Astrid y Gaston
Av. Paz Soldán 290
Telephone: +511 442-2777 / +511 442-2775 / +511 442-2774
Overall rating: 7,5/10
Date of visit: February 2017
Before going to Peru the first time I started to look into the various top restaurants here. Central was, of course, being hailed as the best as you would expect from its number 5 spot on the list of the world’s 50 best restaurants by Restaurant Magazine. I then quickly read that Maido was almost as good, and while Astrid y Gaston was a pleasant affair it was just a bit plain and not old-fashioned. So, I booked Maido as Central was impossible to get into, and I dismissed Astrid y Gaston.
When I was in Peru the third time, my Peruvian girlfriend and I came to talk about the restaurants in Lima, and she mentioned Astrid y Gaston, as it’s the most famous restaurant here. She would like to go, so I invited her for our monthly anniversary.
I hadn’t expected much, but I quickly found out that Astrid y Gaston was the one I liked the best. After a few dishes I told my girlfriend that I already liked this better than Maido. And the term “old-fashioned” or “plain” is not exactly words I would use about the food here. Granted, it wasn’t as super-creative or explorative as the two others, Central in particular, but I would nevertheless call the food high quality classic with a strong modern twist – not unlike for instance Vendome in Germany, although not with quite the same luxurious feel as Vendome.
The restaurant was larger than expected and contained several rooms, which gave it a somewhat disjointed feel, but nevertheless it was a nice place.
Astrid y Gaston serve both a la carte dishes and a tasting menu. We went for the tasting menu, which was priced at 389 sol (€112) per person. We also shared a wine menu, which was priced at 280 sol (€81). More about the wine later. Lastly, we drank three bottles of water, priced at 22 sol (€6.35) each.
First we started with some small amuse bouches. Afterwards we were a bit divided on whether the first one was pickled cucumber or not (I believe it was), but we both liked it. Usually, I find cucumber very bland and I’ve only had it a few times in my life where I truly enjoyed it, and this was one of them. The two look different, as I believe the one on the right, for my girlfriend, contained some mussel or clam ingredient.
Next were small, tasty empanadas and biscuits. Also really nice bites:
Next up was a small cracker with bonito tuna, if I’m not mistaken:
The first proper dish was for me were small, cold pieces of fish with a chili sauce that wasn’t particularly spicy (luckily). I forget what the ice cream was, but I think it contained mustard:
My girlfriend had octopus with a mussel sauce. I tried it, but was very glad that I asked for no mussels, clams and sea urchins, but she enjoyed it.
The next dish was one of my favourites: Tomatoes with tigermilk. Very simple but also very tasty. Granted, the tomatoes were not up to the standard of what I had in Italy, but how could they be?
The next dish was a piece of toast with sea urchin, served on a lovely plate:
As I had asked for no sea urchin, I had mushrooms instead:
Although this was pretty harmless, my mushroom toast wasn’t really special, although my girlfriend enjoyed the sea urchin.
Bonito tuna was served with cantaloupe melon (behind the fish) and what to me tasted like anis (perhaps the small dark seeds in the center of the plate). This was one of my favourite dishes here, although my girlfriend was a tad less impressed and couldn’t discern the anis:
Bread then appeared. Usually, I don’t pay that much attention to bread, as I’m used to it being anywhere from average to good. But there have been at least three restaurants that have served truly extraordinary bread: El Celler de Can Roca in Spain, Vollmers in Sweden… and Astrid y Gaston. The one with bacon was very rich, but went really well with the lard or the smoky butter served along with the bread. The bread made from corn was also particularly lovely. Actually, the plain bread was the least interesting due to the others being so good, but it was a very fine bread on its own.
Besides regular butter in the middle, the smokey one mixed with ash at the back, and the lardo on the side, it was served with guacamole with chimichuro:
The next dish I honestly can’t recall what was, but I believe it was fish with prawns. I also recall this as being one of the blandest dishes in this meal.
Breaded scallop was served with toasted almond slivers and a few other elements that I don’t recall. I recall this as being fairly pleasant but nothing extraordinary:
Next we had another nice plate served, this time with guinea pig, which of course is one of those Peruvian dishes you quickly hear about when you come to the country:
The main course I suppose you could call it was pork with crispy skin served with a traditional Peruvian root vegetable. This was the only dish that I disliked. My girlfriend had no issues, but to me the pork had that real flavour of pig, if that makes sense.
The first dessert also served as a palate cleanser: Pisco sour sorbet (as in pisco sour, the Peruvian alcohol), and I believe it was served with pineapple jelly and a lychee soup, but my memory might fail me.
Again, my memory is a bit foggy here, but I believe the next dessert was strawberries with cucumber granité and white chocolate.
Then it was time for petit fours, and when I saw the content of the box containing them I wanted to try them all, but alas! we were only allowed 5-6 each, although the waiter let me have 7. Although I liked some better than others, they were all good and very high quality. In many restaurants, even three star ones, petit fours are forgettable and often don’t even look particular appetizing. Much like Vendome in Germany, these ones were top of the line, and they actually looked a lot like the ones in Vendome as well:
Then at the end of the meal, the restaurant presented us with a surprise. When I booked the table, they had asked us if we were celebrating something, and I saw it was our five month anniversary of knowing each other, so the restaurant gave us a cake to bring home:
So, all in all this was a very nice meal. Not every dish was top of the line, nor was every dish memorable, but overall the standard was very high. Yes, there were no extraordinary dishes, and there was only one dish that I really disliked. I would say all dishes were in the 6 to 7,5 out of 10 region with most being around 7 to 7,5. The service was also a contributing factor to my score. Of course, the bread needs special mentioning as it was really top notch, and, as mentioned, among the very best bread I’ve had in any restaurant worldwide.
There was one thing that I regret about Astrid y Gaston, and that was that we shared a wine pairing.
The wine pairing started out with a beer, a pale ale, and from there it was a mix of more traditional wines from the likes of sauvignon blanc and chardonnay to very unusual wines from both South America and Europe – some even resembled whiskey in flavour. For the dessert we had a sherry, and after this we had a gin as a “surprise”. Although none of the wines were anywhere near undrinkable, then none of them really amounted to much more than average. But I don’t recall having just one glass of wine in Peru that I truly enjoyed. People told me that the wine Peru produces is not very good compared to basically anything from Argentina. On top of this, imported wine, even from Argentina is surprisingly expensive, and more expensive than in Denmark! So, making a good wine pairing seems to be a difficult task.
The service in Astrid y Gaston was indeed very good, and clearly the very best best I’ve had in Peru. It was better than Maido, and much better than Central – we both agreed about that. There were a few instances where the dishes were only presented in English, but usually they were presented in English for me and in Spanish for my girlfriend. The sommelier did, however, around halfway through and to the end, only present the wines in English, whereas initially he had also presented them in Spanish.
The sommelier was also very forthcoming and talkative as well, and we had a small chat at one point. Every staff member we encountered was very friendly and forthcoming, and at no point did we feel rushed nor neglected. I seem to recall my glass of water being empty at one or two occasions, but it was quickly filled up, and I never had to ask for water, which is more than what can be said about Central and Maido.
The pace of the meal was good as well. Looking at the time-stamps of my pictures, it was only between the pork and the subsequent course as well as between the last dessert and the petit fours that more than five-ten minutes passed between serving. Looking back now, I don’t have any recollection of this short amount of waiting being an issue, whereas I clearly remember the “rush” at Central being a bit bothersome.
So, if I was to go back to a top-end restaurant in Peru for a tasting menu, it would definitely be Astrid y Gaston.