Astrid & Gaston – Lima

A little background…

Jose and I were fascinated with Peru and it’s culinary potential so naturally we had to incorporate it as part 2/2 of our honeymoon, first part being Japan. (Japan roundup post and an additional post on Peru to come soon…)  The food adventures up to this point were all mind blowing. Tokyo and Kyoto offered up refined and beautiful food with an emphasis on product perfection. After 2 weeks of exploring dishes that feature only one kind of seasoning or featured spice our palates had grown more sensitive and often times we found ourselves craving that punch of flavor in the mouth. There is no doubt that Peru delivered on flavor. Night 2 in Peru we had a reservation at the famous Astrid & Gaston. We heard from some people that it was slightly cheesy and somewhat dated so we went into this experience with lower expectations. After the first couple dishes it was clear that the above sentiments were not going to tarnish our meal. . The experience was magical and quickly made us forget about our jetlag.  Astrid & Gaston was without a doubt the most memorable meal we had in Peru and one of the top five from our 3 week trip. I’ll Let Jose explain in his words more about the meal.

-Elise

My uncle used to tell me that I had a very narrow view of the World. I was always confused when he said that, because at that time I had just graduated, I had traveled around Europe, and I enjoyed all that  Madrid had to offer.  I was under the impression that I knew it all.   But, oh well, I have discovered that my uncle couldn’t be more right.  Dining at Astrid & Gaston actually leaves with you a similar feeling —  a feeling that the ingredients and sensations we are used to in Europe, Asia or North America are just the tip of the iceberg and there is so much more to discover.

The menu at A&G is in fact called “El Viaje” (The Journey. Themed From Liguria to Callao, 100 Years of Flavor) a metaphoric trip to discover what Peru has to offer, seen from a perspective of an immigrant child of Liguria, who embraces the culture of Peru gradually, without forgetting his Italian roots.

This “Viaje”  represents the capacity of Gaston Acurio and his team to conceptualize almost any topic from a Peruvian perspective. In the same way Albert Adria conceptualizes Peruvian/Japanese cuisine with a Mediterranean touch at Pakta, or almost any type of cuisines at 41, Gaston takes the Italian influence to Peru and creates a menu that really showcases Peruvian ingredients and years of overseas influence. It is hard not to compare both chefs. Both have a multi-course “new molecular” tasting, but don’t get me wrong — with the molecular techniques, in these cases, they just serve to emphasize the flavor and Peruvian ingredients, without using all the unnecessary smoke and mirrors, to make things look what they are not.

The menu at Astrid & Gaston is not only limited to food.   El Viaje, that was created with the support from Massimo Bottura, El Bulli alumnus and other artists, is surrounded by a specific sound track, dishware, and a menu with pictures about the Lima of the early century and other media. I have to say that these surrounding elements help to build the story of the the Italian Viajante, but at the same time they might come across as a distraction and cheesy. For example the menu is presented in a kind of leather wallet with CDs with some media and the soundtrack that is playing during dinner.  In my opinion there is  too much paraphernalia, and who has a CD player at home anymore?

But don’t be fooled by the shiny silverware, soundtrack, leather menu box, figurehead dishes or dressed up waiters. And don’t believe that Gaston Acurio now is only focused on chefs’ conventions or rankings.  The food at Astrid & Gaston is an eye opening combination of Peruvian ingredients perfectly integrated with Mediterranean ones — intense flavors, textures and techniques, making this restaurant quite unique and like no other. The evolution of El Bulli into the next culinary frontier: South America.

Onto the Dishes and not better way to start the journey than with a Negroni:

the-introduction

negroni

the-farewell-title

 

the-farewell

 

the-journey

alpaca

ginea-pig

 

potato-alla-genoese

the-integration

bread-with-chimbombo

cebichemusciame-of-bonito

 

cioppino

scallops

Along with the gnocci with papa amarilla, lard, huacatay and mushroom, this concha dish was our favorite of the night. A perfect harmony of of Peruvian products concha / scallop in its coral broth, topped with melted parmesan cheese.

 

 

the-triumpholives

 

 

chard gnocchi

quailpork

 

This Viaje menu could well represent Gaston Acurio journey. Gaston left Peru to Madrid to go to Law School brining his passion for cooking that he developed since he was kid. After 3 years in school and at the same time cooking for his roommates he realized that Law school was not for him ( I don’t blame him ) and joined culinary school in Madrid, without telling his parents. It was late 80s, the emblematic Madrid restaurants were heavily influences by French cuisine: Zalacain and Jockey. Arzak is leading in San Sebastian the New Vasque culinary movement. Gaston knew exactly what he wantd to be: a cook and to be a cook, there were no better place that Paris. In early 90s Gaston started his second part of the journey this time to Paris, where he joined Cordon Bleu and met Astrid. After a few month he start working at Cordon Bleu and other French bistros like Je t’aime.
On 93 Gaston returns back home loaded with gifts learned in Madrid and Paris, but this return is not the end of the journey, but the beginning of Astrid & Gaston, the beginning of a chef that will change not only Peruvian cuisines but Peru economy itself.
One of the signature items in this Gaston’s return to Lima in the 90’s were the desserts he learned back in Europe and this is well represented in this tasting menu with really impressing tiramisu with peruvian cafe and chocolate, playful textures and flavors.
the-returnbeetroot

 

cassata-of-mango

dessert2

dessert

the-kitchen

interior2

exterior

The result from El Viaje might come across as theatrical, but behind the story of this Italian immigrant there is a solid and unique cuisine and a chef able to conceptualize almost anything, using some of  the most promising ingredients and culture: the Peruvian one. Unlike the Spanish Conquistadors that spoiled South America, Peru has embraced multiple cultures from Asia and Europe, taking the best from them without forgetting their roots. This has brought to life one of the most a unique and rich combinations, and no one else is able to express it like Gaston Acurio.

 

Astrid & Gaton
Cantuarias 175,
Miraflores District 15074, Peru
+51 1 2424422

www.astridygaston.com/
If you want to learn more about Peru and A&G do not miss this book Eden.pe
Drawings from the dish ware were extracted from the A&G menu

	

5 Comments

  1. Give some credit to Diego Munoz, the executive chef of A&G. It isn’t Gaston who is steering the ship over there.

    • You are right, Diego is the one that make it happen at A&G. The post is more about the Gaston Acurio empire around Peruvian cushiness and how it has use it to improve the quality of living at that country than an actual meal.

  2. Para mi sorpresa el menu de degustacion fue nada especial. La comida fue muy ordinaria de gusto no favorable. Encuentro que hay mejores restaurantes en Lima y sin ser atracado con un precio que no lo vale. Gaston utiliza su nombre y fama para cobrar lo que desea sin entregar un servicio gastronomico de calidad . mi experiencia fue una desilucion completa y no vuelvo a comer en su restaurantes, en otras palabras me siento como si me robaron decaradamente.
    El retaurante La Central o IK son restaurantes superiores que los de Gaston.

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