Sunday, July 1, 2012

Peru Part 6: Lima and Astrid & Gaston

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We were picked up from our hotel to go to the airport around 9:30. We were leaving Cusco to go to Lima.

It looked like the protests were getting larger. We learned that there were riots in an area south of Cusco where the citizens were trying to prevent a large mining installation from coming into their town. With Cusco being the capital of the region the protests carried over to this area.  Lots more police in riot gear vs. the day before. When we got the airport, the gate was closed to all traffic. We walked through a security check with no hassle and had a 2 minute walk to the terminal.  Our flight was delayed 90 minutes (beyond the original delay), but we were lucky to get out. The airport closed later in the day as a state of emergency was declared.

We were picked up by our Peruforless agent and taken to our hotel (Casa Andina Private Collection) in Miraflores, a district of Lima. A good portion of the ride was along the coast. Miraflores is listed as one of the nicest areas of Lima. We couldn't tell that from the area around our hotel because of the massive amount of construction. It looked bombed-out from our hotel window. It was a different story a few blocks away.

We had everything packed and away by 4pm and had dinner reservations two blocks from our hotel at 7pm. Since the area really didn't have any tourist attractions we decided to take the 15 minutes walk to Larcomar, an outdoor shopping mall built into the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We visited only one place in Larcomar - Cafe Cafe, which is a Chili's knock-off. They had a nice deck overlooking the water. Unfortunately, it was winter in Lima so the coast is typically overcast.

We were excited for our dinner tonight at Astrid & Gaston. It's typically listed as Peru's top restaurant and is ranked in the Top 50 Restaurants in the World (#35 this year) by San Pellegrino. Gaston Acurio, the restaurant's owner, is a celebrity chef in Peru with multiple restaurant concepts around the world and tv shows. His focus at Astrid & Gaston is New Andean cuisine. There were several of us at the doors waiting to go in at 7pm. As we entered more of the people went to the bar instead of the dining room. In a lot of the finer U.S. restaurants they don't have dining in the bar (or even have a bar). In Peru it seemed commonplace to have a bar. We learned the appetizers were only a few dollars cheaper than the entrees so you could get something decent to eat at the bar without going for all the courses. Nice idea.

Going from 11,000 feet elevation to sea-level didn't have an immediate impact on bringing back our appetites. We had to forego the tasting menu. The regular menu was large and some of the translations to English kept some ingredients a mystery. Wish we took better notes about our meals because we don't remember what was in a lot of the dishes.

We started with Cholopolitans (which are cosmos made with pisco instead of vodka) and the bread service. The basket included several different types including a purple potato bread.

Amuse bouche: One was a mango tort and the other was some kind of fritter. Details on this one are gone.....They were both good.

Appetizers: We learned why appetizers we almost the price of an entree. They were HUGE! Holly ordered the Pilgrimage of the Potato that listed having 3 different type potatoes prepared different ways. The listing did not mention two pieces of fish and octopus that comes with it.

Dave had the Tour of Peru 2012. It included four traditional Peruvian foods: stuffed pepper, papas rellena, potato and octopus, and tamale with baby goat. He expected the meat to be chopped up and served over the tamale. Instead the baby goat meat was like a lamb chop for a teddy bear, with little ribs and all. This made us sad.

Entrees: We both ordered fish. We were on the ocean so it seemed logical. Holly ordered the rockfish and Dave ordered the fish of the day - no idea what kind of fish it was. Dave's came topped with mixed seafood like shrimp, squid, and scallops. Both entrees were excellent.

Dessert: we split one. It was called The Sensitive Sphere: Chocolate shell with compote and lucuma ice cream (a local fruit). Chocolate sauce was poured on top to add to the richness. We found a video on YouTube with the presentation:

The petite fours came in a neat little spinning box. Selections included truffles, jelly candy, macaroons, and cookies with caramel.

Now time for the bill. It comes in this nice wooden box that looks like a coffin; possibly to indicate that your total may kill you. Actually, the price was very reasonable. Our check total would have been a lot higher for the same meal in Chicago.

This was truly a great meal and fun experience. After dinner we went back to the hotel and called it a night. The plan for the next day was an afternoon city tour and dinner at another top-rated restaurant.

Google images for Astrid & Gaston

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