N and I were in the city on a Saturday night and needed a place for dinner. Looking at my list of places to eat – I found Pastuso which was a newly opened restaurant in the city and we decided to try our luck and see if we could get a table as we hadn’t booked. It was quite early (around 6:30pm) for dinner so we did manage to get a table – and were seated at the marble bench which surrounded the main kitchen.
Pastuso is Melbourne’s newest Peruvian grill, cevicheria and pisco bar that comes from the team that opened Argentinian grill – San Telmo – Dave Parker, Michael Parker, Jason and Renee Mc Connell. They are joined at Pastuso by native Peruvian chef Alejandro Saravia (from Sydney’s renowned Morena) and manager Ben Wood.
Pastuso is located in the ever cool ACDC Lane and fits in perfectly to this part of town. The space is quite large (I never realised just how big the space was!) and has been fitted out by architects SMLWRLD in collaboration with its owners. The use of space is impressive – there are three bars each servicing different parts of the menu and representing three regions of Peru: the Coast, the Andes and the Amazon Jungle.
As you enter you are greeted by the main bar (Amazon Jungle) – sleek and copper topped – which serves a list of Peruvian and Chilean piscos (white-grape brandy Peruvians drink), as well a huge variety of other drinks – cocktails, spirits, beer and wine. Just behind the main bar is the marble topped ceviche bar (the Coast) – where patrons can sit around and watch as chefs marinate and prepare your ceviche right in front of you. To the right of both these bars is the main kitchen bar (the Andes) – which also has marble seating around so that you can sit and enjoy the spectacular action that is the flaming and smoking of the meat and vegetables cooking on the grills and the coal-fired slow cookers – cilindro.
Surrounding the three main bar areas are seating on low tables – a mix of marble (near the main kitchen area) and wooden tables (near the ceviche bar) that can seat two, four or more people. There is also a raised area that has huge padded booths.
Another definite highlight is the colourful wall of Peruvian chicha (street art) posters that have been shipped directly from Peru. Next to this wall is an impressive glass box which displays various cuts of meat hanging.
The menu by Saravia boasts a huge variety and takes on the more modern approach rather than traditional. The menu is in the format of a book and starts off with the Un Piquieto, No Mas menu – which means “A Bite to Eat” – and would usually be enjoyed around a table together with friends and family with a good Peruvian Pisco. Dishes include El Choro Chalaco (Mussels), Pezcaditos Y Toastadas (Char Grilled Silver Fish with Corn Bread & Lemon and Rocoto Vinaigrette).
The menu then moves onto the El Ceviche Bar menu – which consists of many varieties of fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices – there are seven different choices to choose from.
Next on the menu is the La Comida de la Calle – which represents Peruvian street food that you would expect to find on a typical street corner in Lima. Dishes here include Anticuchos (Beef Heart and Swordwish Skewers), Papitas Rellena de Carretilla (Croquettes), Yucas (Cassava Chips) and Nuestra Causa de Pollo (Peruvian Yellow Potato with Chicken, Avocado, Cherry Tomatoes and Aji Mirasol).
Para Acompanar is next on the menu list – which are the dishes to accompany your main dishes and are designed to share – in other words sides. You can select from 5 different options including Ensalada de Quinoa (Quinoa cooked in Almond Milk with Pine Mushrooms, Cauliflower, Zucchini and Dutch Carrots), Solterito (Andean Cheese, Broad Beans, Soybean, Peruvian Olives, Heirloom Tomatoes, Watercress and Oregano).
Dishes cooked in either the Peruvian Smoking Chamber, Charcoal Grill or Spit lead up the next part of the menu in a section called Los Fuegos Del Peru – meaning to cook with fire. The first two dishes are cooked in the Cilindro Perliano (Peruvian Smoking Chamber) – you have an option of Pierna de Cordero (Slow Cooked Lamb Leg) or Paletilla de Cerdo (Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder) – both served with Peruvian Rice. There are three dishes to select from that come from the Nuestra Parilla (Charcoal Grill) – Pezcado Amazonico (Barramundi in Banana Leaf), Ojo de Bife (Dry Aged Pasture Fed Rib Eye) and Costillas Tiernas de Alpaca (Alpaca Short Ribs). The last dish on this menu comes from the La Braza (Spit) – Pollo a la Braza (Roasted Peruvian Chicken).
A menu isn’t complete with a dessert menu and Pastuso’s certainly doesn’t disappoint – called Postre Para Todos – it showcases traditional Peruvian Desserts such as Un Clasico de Mazamorra y Arroz Con Leche (A combination of two traditional classics – Peruvian Style Rice Pudding, Purple Corn Gel, Poached Pineapple and Apples), Picarones (Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Doughnuts). You can also order a Dessert Tasting Plate which allows you to share a selection of desserts.
As you can see there was a lot of food to choose from and when reading the description of each dish you really do want to try them all – you almost forget that you can come back another time and try the dishes that you didn’t get to the first time around.
I ordered a mocktail which looked amazingly colourful and too good to drink – chunks of fresh strawberries muddled together with mint leaves, lime and citrus to give a refreshingly delicious taste that kept you wanting more. I had to stop myself from drinking it all in the one go.
We started off with the Cancha Serrana Y Los Chifles – Traditional Peruvian Roasted Andean Corn and Plantation Chips – which was the perfect way to start our Peruvian journey. The roasted corn kernels were crunchy with a hint of spice that made your tastebuds pop. The Plantation chips were out of this world – simple, textured and crunchy – the flavour was absolutely divine! A must try snack dish – it would work well as a bar snack.
For the next round we ordered the La Papa A La Huancaina A Mi Manera – Potato Gnocchi with a Traditional Huancaina Sauce, Botija Olives and Egg White. Huancaína sauce is normally served over boiled potatoes, and then topped with hard boiled eggs and olives – here at Pastuso instead they use potato gnocchi as an alternative – brilliant! The sauce is full of flavour together with a kick of spice thanks to the use of aji Amarillo peppers. If you are lucky enough to sit around the kitchen you can watch as the chefs make this sauce from scratch. The gnocchi was melt in your mouth and coupled with the creamy and spicy at-the-same-time huancaina sauce and slight tang of the botija olives made for one heavenly dish.
From the same La Comida de la Calle Menu we also ordered the Papitas Rellena De Carretilla – Street Cart Style Potato Croquettes filled with Pulled Beef Brisket, Pecans, Botija Olives, Watercress and Pickled Onion Salsa. N enjoyed these croquettes – crunchy and golden on the outside coupled with tender beef brisket and cloud like potato filling and finished with a pickled salsa. The only complaint would be that more of the beef brisket be used.
For our main dishes I ordered the Pezcado Amazonico – Baby Cone Bay Barramundi Grilled in Banana Leaf with Fresh Herbs and Amazonico Rub from the Nuestra Parilla (Charcoal Grill). The presentation of this dish is simple – yet visually stunning. The whole baby barramundi is laid across the black backdrop of the plate (fish eye, tail and all) topped with the vibrant green Amazonico rub. In a separate small bowl there are some fresh sautéed vegetables with a lemon wedge off to the side. The barramundi is cooked perfectly and results in soft white fleshy morsels. The rub is delicious and flavoursome and is very much needed, as the fish on its own is very lightly flavoured. One for the fish and seafood lovers.
N ordered the La Braza – Pollo A La Braza – Free Range Roasted Peruvian Chicken from the La Braza (Spit) for his main. Once again – very simple plating techniques was used – to showcase the hero of the dish – the Peruvican chicken. A simple green dressing was provided in a separate bowl for additional flavour. The chicken has been slow-cooked after a lengthy marination period (think cumin, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, coriander, Sichuan pepper) and is moist and flavoured with pepper, spices and a kick of heat.
We also ordered Tallos de Acelga – Grilled Silverbeet Stems, Red Vein Sorrel, Confit Brown Onion Hearts and Garlic Chips. This dish was another standout – simple yet the flavours worked amazingly well together finished with the crunchiness of the garlic. The confit brown onion not only complemented but brought the whole dish together. If you enjoy a good salad this is one to try.
As full as we were the night wouldn’t have been complete without ending on a sweet Peruvian note. We ordered the Tres Leches – Traditional Latin American Sponge Cake soaked in Three Kinds of Milk served with Roasted Pineapple Ice Cream. The cake had a distinct texture (you would expect it to have a somewhat soggy consistency after being soaked in three types of milk) with a result of being light, moist and rich yet delicate (the flavour of 3 types of milk wasn’t over powering at all!). The roasted pineapple ice cream was delicious and the fresh pieces of pineapple embedded within the ice cream were refreshing.
Pastuso has such a lively and warm atmosphere. The open plan of the kitchen and ceviche bar is such a fantastic idea in this day as people like to watch how chefs prepare and create such great tasting dishes – especially here where you can see chefs as they delve into the fire chamber and have embers flow out – it all adds to the experience of the place. The staff are very friendly, always happy and knowledgeable – they can also assist you when ordering to ensure you do not over order. Want a truly memorable Peruvian experience – get down to Pastuso now!
Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Menu – Refer to above Pictures
Atmosphere / Ambience: Lively, Fun, Warm and Inviting – such a great place for a celebration or a catchup – or even date night!
Standout Dish: Too many to name!
Service: Fantastic – Friendly, Happy and Helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://pastuso.com.au/ NOTE: They also take bookings for larger groups in their flexible private dining area
Restaurant Details and Location:
19 ACDC Lane
Tel No: 9662 4556
Monday to Thursday: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Friday & Saturday: 12:00 pm – 12:00 am
Sunday: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm