It’s time I revealed our penchant for extraordinary food experiences.
The holidays seem to have put me in a bit of a dreamy state. Perhaps that’s why I feel compelled to tell the tale of our encounter with Peru’s fantastical Astrid y Gaston. I mean, if a place is rated the best restaurant in Latin America, we ARE going to find out why.
And so, on the gorgeous evening of July 4, 2014, our taxi driver Diego delivered us to a sprawling white mansion in the midst of Lima’s San Isidro business and financial district.
Upon my first glimpse of the magnificent hacienda, I felt immediately thrust into a dreamlike state. The atmosphere of Lima is incredible — with the lights and the mist from the ocean, it feels like everything’s refreshingly aglow. From the entrance/drive, to your right is the restaurant, and it commands the eye up, up, up… and yet something else caught mine, to the left, in the dark. A movement in what appeared to my mind to be a mysterious, overgrown garden. I watched as a white-clad figure emerged from a mini-jungle carrying something on a platter, gliding across the drive and up the stairs into the restaurant.
“What was that?” I asked Andrew. He hadn’t seen anything. Am I dreaming?
In all honesty, I wasn’t entirely sure how to begin this post. Should I mention the renowned chef Gastón Acurio? (Andrew says, “Yes! OF COURSE you should mention him, he’s only the very best chef in all Latin America and among the best in the world!” Or at least that’s how I picture him responding.) Should I mention how difficult it was for Andrew to make reservations? (It took him several months, and more than a few persistent phone calls.) Or maybe I should even begin with a conversation we had with a fellow guest at the Amazonian Treehouse Lodge we visited prior to arriving in Lima. It went something like this:
Andrew: So, yeah after this we’ll be heading to Lima, mostly to dine at amazing restaurants.
Biologist Amy: Where will you dine at first?
Erin: Astrid y Gaston!
Biologist Amy: ASTRID Y GASTON?!? YOU HAVE RESERVATIONS AT ASTRID Y GASTON?!?
For the record, after having dined at Astrid y Gaston myself… Amy’s reaction was incredibly appropriate.
Not only did they design an entire tasting menu, but even the dishes and tableware were custom-made for each dish!
I was stunned when I realized THIS was what I’d seen when we’d first arrived — they’d been cooking the potatoes in the ground, in the restaurant’s very own on-site garden!
They even gave us a little book documenting the story of our tasting journey through Peru, entitled “Viru”. It’s beautiful, artful.
In the end, we waded through 29 exquisite tastes representing the history of the hacienda and the five regions of Peru — The Pacific Ocean, The Desert, The Andes, The Altiplano, and The Amazon. Every bite was a new adventure… so different, so surprising, so stunning. Among the best culinary experiences of my life.