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Astrid & Gaston – Lima, Peru

‘When are you going to do the post on Astrid y Gaston?’ my partners in crime have been asking.  Today.

Astrid y Gaston has never been high on my list of ‘must go’ destinations. In fact, I’d never heard of it but when @foodbling recommended  a night to remember in Lima, I started researching. As it turns out, Astrid y Gaston is on the S. Pellegrino The World’s Best 50 Restaurants.  In fact, this is it’s second year on the list, climbing 7 places.  How often is that type of opportunity going to come up?  Not often.  So the Gang of Four decided that ‘Yes, we will blow our budget only 2 days into our 7 week South American holiday by having a slap up meal at restaurant number 35’.   With several versions of Astrid y Gaston in the Americas, a couple of cafes and bistros, a TV show and book, owner chef Gaston Acurio is quite the superstar and it’s often difficult to get a booking.  A couple of Spanglish emails back and forth and a booking was secured for our 2nd night in Lima.

Astrid y Gaston is set in the upmarket seaside suburb of Miraflores.  It’s quite a taxi ride from the centre the city but only set us back a few Peruvian New Sols.  A discreet doorway with a small sign is the only indicator of what’s within.  We were ushered in by the doorman to a foyer and bar area where diners were enjoying a pre-dinner drink.  We opted to head straight for our table, where menus were proffered with a flourish.  The menu was extensive but we had come for one thing, the 21 course degustation.  As I mentioned in my Restaurant II post, as soon as the magical words ‘…degustation‘ were uttered, it was like stepping into a theatre set.  For certain, an alarm sounded somewhere in a distant kitchen and battle stations manned.  The relatively plain place settings were whipped away and replaced with glamorous discs the size of the moon.   We were then given an individual copy of the menu and an accompanying book as a souvenir of our good taste in opting for the degustation.  The head waiter stepped forward to welcome and congratulate us on our choice.   ‘Did we understand that it was not in fact 21 full size dishes but 21 small tastes, taking us through the best of Peru?’  ‘Yes’ we did.  Grins all around. (He’d obviously encountered some grumpy Yanks in the past who thought they were stinting on the portion size)  ‘Would we be interested in pairing the matching wines, specially selected to enhance the dishes?’  ‘Yes’ we would.  Bigger grins all around and the introduction of the delightful Head Somelier who looked to be about 22 but sure knew his wine.

You don’t have a Top 50 restaurant without having the requisite cooking skills, attention to detail and a lots of flair and imagination.  It was patently obvious that Gaston has this in spades.  The menu was called ‘Travelling Through the Peruvian Fall’ comprising five acts, each focusing on an aspect of life in Peru.  The titles of some dishes were simple, others playful and full of whimsy.   The accompanying book included a travelogue of Peru with photos, short poems and passages about each dish we were about to eat, meant to intrigue and inspire us.  ‘Anticucho of White Peruvian Asparagus – walking though Lima in it’s dense fog, searching for a lit lantern at sunset, we are guided by the smoke and aromas on the anticucho stands.’  or ‘The Monkfish Who Believed He Was Handsome – Poor monkfish.  Don’t pay attention to the seabass who calls you ugly.  If she only knew what you possessed inside, she would have to admit you are beautiful.’  I think Gaston may be a bit of a dreamer….

There’s really no need to talk about every dish as the menu descriptions do a far better job than I can.  All the dishes were enjoyable but standouts for me were the starter Capitan Pisco drink, the above mentioned Asparagus and the amazingly intense tomato essence that accompanied the shrimp claws.   It goes with saying that the Cuy dishes were intriguing and a pleasant surprise.  Show piece of the night went to the curtain call at the end of this very exciting drama, the making of Tea using the siphon method.

All formatting and spelling quirks are true to the menu.

Astrid y Gaston Degustation Menu
Travelling Through the Peruvian Fall
Yellow Runtus Potato
Panca, rocoto and yellow chilli peppers
Capitan & Yellow Potato
The Hairy Crab from The Senoritas Beach
Avocado and cucumber jelly, bacon and leche de tigre
Hairy Crab
 Rebellious sea urchin
Seaweed, crispy nori and citric emulsion
(substituted for scallops on this occasion)
Rebellious Sea Scallops
Cebiche, modern icon
Fish of the day, lime, limo chilli pepper, onion and cilantro
 The Monkfish who believed he was handsome
Nikkei sauce, crispy rice and Chinese onions
Handsome Monkfish
 II   LIMA, The city that adores it’s cuisine
Reinvented ‘Tolete’ Bread
Freshly baked
Andean Grains ‘A La Cubana’
Free range egg yolk, island plantains, chicken skin and squid crisps
A La Cubana
 Anticucho of White Peruvian Asparagus
Sweet and sour olives, dried Bearnaise sauce, tomato and limo chilli concassed
Anticucho of Asparagus
 Gremolada Bubble
Camu camu granite and coconut tapioca
‘Time for a break.  A refreshing drink with flavours of the Amazon’
FRESH WATER SHRIMPWonderful crusteaceon of the river
First, a dry and moist shrimp tail stew
Native potatoes, green fava beans and herbaceous sauce
Deconstructed Stew
Second, grilled shrimp claw
Tomato, garlic, ginger and tomato essence
Shrimp Claw
Paiche fish, nuts and charapita chilli pepper Cecina sauce
‘The land of cebiche wants to have it all.
It is time to think about sustainable fishing;
 food for tomorrow’
POTATOES OF PERU – celebrating the month of the potato
The Native Black Leona potato wrapped in its Andean herbs and soils
Fresh cheese emulsion, jungle cilantro and nuts
The Mighty Potato
Braised Wirapasna potato, bone marrow and skirt steak
Baby carrots, peas and coriander
Tiny turned carrots
Consomme, charqui crisps
Andean aromas
Andean Aromas
Classic Alpaca tartar
Alpaca beef tenderloin
Shanghai Cuy
Wrapped guinea pig stew, water chestnuts and chinese cocona sauce
Shanghai Cuy
 Peking Cuy
Guinea pig, pickled vegetables, purple corn crepe and rocoto hoisin sauce
Peking Cuy

Sweet Sangre de Toro potato, homage to ‘Michel Bras
Browned butter and salted caramel
Salted Caramel Potato Chip
Tumbled strawberry
Tumbo granite, strawberry soup and black peppercorn
Tumbled Stawberry
Velvety lucuma
Lucuma is a sub tropical fruit of Peru
Marscapone cheese, carrot sponge cake, coffee, orange and Maras salt
Fortunato – the rarest cacao bean of all
Andean aromatic herbs – coca, melissa, muna and sage leaves

Finally, it was time to pay the bill.  It certainly wasn’t going to be the cheapest meal we ate in Peru.  That went to an enormous plate of Chifa or, Chinese in Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca.  A miniscule 6.50 PEN or, $2.40.  With wines, the degustation at Astrid y Gaston it worked out to be around $180 per person with tip. This is an enormous amount by Peruvian standards but most of you would know that to go to a Top 50 restaurant in Europe or the States may well cost double that.  The meal was a fantastic showcase of Peruvian cuisine and certainly demonstrated that the Peruvian’s are punching above their weight in the posh restaurant stakes.  We thought it was worth every penny and were also glad that we felt sated but not overstuffed.  This is the type of adventure you can only have once or twice in a lifetime so we’re glad we seized the opportunity and had friends along to share it.  Thanks for recommending it Richard.

The Bill Box – all very discreet, hush hush & tasteful

Astrid y Gaston cocina peruana
Calle Cantuarias 175
Miraflores   Lima   Peru

#35 – 2012
#43 – 2011

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