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January 4, 2013 / Food Follower

Astrid & Gastón for an Early Birthday Celebration

My parents took me to Astrid & Gastón for an early birthday celebration, and we took the 17 course tasting menu. No, I did not make a typo and you saw correctly – 17 courses. Astrid & Gastón is the best restaurant in Lima, and apparently one of the 50 best restaurants in the world. I am not surprised since the food I ate there was some of the best I’ve ever eaten in my life, and the service was very good. I was a little surprised how casual the restaurant was – it was very laid-back and there was no dress code. Annoyingly enough, there was a baby which started shrieking, but luckily we switched rooms.

From start to finish the meal was delightful. Our server brought us our first course (called Nature) on a nest (obviously not a real one, though it sure looked real). We each ate 5 things on the nest: achira (which is a tropical plant that grows in Peru) with herbs and garlic, crunchy seaweed, a twig of cashew, some sort of soft white apple drop with a begonia flower, and an “egg” whose shell was made of granadilla-flavored sugar and the inside was passionfruit. This dish was very cleverly done and delicious.

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The second dish was also remarkable and definitely one of the highlights of my meal – cold tomato soup with toasted quinoa and small tomato pearls. The base of this soup was tomato water, so it was clear. The chef added vinegar to the tomato water which really brought out the flavor of the tomato. The toasted quinoa was so crunchy and was a perfect texture balance to the smooth tomato water. The soup was served in a small egg-shaped bowl which was a perfect continuation to the nature and bird theme.

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The other 15 courses were:
1) potato with peppers and dusted with mushrooms
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2) lima beans with brazilian nuts and calamari (this was also amazing because the lima beans seemed to be pureed and reformed into the shape of a lima bean). The texture was very luscious.
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3) Sea scallops with corn, coral oil and coriander
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4) A ceviche with clams, sea snails, and sea urchin served with sweet potato and corn like a typical ceviche (I enjoyed the dish, but it was my least favorite just because I don’t like snails).
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5) Some fish (I forget the name) with artichokes and a sauce of leche de tigre (which is a lime sauce used to “cook” ceviche).
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6) Blue fish with mussels, yellow pepper, roasted onion, and sea lettuce
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7) Shrimp with potatoes, cheese curd, and broad beans in a tomato sauce
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8) Dashi with toasted octopus, black sesame, daikon, and avocado. The preparation of this dish was so cool – the server brought a contraption with two chambers. The bottom chamber had broth in the bottom and the top chamber had raw vegetables. The server lit a little flame and in a matter of seconds, the broth started boiling and went to the top chamber where the vegetables were. The hot broth got good flavor from the vegetables. After a couple of minutes, our waiter served the flavored broth in a bowl with the accompaniments (the octopus, black sesame, etc.).
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9) Peking cuy (aka peking guinea pig). I swore I would never eat guinea pig before, but I caved in at Astrid & Gastón. And shockingly enough, this was one of my favorite dishes. The cuy was served like a burrito with a soft purple corn tortilla, sweet and sour sauce, and pickled vegetables on top.
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10) Carbonara – this dish was a play on the classic pasta carbonara. Instead of pasta, the chef made the carbonara with arracacha which is a root vegetable grown in the Andes. I don’t usually like carbonara, but this was very good.
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11) Roasted pig with potatoes, peanuts and chocolate. This was a great transition dish between the entrées and desserts because the peanuts and chocolate made the pig mildly sweet.
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12) Frozen chirimoya (a Peruvian fruit) with caramel, crispy caramel cake, and orange. This was another highlight of the meal because I actually detest chirimoya, but the way it was prepared here was superb. It made me want to eat more chirimoya. I think the chirimoya was frozen in liquid nitrogen.
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13) Lucuma (an Andean tropical fruit) popsicle with dark chocolate for dipping and granola topping. I loved how interactive this dish was. I dipped my popsicle in the dark chocolate sauce and coated it with the crispy granola.
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14) “Beso de Moza” which had butter scotch, meringue, and camu camu (a fruit from the Amazon which tasted like strawberry) wrapped in a dark chocolate shell.
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15) 5 little desserts: lucuma tuile, pumpkin cake, mango-basil jelly (my favorite of the 5), and two chocolate truffles one of which had pisco.
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Surprise 18th dish for me because I was celebrating my birthday. A cake which I thought was blackberry-flavored bread pudding with coconut sorbet and orange foam. AMAZING!
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