20 Feb Pastuso, Melbourne CBD
There’s something about Peruvian cuisine that I love. There’s fresh vibrancy as well as flavoursome marinades. Then there’s the fact that there’s a variety of influences from Japanese and Chinese cuisine, creating a natural fusion of flavours.
Established mid-2014, the owners behind San Telmo, Dave and Micky Parker and Jason and Renee McConnell, brought on Ben Wood as manager to create Pastuso – a modern Peruvian grill, cevicheria and pisco bar, with Alejandro Saravia as both head chef and co-owner.
The dark and generally moody interior has all sorts of nooks and crannies, seating arrangements and lighting to suit different occasions. Taking prime position at the ceviche bar to watch the masters do their work would be quite an experience. Much thought and effort has been put into designing the interior and collecting the decor, and little touches like pairs of bulls and pom poms on the walls create a vibe of authenticity.
We start with some pisco sours from resident mixologist Miguel Bellido, and addictive dry-roasted Andean corn kernels to munch on. Made with a 45mL pisco, 45mL lime, 50mL sugar syrup and some egg white, these pisco sours were amazing.
One of the differences between a ceviche and tiradito is that ceviche is diced, whereas tiradito is sliced. We try both. ‘Tigers milk’ is the name of the citrus-based marinade that cures the seafood for the ceviche. The Bonito Nikkei ceviche comes with braised shiitake and an aji mirasol and rice wine vinegar dressing, which delivers quite a sour hit. In contrast, the Tiradito de Caballa, made with hapuka, compressed honey dew and pickled seaweed, is milder and more rounded on the palate. The tiradito is arranged around a mound of sauce to enjoy it with, and the sauce has such wonderful flavour.
Antichuchos are Peruvian street food of grilled ingredients. Swordfish, which tastes terrible when overdone, is cooked perfectly here, and the aji mirasol and huacatay marinade delivers such a flavour hit that it was one of the most talked about dishes of the day. The accompanying vegetables are also delicious and most enjoyable even on their own.
Another of my favourites is the Lomo de Costilla. A dish taking inspiration from the Andean Sierra, it adopts rustic, earthy, charcoal flavours. After spending some time in the cylindro smoker, the beef short rib is slow cooked in a master stock with aji mirasol and served with green quinoa and padron pepper. The quinoa is coloured so because of its time cooked with spinach, and it’s gentle flavour and texture is perfect for balancing out the savoury rib.
Salads are also on order, and we try the Salpicon de Vegetales with seasonal baby vegetables, zucchini flowers, vanilla poached fennel, huacatay and goats cheese curd. There was an interesting addition of pickled starfruit to the refreshing Ensalada Tropical, which also included red butter lettuce, raddichio, candied hazelnuts and a soursop vinaigrette.
My love for Peruvian has only grown after my experience at Pastuso. I’ll be back.
Disclaimer: I was invited to Pastuso as a guest courtesy of Pastuso and Zomato, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way
19 ACDC Lane
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
Phone:(03) 9662 4556