Its façade is grand yet unassuming: that of a quiet colonial house overlooking a side street near Lima’s Parque Central. But Astrid y Gastón is far from unknown. Arguably the best restaurant in Peru, it is part of a growing international chain owned by celebrity chef and restaurateur Gastón Acurio and his wife, Astrid.
Its latest claim to fame is making it to the S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants, ranked 42nd. The list is put together every year by Restaurant magazine, and employs over 800 restaurant industry experts from around the world. It is widely regarded as the “Oscars” of the restaurant business.
Acurio, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu, prides himself on using local ingredients and traditional cooking methods. The restaurant’s selection, however, is a bit more varied. Restaurant describes it as a mish-mash of light Peruvian and international cuisine. Pacific seafood, abundant throughout the year, leads the pack alongside signature dishes like suckling goat, warm ceviche, and noble robado (a local fish). Astrid also serves up a long list of desserts, each of them spectacular, according to Frommer’s review.
Inside, guests are welcomed by a hip yet cozy interior, the orange-and-white walls adorned with modern art and the lighting sleek but welcoming. A wine-salon room is sectioned off for privacy, and an open kitchen showcases Gastón and his staff at work. Reservations are usually recommended during peak seasons, especially at dinner hours. Main courses range from $11 to $26.
The restaurant’s inclusion in the list is a sign that fine cuisine is no longer concentrated in big players like France, Spain, and Italy, but is spreading towards more eclectic tastes, according to Restaurant editor Willam Drew. Russia, China, and Mexico all have new entries this year.
René Redzepi’s waterfront restaurant, Noma, in Copenhagen topped the list for the second year in a row. Its cuisine is described as Nordic- and Scandinavian-inspired more than straight Nordic, and features seafood, fresh cheese, and international wines on center stage. It was followed by Spanish restaurants El Celler de Can Roca and Mugaritz, and Osteria Francescana in Italy.
Astrid y Gastón has restaurants in Madrid and several cities in South America, including Bogota, Colombia; Caracas, Venezuela; Panama City, Quito, Ecuador, and Santiago, Chile. They also opened another restaurant in San Francisco in 2008. Acurio’s book, 500 Años de Fusion (“500 Years of Fusion”), was awarded the best book on international dining by the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.