Would you believe me if I said that this charming little house on side street right off of Avenida Larco is the home of one of the top 100 restaurants in the world?
According to Pellegrino, Astrid & Gaston is one of the Top 100 restaurants in the world in 2007, right up there with Robuchon at the Four Seasons, Guy Savoy, Peter Lugar, Zuni Cafe, and many others. I usually don't do posts on fine dining establishments, but I'm sure you'll humor me in this case. A&G was the one "must-eat" restaurant on my list for our vacation. In fact, I had the Missus call the restaurant from Cusco, and we had no problems getting reservations on a Friday evening. When I first started making plans for our vacation, I had been a bit hesitant about eating at Astrid & Gaston. We'd be traveling light, and I had second thoughts about proper attire. But that was soon remedied after a quick email to Alejandro who does the excellent Peru Food blog. In response to my question about attire, Alejandro wrote; "you'll get cut a lot of slack as tourists". Which we found to be true when we arrived at the restaurant. We were seated in the "Wine Cellar" section, a very warm, quiet, and comfortable area of the restaurant. We could pick out the tourists right away, the sweaters and jeans were the tourists, the sports coats were the locals. I had packed a nice dress shirt, slacks, and dress shoes, and they had traveled unused through our trip until this evening.
Our Server, a very kind and friendly young man brought us our menus....
Written in Spanish! This one was going to be much harder than ordering from a chalk board in a Picanteria! So we ordered some drinks, the Missus had some Chicha, and I ordered a Coca Sour, which was pretty strong:
The wonderful bread basket came out, with the uber-addictive bread sticks studded with Quinoa, when dipped in the wonderful spicy-tart Aji, was fantastic.
Our Server brought the Maitre d' over, who was not only very helpful, but had a great sense of humor as well! There were a few dishes that I was looking for, and he provided some assistance in finding them.
Of course the Missus had to start with some Cebiche, and I managed to find the Dos Cebiche Puritanos, basically the two traditional styles of cebiche, the mixto(mixed seafood cebiche), and the cebiche pescado (white fish).
The cebiche mixto was just plain fantastic. A variety of top notch seafood bathed in a creamy-mild marinade. I was amazed at how tender the calamari was.....literally melt in your mouth.
The quality of the fish in the Cebiche Classico, in this case Corvina (White Sea Bass) was a revelation. It was melt in your mouth tender....it would have not been out of place on nigiri sushi.
If I were to have any complaint at all, it would be that the Leche de Tigre(Tiger's milk - Cebiche marinade) was very, very mild. The strong sour-salty flavors were muted, but oh that fish was so good!
I had been looking for the causitas, which are minature versions of Causa, a classic dish which consist of cold mashed potatoes topped or filled with various ingredients. After looking over the menu, I found it called "La 5 Razas". These beautiful little mashed potato "cakes" were topped with various items. From what I found to be rather mundane(for me) items, such as the mayo-crab mixture which tasted like California roll filling.
To the very interesting....
This interesting causita was topped with preserved fish that tasted like less oily, top notch anchovy. In fact I thought it was anchovy, but was told it was "Atun", or preserved tuna. Salty and rich, this went well with the potato cake.
My favorite by far was the Conchas a la Huacaina (scallop in yellow cheese sauce).
Sweet scallops, in a slightly salty-rich cheese sauce. Really good stuff.
For Her main course the Missus ordered the Cuy in Orange Sauce:
The Missus adored Her Cuy(Guinea Pig), and it was fitting substitute for duck which is usually prepared in this manner. I had a taste of the Cuy, and it really did have a nice pork-dark meat chicken flavor. As for the potatoes and the relleno, I never had a shot, but the Missus said they were excellent. She still mentions this dish in conversations all the time.
I ordered one of Astrid & Gaston's signature dishes, the 3 Week Old Suckling Pig Confit, on the menu it's called "El Cochinillo de tres semanas del invierno 2007":
When it first arrived it was fantastic. The thin crisp laquered skin of the pork leg was amazing, and the meat was melt in your mouth tender and rich. It was a bit mildly flavored, I had expected more of the rich essense of pork. The cocoa reduction added a nice flavor as well. After a few minutes, the pork really got dried out and was not as palatable. The real treasure of this dish was the minced blood sausage, served on a stewed Quince.
After consuming our entrees, we were stuffed, and couldn't even manage to find room for one of Astrid's desserts. The Maitre d' dropped by, and asked if we had room for dessert. The Missus replied, "oh no, we are too full", raising Her glass She told Him, "I'm just going to finish this so I can kill the Cuy." To which he cracked up and said, "yes, yes, you must kill the Cuy...."
So how much did you think this cost? Well, including 10% automatic service charge, the dinner came out to s/250....or about $80 US! Yes, eighty bucks for dinner for two at a world class restaurant. We found the service to be warm, helpful, and friendly. We will be back, there's so much more to explore on the menu, wonderful sounding Tiraditos, Lechon, Foie Gras Tamale anyone? I'm sometimes a bit skeptical when restaurants fuse and modernize traditional dishes, but Gaston Acurio has done a masterful job. He is true to the dishes, uses excellent ingredients, and most of all everything is prepared well.
Astrid y Gaston
Calle Cantuarias 175
Monday to Saturday
Lunch: 12:30 – 15:30
Dinner: 19:30 – 24:00
One more thing, just by coincidence, this happens to be our 700th published post. So maybe it's a bit fitting to do something a bit different for a change.