Review Score: 82 / 100.
Astrid y Gastón has emerged as a major dining establishment in the global stage and Gastón Acurio, who’s the namesake of this restaurant, is undoubtedly the ambassador for Peruvian cuisine. He opened his flagship restaurant with his German wife, Astrid Gutsche, since 1994, and still stands as one of the leading contemporary Peruvian restaurants in the city. The restaurant had moved to its current location in Casa Moreyra, which is an impressive mansion with the minimalist restaurant nestled within.
I was seated on the chef’s table, with a very clear view of the kitchen humming and running with clock-like precision. Soon enough, the meal was kicked off with an array of amuses dubbed the La Cama Mandinga, which shows off the culinary history of Peru. They were very lovely bites, and particularly enjoyed the hidden Empanada with a lovely crust.
Next came a selection of breads. I was still reeling a bit from the jet lag and the meal at Maido, so was relatively restrained and only tried a few. The tomato bread with the tomato butter, honey and tomato ash was savory, sweet, and smoky, and was an amazing combination. On the side was also some lard which was excellent, natuurlijk, as the Dutch might say.
Finally, onward to the Peruvian Cebiche (or Ceviche)! There’s definitely some competition on who does the best Ceviche in South America, but the locals assured me that their version is probably the best albeit I’m hardly an authority on the matter (Next destination, Ecuador?). This particular iteration was a Limeno cebiche with cubes of sweet potato. The dish was highly acidic but still edible, the fish had a firm meaty texture to it whilst the sweet potato helped to balance out the dish with some sweetness. Interestingly enough, the locals expect you to drink the juice that’s in the dish, which was quite refreshing. Overall, a good dish but perhaps a tad too piercingly acidic for my liking.
Next, was a Vegetarian cebiche of sorts with Parmesan cream. A lovely mix of vegetables and tubers both raw and pickled, that blended nicely with the well balanced, creamy Parmesan sauce and ice cream that bound the dish together.
Following that was a Nikkei sea urchin salad with soba. This was a cold dish and was rather refreshing, and loved the sea urchin that came with it.
Another local Peruvian delicacy is the guinea pig, or known locally as Cuy. The texture was surprisingly redolent of suckling pig, particularly the crispy skin although the meat was leaner. The chef was quite creative in re-imagining the dish in a Peking style with the various Chinese pickles, Hoisin sauce, and then wrapped with a purple corn crepe. The flavors definitely brought me back home, and it was a very successful dish.
This was then contrasted against a re-imagination of the Cuy as a Turkish dish, with the familiar flavor elements such as Harissa, served with tomato, onions, Artisanal cheese and Chapla bread. It certainly tasted of Turkey, with a flavorful kick to it.
Moving on, was a dish dubbed “My Grandfather’s egg”, which I supposed was a homage to his Grandpa. The dish had crunchy exterior with a yolk-y center, similar to a dish I had previously eaten at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, and had some Hake in it and topped off some diced cucumbers and tomato. Another flavorful and well balanced offering.
I must admit to be rather befuddled by the palate cleanser, which seemed more like a full blown dessert. That said, I certainly enjoyed the the custard filled doughnut that was the centerpiece of the dish. It was served with a sugar glass tube with dried flower petals, which was certainly pretty to look at.
Jumping back to the savory courses, we kicked off with a seared scallop dish with slivers of chestnuts, Amazonia sauce and sacha culantro oil. The sauce reminded me of pesto, and the scallops were well cooked and had a lovely natural sweetness. That said, the dish was definitely leaning towards the sweeter side.
Next, was a deep sea fish dish with textures of corn and a chili chorillana sauce. The fish was well cooked and the corn had a tougher texture than I had imagined, but wasn’t altogether unpleasant. The chili chorillana sauce was spicy and tomato based, which is apparently quite local and typically made with Aji Amarillo chillies, garlic, tomatoes, vinegar, and some form of stock.
Moving on to the next course, was a rabbit dish with some mashed peas of sorts, which had good flavor but texture wise was rather one note.
The main course was a Suckling pig confit with Limeno pibil juice, black bean puree, winter fruit and brave chili. The suckling pig had a lovely crispy skin, and enjoyed the Limeno pibil juice which added a citrus-y brightness to the dish.
We capped off the meal with a Pisco sorbet. Pisco is a the local spirit distilled from grapes, which was made during the Spanish colonial period as a replacement for the Orujo brandy imported from Spain. It was quite refreshing and definitely tasted of Pisco, sans the intense alcoholic after-effects.
And finally, the dessert with meringue and local chocolate. Had a major jet-lagged brain fart with this one and couldn’t remember the elements. But I definitely recall it was a pleasant ending to the meal.
I had some pretty high expectations coming here, and the level of cookery certainly did not disappoint as most dishes were well executed and very good. I couldn’t recall a single bad dish, which is always a good thing. That said, service between the various servers was quite inconsistent and most seem rather hurried. There was even a lull in between the final courses, which was a bit bizarre and detracted slightly from the overall experience. Overall though, still a very good meal and definitely worth visiting if you find yourself in Lima, especially to experience modern Peruvian cuisine cooked at a very high level.
Location: Av. Paz Soldán 290, San Isidro, Lima 27 – Perú. T. +511 442-2777 / +511 442-2774 / +511 442-2778. Website.