“A prophet once said ‘Don’t tell me what a man says, don’t tell me what a man knows. Tell me where he’s traveled?’ I wonder about that, do we get smarter, more enlightenment as we travel? Does travel bring wisdom? I think there is probably no better place to find out than Peru.”— Anthony Bourdain
Perhaps I have been spoiled by Melbourne’s amazing offerings but I was in the mood for “something different” and that “something” was becoming harder and harder to find. Years of hanging out in ACDC lane between bands at Cherry Bar had me wondering about the place further down the laneway, Pastuso, which always seemed to have an ebb of flow of people coming and going. I had never eaten Peruvian – so I was very curious.
A quick glance at their menu and I was instantly intrigued. Pastuso devotes a whole section to ceviche – I was won over.
Inside, the interior of Pastuso is chic, classic with bursts of colour. The waiter was friendly and knew how to help us navigate the menu with expert finesse.
The kingfish ceviche with aji mirasol and miso dressing, crispy nori seaweed and flying fish roe was first to arrive. A pleasant palate wetter for what was to come. The kingfish was light, juicy and the light rice crackers added a textual delight to the cured kingfish.
We ended up ordering 2 dishes from the ceviche menu – it was too hard to stop at the kingfish. The red prawn ceviche was creamy, zesty and light. The strips of pickled seaweed added a salty vinegar to the dish which was a great balance.
I’d never tried Alpaca before – in fact, I hadn’t really considered alpaca could be used in a dish. So of course we ordered the alpaca croquette just to feed my desire to try something new. The croquette was a crisp, deep-fried square, containing pulled, smoked alpaca meat. Reminiscent of pulled, spoked pork with a whiff of gaminess. Scooped up with the spicy XYZ sauce rounded out the dish.
The corn bread with whipped feta was the unexpected star dish. The zesty topping, creamier than creamy feta and spongy corn bread was amazing and would be the perfect accompaniment to any dish.
Those who know me well know that I am never one to turn down fried chicken. Ever. The fried chicken starter featured four lightly battered but super crisp boneless pieces of chicken on top of a lima bean and aji amarillo puree, topped with a mild-spicy salsa. The lima bean puree was smooth and silky. This was a solid dish but unfortunately didn’t have the wow factor compared to the other dishes we had ordered so far.
The grilled pork was the last to arrive, from the Fuegos menu. Sliced into succulent slices, this was melty, grilled pork executed to the finest degree. I think that all diners should at least try an item from this menu and I couldn’t help but ogle the smoked chicken that was plonked on the table next to us.
Our dinner at Pastuso was such a fabulous experience. The service was great, knowledgeable but not at all pretentious. The menu was unique and there wasn’t a menu item I didn’t want to try which is always a sign that I need to return to sample the other offerings. If you’re in the mood for something that is intimate, interesting and good for a dinner spent over a few hours, then I would highly recommend adding Pastuso to the wish list.