I was reminded of two quotes upon entering the swank, upscale restaurant Astrid y Gaston over the weekend. One I saw on the wall of a youth hostel in Cusco: “Champagne lifestyle on a lemonade wage.” The other was by Ernest Hemingway. Living in Paris when the dollar was strong and the franc was weak, and able to dine on haute cuisine on a writer’s income, he noted how “exchange was a beautiful thing.”
Astrid y Gaston would be completely out of my price range in the United States. The restaurant, owned by famed chef Gaston Acurio and his wife, Astrid, is the creme de la creme of fine dining in a city that takes its food very seriously. The main courses look like works of art. The waiters wear pinstripe suits. There is a bread guy who — get this — explains the different types of bread at your table and offers suggestions on which ones to eat and in what order. It was only by two fortunate circumstances that I was able to come here: 1) A birthday gift of $75 with the condition that I eat somewhere nice, and 2) Exchange rates. A main course will run you about 60 S/. ($22). You can find a meal at Applebee’s for that price.
So what did we eat? For those of you with food envy, read no further. It’s about to get deliciously detailed.
For starters, we ordered two dishes, the creamy foie de pato (duck rolls in a cream sauce) and tiradito, a dish similar to sushi involving thinly sliced raw tuna with a wide assortment of sauces. Both were heavenly, although the tiradito was a bit sweet for my taste.
For my main course, I went outside my comfort zone and ordered the suckling goat. Before you say anything, I know that’s a baby goat (or kid, if you will). The poor guy never had a chance. Am I proud of the fact that it was unbelievably juicy and tender, topped with a subtle yet savory sauce that left me wanting more, and served with perfect complement of watercress salad, all washed down by a deep red cabernet sauvignon? No.
For her main course, my companion Caroline ordered up the devil fish, which I of course sampled from liberally. It was easily the best thing I ate all evening. How can I describe this dish to you in a way that the picture cannot? It was a work of art. A symphony, if you will. And everything from the creamy glaze to the fresh mushrooms and corn provided a perfect musical accompaniment. The stuffed red pepper served on the side was also delicious.
Alright, so I ate most of the dessert before I remembered to take a picture. I couldn’t resist. Our order — a sort of Peruvian gourmet twist on apple crisp — was the perfect way to end an evening of total decadence. Just to give you a mental picture, it came out looking brilliant: Baked apple atop alternating layers of crust and chocolate, and served with delectable sides of caramel and ginger ice cream. It ended with what you see here.
So that’s that of my foray into fine dining. It was good while it lasted. If any of you out there are looking for a writer, say, a food critic, I’m your guy. I’ll work for food.
Interested in giving Astrid y Gaston a try? You can find it at Calle Cantuarias 175, two blocks off of Larco in Miraflores. Call ahead for reservations.