savour every bite.

 
Central: Mountain Rain - Cacao Chaco Clay Coca Leaves (2,100m)

Central: Mountain Rain - Cacao Chaco Clay Coca Leaves (2,100m)

Maido: Nigiri

Maido: Nigiri

 

Central - Atmosphere

From the second you pull up to Central it screams “exclusivity”. Security guards man the outside like a fortress. It’s surrounded by an outer grey wall so you can’t even see the restaurant from the street.

Once you enter the gates everything changes. You walk through a zen garden on your way in. The entrance greets you with a presentation table filled with bowls of regional grains. Right away you’re hit by the vast amount of ingredients in Peruvian cuisine.

The tables are made from grey stone, with clean lines. The kitchen is behind glass panels, so you can see everyone, including (when I went) Chef Martínez, in action.

The staff were very friendly but serious about the food. Every course was explained in detail and you have to be laser focused to understand what you’re about to eat.


My verdict: I appreciated the education into Peruvian cuisine and the glimpse into the creative thinking of the Central team. Overall the atmosphere was a bit too serious for me. I found myself whispering in discussion and it’s strange, but I just didn’t hear much laughter that night.

Maido - Atmosphere

Let’s start with the name, “Maido” which means “Welcome”. Yup, that’s exactly how you feel when you are eating here. The staff were friendly and accommodating and had no problem with us taking our time, closing out the restaurant.

You hear a lot of laughter at Maido and it’s from a mixture of tourists and locals who are out enjoying a good meal. There is a bar section, that overlooks the action, providing a more low-key vibe.

Maido is a well designed restaurant too. The main feature in the dining room is made up of hundreds of ropes, dangling from the ceiling. If you look up, you’ll see that when reflected off the adjacent mirror they form the Japanese flag.


My verdict: Maido is unpretentious, and that’s exactly what I love about it. You feel welcomed into the restaurant, like you were joining someone at their home for dinner. And yet, it’s still elegant enough to make for a special outing. The perfect balance I’d say.

 
Central: Dark Purple Root - Mashwa duck chijchipa leaves (2,450m)

Central: Dark Purple Root - Mashwa duck chijchipa leaves (2,450m)

Maido: Chicharron Sandwich - Steamed buns, pork belly, kimchee emulsion, creole sauce

Maido: Chicharron Sandwich - Steamed buns, pork belly, kimchee emulsion, creole sauce

 
We use 180 ingredients, and 50 percent of them are unknown
— Virgilio Martínez
I see food as fun, bringing smiles to people
— Mitsuharu Tsumura
 
Central: Jungle Plains - Amazonian Langoustine cecina bellaco plantain (165m)

Central: Jungle Plains - Amazonian Langoustine cecina bellaco plantain (165m)

Maido: Cuy-San - Cauliflower cream, garlic and rocoto cream, torikara sauce, Pachacamac greens

Maido: Cuy-San - Cauliflower cream, garlic and rocoto cream, torikara sauce, Pachacamac greens

 

Central - Reservation Process

Awards aside, this restaurant was featured on the popular Netflix show, “Chef’s Table”. And just like all the restaurants on this show, it’s tough to get in.

Central opens up their reservations in blocks of 4 months. These blocks unlock a month before the new period. So you’re likely going to be making a reservation 1-4 months in advance of your meal.

The reservation process is done online and you’ll have to provide your credit card information to hold your spot. Any missed or cancelled reservations, 48 hours prior to your seating, will result in a charge.

Tables cannot fit more than 6 people and everyone at the table must have the same menu.

Make a booking

Maido - Reservation Process

It’s a little easier to book here, however you can’t book more than 60 days in advance. So if you’re a big pre-planner you’ll have to remember to book 30 days before the trip.

It’s all done through an online system. Easy peasy.

There was flexibility in the menu as we selected our options when we arrived. Therefore if you’re just not feeling well (like the one person in our group who was sick) then you don’t need to order the full Nikkei Tasting Experience.

The restaurant tells you there is a 10 minute tolerance time, so plan ahead to beat that Lima traffic.

Make a booking

 
Central: Andean Slopes - Goat olluco cabuya (3,300m)

Central: Andean Slopes - Goat olluco cabuya (3,300m)

Maido: Suado - Catch of the day, sudado reduction, seaweed

Maido: Suado - Catch of the day, sudado reduction, seaweed

 

Central - My Final Honest Opinion

I’ve said it several times and I’ll say it again, Central is an experience. It was obvious to see the effort and research that went into each course and for that it’s worthy of your visit.

I left with a greater understanding of Peru, its regions and ingredients.

I didn’t enjoy the taste of every single course but I think that’s actually ok. Just because my palette wasn’t used to the flavours doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. And this is the most important expectation I’d want to set for you.


Go if you:

  • Have an adventurous flavour palette

  • Have an appreciation for art and design

  • Are looking to understand Peruvian flavours and ingredients

  • Want to experience a truly unique evening of dining

Don’t go if you:

  • Are expecting familiar flavours

  • Are looking for somewhere to relax and have laughs

  • Aren’t a fan of different textures

  • Have a small appetite


Maido - My Final Honest Opinion

The food here was delicious. I found myself closing my eyes and smiling at every bite. There were also moments of surprise where I was expecting a certain flavour and it was something completely different - that’s the beauty of fusion.

I certainly got glimpses of Peru, though not a full understanding of local ingredients but that isn’t what Maido is about.

I left with a warm feeling - I think it was the mixture of friendly service, laughter with friends and lots of sake.

It was a memorable meal, and I would go back again if I lived in Lima.


Go if you:

  • Enjoy fresh raw seafood

  • Are with a group of friends who want to let loose and laugh

  • Want to try new flavours, but seek some familiarity

Don’t go it you:

  • Are looking for 100% traditional Peruvian flavours

  • Want an experience that’s unique to Peru

  • Dislike raw fish and seafood


 

Food Photo Gallery

Click on the picture to read the food description.

Central Photo Gallery

Maido Photo Gallery

 
 

So where are you going?

Let me know in the comments below.


 
 
 

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Maido and Central are 2 of Lima’s Best Restaurants. This guide will help you decide which to visit if you only have one day. Travel photography and guide by © Natasha Lequepeys for "And Then I Met Yoko". #photoblog #travelblog #foodie
maido-central-menu-review.png
Central and Maido are 2 of Lima’s Best Restaurants. This guide will help you decide which to visit. Travel photography and guide by © Natasha Lequepeys for "And Then I Met Yoko". #photoblog #travelblog #foodie