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One of South America’s most celebrated chefs, Gastón Acurio has become a true ambassador for Peru through his culinary talent. The menu at this landmark restaurant calls Peru “a land of unlimited ingredients, . . . of infinite dishes, . . . country that the world is just starting to discover.” Acurio describes his cooking as just like the new Peru: criollo, a mix of Andean, Spanish, Italian and Asian.
When I came for lunch, businessmen and well-dressed families sat near travelers who, from the looks of their hiking boots and windbreakers, were taking a break from trekking. Although Acurio has expanded his empire to Bogotá, Quito, Buenos Aires, Madrid and other cities, the emphasis here is entirely regional. Among his most popular starters: huancainos (potatoes, yuccas and corn with Peruvian cold aji-cream sauces), Peruvian ceviche and tamales with deep-fried pork and stuffed potatoes. One of the main courses, named Lima’s Favorite, is hand-shredded chicken in an aji-amarillo sauce served with pecans, Andean cheese, native yellow potatoes, black olives, egg and plain rice. In addition to the many seviches, the seafood dishes include wild scallops from Paracas and sea-urchin shots (prepared three ways), while carnivores can savor delicious veal and pork leg in peanut sauce or alpaca osso bucco in a homemade curry sauce. The dishes are not light, but you must save room for a dessert like picarónes clásicos (a kind of doughnut), manjar blanco (a concoction of milk, sugar and egg yolks) or sacha tomate (a tomato filled with cream cheese, served on French toast with a tomato sauce). There may be no better place for a crash course in the richness of Peruvian cuisine. But tips cannot go on the credit card bill, so bring cash.
Astrid & Gastón's is currently fourth on South America's World's 50 Best list.
Written by Melissa Biggs Bradley