• Pastuso (Melbourne)

In the capital city of Peru, you can find a beautiful fine dining meal at the quarter of the cost to here.  You can also find food poisoning while eating lunch at the market – albeit at a cheap price too.   With this limited experience of Peruvian cuisine, I was wondering how traditionally inspired Pastuso would be beyond its staff’s aprons with traditional fabric on the pockets.

We arrived in the early evening to an empty restaurant with a table to the side wall next to a rack of raw meats  (which I fortunately did not notice until we were about to leave).  The decor is classic with pops of colour from posters with slogans in Spanish.  Apart from the wall art and meat display, this is a typical Melbourne  laneway eatery.

Dishes are recommended for sharing and vegetarian options give just enough variety to share a meal between two.  There are some unique wines on the menu.  I tried and enjoyed two different whites that complemented the food balanced by acid and fruit.

The ceviche was done with a Japanese fusion.  Daikon was marinated till soft holding an apparent but not overpowering taste of vinegar from curing.  Moist and chewy seaweed garnished and diced tomatoes added a South American sentiment.

The non-negotiable request from my friend was the cassava chips.  Like potato, but better, she described, they were hot, crisp and served with a tangy, chilli mayo sauce.

The gnocchi was my request.  It was made in large, soft cubes, well cooked with the perfect potato gnocchi texture.  The spicy cheese sauce was more-ish and we mopped this one up quickly.  Olives and egg white added an extra touch.

The salad was an eclectic mix featuring radicchio, tomatoes, golden beetroot in thin slithers and crispy fried shallots.  We had chosen this salad, partly for the palm hearts and thought they had forgotten to include them, until we discovered they had been mixed with passionfruit to create the creamy, tangy dressing.  This was a very unique take on humble salad.

The mushroom and silverbeet croquettes were done like arancini.  Against the other food, the sauce and balls were bland without us unable to decipher their ingredients.

After several dishes, we were almost satisfied but not full.  Dessert was calling.  The doughnuts with sweet potato and pumpkin were apparently a typical Peruvian dessert.  They were crunchy on the outside with a moist, light interior.  The syrup was super sweet with only subtle cinnamon.

The dark chocolate sponge was more like a thin slice of mud cake than a sponge.    This was a more standard dish with mousse, coulis and fragrant orange custard.

What we liked best about the meal was its variety of flavours.  Nearly every dish presented something different and the combinations were creatively arranged.  The service was professional, but at times too distant and at others too personal.  If I’d realised it was run by the same group as San Telmo, I may have had second thoughts, but our experience here was a nice one.  As for how Peruvian Pastuso is, it is in the inspiration creating fusion dishes with Peruvian roots.

19 ACDC Lane
Melbourne 3000
03 9662 4556
Pastuso on Urbanspoon