Astrid y Gaston. It was listed as one of the 50 Best Restaurants in the World, but I wanted to find out what it was about. In my investigation, I learned about Chef/Restauranteur Gaston Acurio. His history really interested me and his restaurant aims convinced me that Astrid y Gaston was a restaurant that I really wanted to go through. The son of a politician, Gaston, first went to Law School thinking that he would follow in his father's footsteps, but he discovered that he really didn't want to be a lawyer and went to Paris, where he went to culinary school. He met his wife in Paris and they returned to Lima in 1994 where he decided to apply his acquired fine dining skill to Peruvian food and try to introduce the world to Peruvian cuisine. Through the years, Gaston Acurio has opened about 40 restaurants in several countries including the United States (La Mar in Miami, San Francisco, and San Diego, and Tanta in Chicago). I had been to Tanta in Chicago and found that Peruvian cuisine was a fusion of various influences and it really interested me so, when plans for a trip to Peru started happening, I knew that Astrid & Gaston had to be on the list of places to visit. We made plans to do an organized tour, but also to spend several days in Lima after the tour ended, so we would have a chance to explore things at a more leisurely pace and to see things that we might want to see on our own. Looking at our schedule and what day might work to go to Astrid y Gaston, we found that our best day to go was going to be on the day our tour ended so that is when I made the reservation. We left our tour hotel and settled into our apartment in the morning and our reservation wasn't until the evening so we decided to explore. We were fairly close to the coast, which was a cliff and there was a mall, Larcomar, built into the cliff. It was a place recommended while we were on the tour so we decided to check it out. It was a very nice mall with a lot of high end stores, but what makes me mention it is that Gaston Acurio's Cafe Restaurant, Tanta, was located there. As it was lunch time and we had not eaten yet, we decided to stop there for lunch and use it as kind of a preview for Astrid y Gaston. I will start out by saying that Tanta Larcomar and Tanta Chicago have very little in common except that they serve Peruvian food. Tanta Larcomar is very brightly colored, using a lot of reds and yellows in their color scheme. It reminds me of a restaurant/bar that you might find on the beach which is appropriate. It actually has two levels, the main level which is primarily bar and patio with a red and yellow canvas tent roof. The interior of the restaurant is on the side of the cliff and you actually have to go down from the main level to get to it. The outer walls were windows overlooking the ocean and allowing for a lot of light. While the place looked relatively casual, the waiters were dressed very professionally with black pants, bright blue shirts (with a Tanta logo) and ties. The place looked very friendly and casual and the menu looked very good, but as we were going to be having a 29 course meal for dinner, we thought it a good idea possibly, to take it easily and eat lightly. After ordering and seeing other people's orders come out, we determined that that was not going to really be possible. I started things out with Tiraditos Dos Cremas. I knew from having it earlier that tiraditos is a dish of raw fish or seafood prepared similarly to ceviche and it sounded good. This Tiradito was prepared with Corvina, a Drum Fish native to the Southeastern Pacific, and two sauces, Aji Amarilla (yellow pepper) and Rocoto (Red Pepper). The Corvina was very thinly sliced and covered in the sauce, so when the plate came, it looked at first as it if I was getting a plate of sauces divided by garnishes (Sweet Potatoes, Peruvian Corn, and Red Peppers). I had to stab my fork into the sauce to find that the plate was actually covered with fish before the sauces and garnish went on. The corvina was very tender and tasty and went very well with both sauces. The sauces also use a lot of lime juice so they were both pretty sour. Of the two sauces, I would have expected the red to be spicier, but it was actually the yellow that was more spicy.
While some of the desserts that we saw looked very good, we really wanted to have room for dinner that night so we waived dessert. The food and service here were very good and I would happily return. but on this trip we had other hills to climb.
Such was the start of our dinner. To be continued in part 2.