In Peru Gastón Acurio is a national icon; he has published a range of cookbooks, has his own television show and commentates extensively about food in Peru and South America. His culinary reputation rests on Astrid y Gastón, a restaurant he started in 1994 in the up and coming Miraflores district of Lima. The opening of the restaurant was the culmination of Acurio’s immersion in culinary tradition, following his rejection of his legal studies as a young man. He traveled to Europe where he found work at Madrid’s Sol de Madrid and the Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and learnt the intricacies of European fine-dining. It was in Paris that he met his German wife Astrid, who would contribute her cooking skills and her name to their restaurant upon their return to Peru.
Astrid y Gastón was opened as a means of applying the fine-dining and gourmet traditions Gastón found in Europe to Peruvian food, which at that time was still largely unknown outside of the South American scene. He contributed to the creation of Cocina Novoandina, a style of cuisine which combines traditional ingredients and flavor combinations from Peru and the Andean region with modern cooking techniques. Gastón added a mixture of international styles and flavors to the mix to further push the culinary traditions in Peru, including Asian influences such as Chinese and Japanese, and the Mediterranean cooking styles which he had picked up on his travels in Europe.
The dishes served at Astrid y Gastón were thus innovative yet familiar, combining tradition and modernity to dazzling effect and bringing out the elegant and refined side of the traditional hearty Andean cuisine. Some of the dishes served by the restaurant include Cuy Pekines, a rebranding of the Andean delicacy the Guinea Pig with the flavors of Chinese Peking Duck; Choclo Peruvian white corn party, which uses the Peruvian staple corn in unique ways; Noble Robado Fish, served in miso sauce with oysters; and the Ayaviri Peaceful Lamb, which comes in three different incarnations, stuffed, grilled and in a pumpkin soup. The presentation of the dishes is typical of Gastón’s fun loving character, which is also evident in every aspect of the restaurant, from the funky interiors to the name of the plates. For example: ‘Causa, estas frito’ a butter bean and fish dish which translates as ‘Dude, you’re done!’. As fun loving as Astrid y Gastón can be, it remains dedicated to fine-dining and reveals the best of Peruvian food in an elegant and sophisticated style. It has been listed in San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants for several years.
Astrid y Gastón has been a massive success in Lima, and has given birth to a food empire which continues to grow. Astrid y Gastón now has sister restaurants in Santiago de Chile, Bogotá, Quito, Caracas, Buenos Aires and Madrid, whilst Gastón has also opened a series of other restaurants including Madam Tusan, which specializes in Chifa, or Chinese-Peruvian cuisine. There are also plans for a restaurant which combines Peruvian food with Japanese gastronomy and another which combines Peruvian with Italian. In the meantime Gastón has recently opened up a chain of La Mar Cebicheria, including one in Lima, which specialize in Peruvian seafood and offer various takes on the classic Peruvian Ceviche, raw fish marinated in Peruvian limes and spices, and served with a side of white corn. It is typical of Gastón’s style that he combines reverence for the Ceviche, one of the classics of Peruvian cuisine, with an indefatigable desire to expand the boundaries of that cuisine, constantly adding more elements to the mix and reinventing Peru’s culinary tradition with every dish.
Astrid y Gastón, Calle Cantaurias 175, Miraflores, Lima, +51 1242 4422 astridygastón.com.