Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Gaston Acurio: Tanta and Astrid y Gaston, Part 2

In my last post I had talked about Gaston Acurio, his cafe, Tanta in Larcomar, and the beginning of dinner at his flagship restaurant, Astrid y Gaston.  As I mentioned, the dinner was about our memories and the dining room was designed to evoke childhood memories.  As the dinner was 28 courses, it would be difficult to talk about every single course individually, so I will talk about them in the "acts" in which they were presented.  I will say though that all of the dishes were very different and creative and that I had several things that I had never encountered before.  The first act that we were presented was Sweets After School which were presented in one container that was similar to a cookie tin.  We were instructed to start with the Barquillos, the thin and delicate biscuit rolls, that were served with a Lemon, Basil, Strawberry, Rocoto Pepper, and Yogurt spread that we were to eat with it (lower picture).  We then proceeded to the Ice Cream which was a small sugar cone filled with Lucuma flavored Ice Cream (Lucuma is a South American fruit with a dry flesh and a flavor similar to Sweet Potatoes and Maple) and topped with Chocolate-covered Chestnuts.  Next were the Camotitos, crunchy wafer cookies of Ginger and Chicken Skin, the Meringue Kisses made, surprisingly, with Black Botija Olives and Anchovies, and finally, the Charada made with Prawns rolled in Peanuts.  While they all looked like sweet treats and there was some sweetness to them, they were not exceptionally sweet, but they were creative, provided a wide variety of textures and flavors and tasted good.

The next act was presented in 3 courses and were about Home Memories.  There were three courses presented individually.  We were first presented with a large Ice Cube filled with Medlar Juice (a Medlar is an Asian Fruit that is hard until it has been frozen which causes it to soften).  The dish was called Garden Fruits tasted very much like lemonade.  Our next course was called Mama's Patita which was presented on a tripod and consisted of Ground and Roasted Pig Trotters with Mustard and Cress.  And finally, Grandma's Torrejita which was like a small, warm Tortilla with Chickpeas, White Asparagus, and Caviar.
For the next act, we remembered A Summer at the Beach and were served Raspadillas, a dish of Shaved Ice.  This Shaved Ice was a combination Vegetable Ice, Syrups, and Fruits and Herbs from their gardens (which are in the front of the restaurant).

The next memories were of Products That Are Leaving Us and there were two courses.  The first course was a Frozen Delicia Apple which was thinly sliced and presented as a Ceviche with a Leche de Tigre of Rocoto,  Sea Urchin, and Borage (the small flowers).  The second course was called That Pink Clam Chowder which was kind of funny actually, because it was neither pink nor contained clams.  It contained Fake Pink Clams made from Pacae (Ice Cream Bean, a legume native to South America that produces an edible and sweet white pulp), Spicy Seafood Broth, Fava Beans, and Creamy Potatoes.
We then had a couple of dishes representing Recipes That Are Leaving Us.  We started with Memories of a Shrimp Ocopa which was a dish that looked and tasted like a shrimp stew.  It consisted of Shrimp Tails, Shrimp Essence Oil, Roasted Peanuts, Garlic, Roasted Onion Broth, Mirasol Pepper, Nuts, and Huacatay (a Marigold plant native to southern South America whose leaves are dried for seasoning and also known as Black Mint Paste).  The second dish of this group was the Escabeche of Cojinova (Escabeche is a dish similar to Ceviche except that the fish, in this case Cojinova or Palm Ruff, is poached first).  This was one of my favorite dishes.  It also used Lightly Smoked Marinade Oil, Onions, Tomatoes, and Aji Peppers.
The next act was about Going Back Home and for this course we were presented with an Homage to Mashed Potatoes with Fried Egg.  Potatoes are very much a staple in Peru with over 3000 varieties grown, so I was not at all surprised to see a dish based on potatoes.  The dish consisted of Chaulina Potato Cream, Chicken Jus, Dried Tomatoes and Porcini, Fried Quail Eggs, Tomato Powder and Spinich.  I wish I had been a little better with the focus on this dish.  Suffice it to say that it looked as good as it sounded and tasted just as well.

The next act contained three courses and was about Regional Longing.  With these courses, we got into the final savory courses.  We started with Between a Potato Ajiaco (a hearty potato stew with beef) and a Tongue which contained Semi-Dried Native Potatoes, Fresh Cream Cheese, Onion, Roasted Yellow Aji Pepper, and Beef Tongue.  We then went to Rabbit Pachamanca (the rabbit is baked with spices using hot stones) made with Rabbit Loin and Liver, Corn and Garlic Cream, Oca (Sweet Potatoes) and Olluco (a South American plant grown primarily as a tuber, but secondarily as a leaf vegetable).  We finished this act with an Homage to Shambar (a traditional Peruvian soup typically containing three types of meat, beans, and spices.  This version had Brisket, Pork Rib Broth, Bean Germs, and Peppermint Sprouts.

The last several acts covered the wide variety of desserts we were served.  The first set were called Children's Pranks and were presented in four courses.  We started with The Tasty Banana and Cheese with an Isla Banana, Spices, Caramel, and Pisco, Crumbs of Paria Cheese (a semi-hard cheese with wrinkled skin), Arugula, and Black Pepper.  We then remembered Pomegranate Wars During the Break which was a Pomegranate Bombe (ice cream frozen into a spherical mold), after which we remembered Strawberries and Milk which was a Strawberry Gelee and a Strawberry Flavored Condensed Milk Ball and finished with U-Alianza, an Homage to Mazamorra Morada (a Peruvian Purple Corn Pudding) and Arroz Con Leche (Rice Pudding).
The next act which consisted of two courses was a bit whimsical and was called Sweet Memory.  It started with Lima Blanquillos (I am not exactly sure where the name came from because blanquillo is synonymous with huevo, which is egg.  Blanquillo though, has a rather derogatory negative slang meaning).  The dish consisted of Apricots cooked with Chamomile, Almond Cake, and Apricot Kernel Ice Cream.  The second dish was called Why is it Called King Kong?  It consisted of a Quince Compote (Cotton Candy), Peanut Jelly, Herb Soup, and Flower Ice Cream.

We finished Lost Flavors.  Which was an act in two courses.  We started with a Real Chocolate Bar with Peanut Cocada (the coconut bark cookie).  The chocolate was a little on the dark side but it was very good.  Eating it together with the cocada though, was like eating a deconstructed Mounds Bar.  The last course was a little strange.  It was called an Emoliente in Two Temperatures.  An Emoliente is an herbal tea and the flute we were presented with had a leaf in it to start.  The server then poured a different liquid into each side and pulled the leaf out.  The liquids were not only two temperatures, but two colors and two consistensies as well.  We were to drink the drinks side by side to get both flavors at once (The flavors were different as well).

Dinner at Astrid y Gaston was an amazing experience and while I am sure I didn't do justice to the individual courses, I was very happy that I had the opportunity to experience this.  If I return to Lima, this is a place that I would try again as well as some of Gaston Acurio's other restaurants. 



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