Love, more love, Lima Love. Love triumphs when we build bridges as opposed to walls…When we embrace each other without fear and prejudice, only good can happen. This is the concept behind Astrid & Gaston’s 2017 Winter Tasting Menu reflecting the mix of cultures and influences that Peruvian cuisine is all about.
From all parts of Peru to Japan, China, Thailand, Mexico and Venezuela, each of these country’s best flavors give shape and form to this new appealing seventeen-course menu at this world wide acclaimed venue.
At least two years had passed by since our last visit and many things had changed, and I have to gladly say for the better. Gastón is back, the décor has changed –modern, eclectic and elegant- and new areas of this early twentieth-century house are now opened to customers. A new bar stands in the middle of a courtyard offering fancy and classic cocktails and tapas in a relaxed and inviting environment. The colorful laces hanging from the tree that stands in the middle evokes the traditional yunza festivity celebrated in several parts of our country that brings communities together. Elegant and sober private rooms such as the Tower or Heaven have been made available for those celebrating a special family reunion or perhaps a business gathering.
The Tasting Menu Winter 2017 is an experience not to be missed. Every single dish was exquisite, full of creativity, and a joy to watch and certainly taste. The pairing was optimal and so was the service. The menu remains a tribute to Peru’s rich vast resources and to the many wonders that result when different cultures and peoples come together. The tasting menu is changed every three months so you don’t want to miss this one!
The house with its imposing front face, high wooden ceilings and floors, lovely decorative tiles, gorgeous terraces and courtyards, takes us back in time when it used to be an important food provider for Limeños at the turn of the century. Years back, it had also been the scene of a civil battle between Ramón Castilla and José Rufino Echenique. And now that we are talking history, you may want to know that José de San Martín himself was invited as a guest of honor shortly after he proclaimed the independence of Peru. How about that?
After watching and hearing so much history, and having finished our tour of the house, including its five specialized kitchens and Gaston’s laboratory, we sat down to enjoy some drinks. We tried a classic Pisco Sour (s./32) which was made to perfection as it had the necessary kick Pisco sours should have. We also had a house Pisco Punch (s./ 34), a long-time classic but with a twist as it was nicely served with a leaf carrying some coca-powder that you pour into the drink. No, you won’t be taken to jail for this, believe me. The cocktail was sweet with the pineapple coming out strongly. I liked the presentation more than the taste. We also had the Capitán Cacao (s./ 32) with Moscatel pisco, Cinzano rosso, Campari and Aperol, lemon and white cacao which was nice, and the Cholo Mule (s./ 34) which was definitely the team´s favorite. The cocktail had ginger, cucumber syrup, Pisco Torontel, lemon and elderflower tonic and was served with plenty of chopped ice and mint leaves. It was extremely refreshing and splendid.
We were ready to start our food experience. Rather than having the dishes a la carte, we opted for the Tasting Menu that included the wine pairing. The number of courses was reduced by half, if compared to the previous tasting menus, but it was still plenty as we could hardly make it to the end. After quickly strolling down the menu with the peculiar and yet familiar names of the dishes -so typical of Gaston´s restaurants- we saw that this would be a tour of some of the most emblematic Peruvian dishes and also ingredients gracefully embraced from near and far away cultures.
The experience began with a Curaka -a strong artisan beer- that cleaned our palates. The first dish in the menu and the first of the four starters was ¨The Indecent Bed, the forbidden love”. It was a trio of small finger food that included an empanada stuffed with clam and cau-cau juice that was absolutely delicious, a blue papa rellena filled in with lamb that was superb, and a delicate pastry with sea urchin, all lying in this indecent bed.
And From the Freezing Waters of the Pacific Bay, the Scallop and Apple came next. Although not a fan of scallops, I have to admit this one was surprisingly delicious. Presented in a dish full of finely chopped ice and algae, the scallop came covered with fresh basil tartare sauce and apple bits. Once in your mouth, you could feel the freshness of the product, the flavors, and that perfect pinch of spice that made it simply marvelous.
Our next course was the Cebiche, a dice of fresh sea-bass with onions, sweet potato, and corn to which a fragrant and intense red spicy sauce is poured into by the waiter. The freshness of the products, the wonderful flavors of the ginger and the correct amount of spice, made the cebiche just perfect, again.
Then came the Tiradito Lima-Bangkok with a wonderful creamy shell-based tiger´s milk, coconut gel, finely chopped chili peppers and delicate flowers for decoration. The flavors of the tiradito evoked far away oriental cultures and the result was fantastic.
At this time, a colorful and beautifully woven basket full of breads of all sizes, shapes and colors, is placed on our table. I could see some croissants, corn muffin bread, onion and rosemary focaccias, potato and cheese breads –my favorite- red pepper-based bread, lard and passion fruit bread, purple corn and golden berry bread. They came with three types of butter spread: Maras salt, avocado and peppers, and tomatoes with cardamom honey, all to die for.
The first main dish out of the eight you get is the Pekin guinea pig with fresh turnips, chili peppers and a hoisin sauce served in a purple corn-based crepe. The attractive presentation and its enjoyable oriental flavors made it easy to eat. Believe me, I am no fan of guinea pig but this one, I have to admit, was fantastic.
Then came the dish, From Peru embracing a Free Venezuela, which consisted of some small arepas, a staple food in the Latin American country that we now see so often being sold in the streets across major towns here in Peru. The arepas stuffed with minced pork, a quince and red pepper-based sauce and some ocopa were succulent indeed and somehow different from the traditional ones. We loved them.
Another testimony of the virtues of mixing elements from different cultures was the Sancochao Dumpling and Pepian. The dumpling had a perfect texture, wonderful with the added flavors of the pepian sauce, a treat to your senses.
We also had some Sea bass chupe with fava beans, peas, cheese, and a boiled egg. The colors were intense and the taste was enjoyable, familiar and homie, perfect for a cold day out.
The Scallop and eggfruit dish was next. The grilled scallop was bathed in a cocona sauce with some pesto cream, Parmeggiano cheese and topped with almonds. It was a bit spicy but certainly full of flavor.
The Grouper with parihuela juice and mole made its appearance along with some green tortillas. It was taco time. The fish was fresh and the sauce was mouth-watering, delicate and spicy – just the perfect pinch of spice- making this dish simply delicious.
Leaving behind the marvels of the sea, came a “Rabbit in a curry sauce and jasmine flavored quinoa” and the “Roast short rib stew with chaufa rice”. The rabbit and the curry sauce were succulent, and the delicate flavors of the jasmine flavored quinoa were lovely. On the other hand, the roast rib meat was tender and flavorful as it could be, while the fresh algae and the squash cream sauce only enhanced this luscious dish.
Having sampled all the salted dishes, we were ready to move on with the desserts. We started with a Happy Chirimoya bathed in a sauce made of white wine, yacon, orange juice and huacatay. The dessert was refreshing and perfect for cleaning our palate before we continued on. Next came, the Northern Cones, gorgeous apple ice cream cones topped with tall white cotton candy, quinoa pops and decorative flowers. It was another refreshing and tasty dessert.
The final course was the Noble Chocolate from Peru that arrived in the shape of a large wooden box with plenty of compartments to open and discover, each of them filled with a variety of chocolates originating from the different regions across Peru. We found chocolate with quinoa, pisco shots, goldenberry, huacatay truffles, the
memorable Besos de Mosa and chocotejas only to name a few.
Worth mentioning is the wonderful wine pairing selection we had with the menu. The wines we tasted came from Spain, France, Italy, Argentina and Chile, and were all of excellent quality. They were perfectly paired with every dish making our experience even more enjoyable.
Astrid & Gastón
Casa Moreyra, Avenida Paz Soldán 290, San Isidro
Tel. – (51-1) 44 22 777
Tasting menu – s./ 419
Tasting menú with pairing – s./- 699
Three Cebiche tasting – s./ 98
Starters – s./ 22 – 78
Main dishes – s./ 58 -98
Desserts – s./ 34 – 44
Cocktails – s./ 32 -42
Non-alcoholic drinks – s./ 22 – 29