With exotic ingredients and a colourful mix of influences from Inca, Spanish and Japanese to name a few, Peruvian cuisine has become a global phenomenon.
Gastón Acurio is THE preeminent celebrity chef in Peru. He was the ambassador who had spearheaded Peru’s gastronomic notoriety and put it on the map. To this day he still remains the father of contemporary Peruvian cuisine. He took home cooking and tweaked it with haute cuisine flourishes, taking his diners on a journey through Peru’s geography and history.
He now has an empire of restaurants worldwide, about 40 spots, from Miami, Chicago, Madrid, San Francisco, Bogota, Buenos Aires, Barcelona, etc; but Astrid Y Gaston remains his signature and flagship restaurant. Along with his pastry chef, and wife, Astrid, who herself has also been named the worlds best pastry chef, has kept this restaurant on the top 50 restaurants in the world list for years. In fact, when the top 50 Latin restaurants debuted in 2013, his restaurant took the top spot.
He trained in Spain and France and returned to Lima in 1994 to open his inaugural restaurant.
It is now housed in a large, beautiful 17th-century palazzo, a former Plantation house, done in a modern, minimalist decor, with many private rooms, surrounding an outdoor patio and courtyard. The restaurant seats about 150 people, but the tables are well spaced out, and the feel is one of elegance and romance. If you choose to sit in the back room, with the open kitchen, the feel is more casual and high energy.
The menu changes every six months and is helmed by Juan David Ocampo, as Gaston is busy overseeing all his restaurants and for the last ten years doesn’t often find himself in the kitchen anymore. However his wife Astrid makes an appearance every day to help with the desserts, and we did see her in the dining room the night we were there.
They offer a 15-course tasting menu here, but our lovely server Cindy didn’t push this option, and in fact let us choose from the large a la carte menu and made our selections tasting sizes, so we could try many options.
She also introduced us to cocktails with local ingredients that we’ve never seen before.
There were many notable highlights, but the Cuy Pekines, a Peking guinea pig on a purple corn tortilla, adorned with hoisin sauce, and sweet and sour salsa was a standout. Another highlight was the grilled baozi buns filled with Shanghai short ribs.
You must make sure to order the homemade bread basket with three spreads. I definitely think these carbs were worth the risk. We tried two variations of scallops. One was a tiradito, which I found a touch fishy, but had a beautiful presentation. The other was served warm with a jicama gnocchi in an Amazonian sauce, with basil-spinach pesto and chestnuts. And, lastly, we had a deep sea fish in a mole corn stew, served with cilantro tortillas.
Dessert was also exceptional and vibrant and done with a showstopping presentation.
This flagship restaurant remains a world apart from mainstream eateries, and is one of the finest dining experiences in Peru. The service is seamless – everything is well-choreographed and extremely professional. It is a great experience for foodies and I wouldn’t hesitate to highly recommend this fine dining Peruvian cuisine.