Good Peruvian food is hard to come by in Australia, let alone in Sydney. We used to have one, and then we lost him to Melbourne. We got ourselves to blame really, Sydney food scene has always been competitive, for a restaurant to survive more than two years is considered a lifetime achievement. Also, how often do you go to a restaurant twice anyway when there are so many choices out there? I rarely do, unless there is fried chicken involved. Sad but true, Chef Alejandro Saravia has moved to Melbourne and set up a new Peruvian establishment called Pastuso and rocking hard at AC/DC Lane.
Chef Alejandro has toned down the fine dining scene to a more laid back eatery but still keeping a certain level of sophistication. But it is the blinding feature wall covered in fluorescent old school posters that actually brings the funk into this joint. With the restaurant name inspired by the loveable childhood character Paddington Bear, Pastuso is a Peruvian grill bar, cevicheria and pisco bar in one. Plus, they are also showcasing Peruvian street food loved by many. Whilst we are sitting next to the open plan kitchen, I can’t help but keep staring at all the dry aged meat hanging inside the glass box, it definitely beats watching TV.
It is almost an offence not to have a pisco sour before meal at a Peruvian restaurant. As I am winding down with my delicious passionfruit Pisco Sour, they are kindly enough sending out two dishes complimentary of the chef. The traditional Peruvian snack of roasted Andean corn kernels and plantain chips transported me straight back to Peru, I was addicted to this stuff when I was there last year. I love the scallop ceviche, the raw sweetness of the tender Hervey Bay scallop meat infused with a hint of truffle oil is perfect mouthful of satisfaction. I can definitely do another one.
Not having ceviche at a Peruvian restaurant is another serious offence, not to mention they make a mean one here too. Our Amazonian Ceviche packs quite an acidic heat punch, chunks of king salmon from New Zealand are slowly cooked in the sour acid from the orange and lemon dressing, tiny little red aji chillies sure spice things up a bit, whilst the soft salmon contrast with crunchy plantain fritters are nicely balanced.
There is a section on the menu dedicated to Peruvian street food. We try the roasted chicken buns, few slices of tender roast chicken are served with crunchy red cabbage slaw covered in tangy aji amarillo and huacatay mayonnaise. I particularly enjoy the smokiness of the chicken. However, I do find the bun is a little bit dry and a little bit big.
Nuestra causa de pollo, a modern twist to a traditional causa, with fried chicken! This classic potato dish had been glamourised with big chunks of marinated fried chicken on a bed of starchy Peruvian yellow potato, avocado then dressed with hot aji mirasol dressing. Not the most crunchy fried chicken, but it sure satisfies my recent cravings.
The next dish is more or less the same as the previous one, just different protein. When I saw “chicharron” on the menu, I was expecting crunchy cracklings but alas, there isn’t any cracklings but cubes of pork belly were slow cooked then deep fried to the same style as the fried chicken. The pork belly are meltingly tender sealed within the crispy batter, pickled daikon salsa cut through the richness of the fatty meat and the sweet potato and orange puree elevates the sweetness of the meat. A dish I will happily order again.
If you are in Peru and order Lomo Saltado, it will be a Chinese inspired beef dish, usually beef strips stir-fried in soy and tomato sauce. But the version here at Pastuso is a little bit fancier. A nice piece of 300 grams beef rump is perfectly cooked on the charcoal grill which gives it a nice smokey flavour, on the side are tiny little Peruvian yellow potato balls, deep fried to a golden crunch while still pillowy soft on the inside. We order a side dish of grilled silverbeet and red vein sorrel with confit brown onion hearts and garlic chips to go with the protein. I do find both dishes are a little heavy handed on the seasoning, the sauce on the beef and the confit brown onion hearts on the salad, both are overpowering the flavours of the dishes.
We sure ate a lot between the two of us, but hell no we going to miss the dessert and order the picarones. I fell in love with this sweet Peruvian doughnuts when I was in Peru, the donuts are made with sweet potato and pumpkin inside but they are more like fritters, super crunchy from the deep fry, sweetened with a sticky cinnamon and fruit infused sugar syrup.
So if you are feeling for some Latin American hospitality, then you won’t be disappointed at Pastuso.
19 ACDC Lane
opening hours: 7 days noon till late
Phone: (03) 9662 4556