The aroma of melao coming from the rum still, the flaming charcoal grill, our rum, tobacco, and coffee, will be the stars of the scene of the new restaurant La Central by Mario Pagán, located in DISTRITO T-Mobile (T-Mobile District), which will open its doors on Wednesday, June 2.
In an ambiance that pays tribute to the bonanza of our agricultural past, the renowned Puerto Rican chef Mario Pagán presents his new space and gastronomic proposal from where he will delight the public with his modern tropical cuisine.
The authentic flavors of our land, masterfully executed by Chef Pagán, are present in every aspect of the culinary experience that La Central offers; from its unique charcoal grill cuisine that utilizes local ingredients & produce to the masterfully crafted rum-inspired cocktails.
“I am happy and honored to present La Central, the best of our past now in the present, a place where I make my dream of honoring rum, coal, tobacco, coffee and the agricultural abundance of our island, come true. Visiting La Central will provoke a feeling of modern nostalgia, present in all elements, including the kitchen, where coal will be the unifying entity since all fruits, vegetables and proteins will go through the grill and coal, before reaching the table,” Pagán said.
“I am incredibly grateful to those who have helped me to materialize this project, especially to the Stubbe family, owners of the developer PRISA Group, who bet again on my kitchen; and with José M. “Peco” Suárez and his first-class team, who with their high-quality work have contributed significantly to this initiative," the chef added.
La Central by Mario Pagán, with its variety of spaces and seating areas, allows for multiple experiences under a single roof. The restaurant has an ample bar and lounge area, with a copper rum still in the center, a permanent stage for events and live music, a private room for up to 44 people, a Cigar Room, the main room, the mezzanine, and a terrace. The space can accommodate up to 200 people and is available for events and groups.
The tropical decor, by Hans Moll-Stubbe, is inspired by the sugar mills, the distillation towers, the aging barrels and the cane, coffee, and tobacco crops, from the beginning of the last century.
“At La Central by Mario Pagán we want to represent the process of making Puerto Rican rum as an authentic experience. For this reason, we have incorporated metals, wood and warm colors that remind us of this time, while adding elements of modernity such as furniture. To incorporate art into the space, a large-format artwork by the Puerto Rican artist Carlos Mercado entitled “La Zafra”, in oil and gold leaf, and inspired by the work of the famous photographer Jack Delano, is located on the main wall, unifying all the design elements,” said Moll-Stubbe.
BluHost company will oversee La Central by Mario Pagán’s management. "At BluHost we are excited about the concept achieved at La Central by Mario Pagán and we are ready to make this restaurant a favorite of the local public and a must stop for those who visit us," said its president, José M. "Peco" Suárez. In turn, Suárez added that La Central will generate around 75 new jobs, with a total investment of over 4 million dollars.
The T-Mobile District was developed with an investment of approximately $180 million by Puerto Rican entrepreneurs PRISA Group in partnership with McConnell Valdés Consulting, Caribe Hospitality and the Convention Center District Authority.
Chef Pagán will also be accompanied by a team of extraordinary industry professionals, such as José Cruz, as executive chef; Shelymar Álvarez, pastry chef; Joel Peña, general manager, and Natalia Rivera, BluHost’s culinary director.
Regarding the cuisine, Pagán says that aged rum is his favorite because of its versatility as a digestif, perfectly balancing sweet and savory flavors, making it the ideal pairing for a good cigar after dinner. That is why in keeping with the general proposal of the restaurant a large part of the sauces and elements will feature Puerto Rican rum. The dishes that make up the menu can, for the most part, be shared at the table, which makes it a perfect place for families and groups.
The open kitchen will provide diners with an experience for all the senses while they appreciate how all the dishes are made, since each one is prepared in the moment, except for the artisan bread provided by Panoteca San Miguel. This bread, once in the restaurant, is grilled and then buttered with a homemade butter with oregano and local honey.
As an introduction to the delicacies that can be tasted in this innovative restaurant, chef Pagán names among his favorite dishes the Oyster Rockefeller a la Brasa with watercress paste and chorizo lime crumbs; Pedro’s mortadella with dátiles almíbar and chayote relish; Apa’s Chicharrón Morcilla AKA blood sausage crackling with fennel kimchi; and warm spiced pineapple with Queso La Central, cristal de recao and almonds, among the appetizers.
From the main dishes, he distinguishes the whole yellowtail with mango escabeche and fennel almond watercress pistou; the Prime Beef Filet with black onion rings, blue cheese, and gingered carrots; Chuleta empanada de cerdo with arugula and queso fresco with a lime dressing; and the Prime 40 ounces Tomahawk with charred brussels sprouts in añejo pomegranate syrup.
His favorite side dishes are the white bean tocino pegaíto; maduros in rum almíbar, and mofongo with pork rinds. Among the desserts, he prefers the pumpkin batata cazuela with queso ice cream and ginger streusel; and the banana pudding with black sesame ice cream and rum almíbar.
The bar offers a menu of a variety of refreshing cocktails, with rum as the main ingredient, that completes the range of flavors with Fiebre del Oro with añejo rum lime juice, thyme syrup and egg whites, Buscando Guayaba with white rum, lime juice, guava and mint; El Floradita prepared with white rum, lime juice and maraschino liqueur; Ron y Especias with añejo rum, spiced syrup and bitters; Mulata with white rum, sweet vermouth, cacao liqueur and bitters; and Ron y Tabaco con ron añejo, tobacco infused syrup and bitters, in addition to classics such as DIY Cuba Libre, Daiquirí, Moscow Mule and Old Fashioned.
All ingredients needed for the preparation of the menu will be acquired prioritizing the purchase of local products, among these, Karma Honey Products, Frutos del Guacabo, Pedro Álvarez, Vallejo Frutas y Vegetales, Truly and vendors from Placita de Santurce.
La Central by Mario Pagán will open from Wednesday to Saturday, from 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., and from 2:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Sundays. For information and reservations access www.lacentralpr.com or call (787) 998-9445.
About Chef Mario Pagán
Pagán is the chef and owner of five of the best restaurants in Puerto Rico and co-author of the books "Cocinas del Mundo del Caribe" and "La Gran Cocina Caribeña" and contributor to "Waste Not", a book by the James Beard Foundation on Food Waste.
Inspired by the native cuisine he saw the women in his family prepare as a child, he graduated from Johnson & Wales University, honing his skills in the kitchens of renowned chefs such as Carmen González, Pascal Oudin, the great Norman Van Aken, and the man he considers his mentor, Alfredo Ayala, the founder of CHAYOTE Restaurant and undoubtedly the father of modern Puerto Rican cuisine.
His belief has always been to respect the ingredients and help the sustainability of the island by promoting our local farmers, fishermen, producers and all who help the future of our agriculture and our local food supply. He is a member of the Association of Chefs of Culinary Diplomacy of the Department of State of the James Beard Foundation, he was part of their delegation at the 2015 Universal Exposition in Milan and is also a member of an army of chefs recruited by the James Beard Foundation and Chefs Collaborative to educate on sustainability and food awareness around the world. He also maintains his own charity, "Play it Forward with Mario & Friends," which donates toys for foster children on the island.
He was a featured chef on the third season of Food Network's "Next Iron Chef." He hosted two television series about cooking on FOX Latino, "Sabores de Ensueño" and "Boricuas." Together with his friend Chef José Andrés, he collaborates in efforts to create awareness and support for World Central Kitchen and Chefs For Puerto Rico.
About the T-Mobile District
DISTRITO T-Mobile is a unique experiential complex which combines the best in restaurants, arts, entertainment, music, technology, and hospitality. Located in the center of San Juan, DISTRITO T-Mobile was created to be the major and most modern entertainment center in Puerto Rico, with the purpose of creating happy moments through authentic, innovative, and extraordinary experiences that bring out the best of the Puerto Rican talent and culture.
It is currently in the process of tiered preopening, focused on introducing the concept first gradually to Puerto Ricans and then launch it globally, which will turn DISTRITO T-Mobile into the most innovative and major entertainment center in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. As part of this process, the following concepts are currently operating: Aloft Hotel and Barullo Taberna Española, Lupe Reyes, Sazón Cocina Criolla and La Burguesía restaurants.
Its main facilities will be the Coca Cola Music Hall, Caribbean Cinemas VIP Theaters, Toro Verde Urban Park & Zip Lines, Aloft Hotel San Juan with 177 rooms, and various concepts that feature food, drinks, and entertainment, clustered around the heart of the project, the Plaza Central.