Pastuso is a Peruvian cevicheria, pisco-bar and grill sitting at the end of ACDC Lane. It shares the bustling Flinders Lane block with Yu-U, Eau de Vie, Chin Chin and Lee Ho Fook. It is not the most noticeable establishment, with its rather miss-able plain frontage and I think the graffiti on the laneway’s brick walls could probably garner more patronage during a day. Operating for just over a year now, this establishment chef’d by Peruvian Alejandro Saravia has earned modest ratings and reviews online (Zomato, Tripadvisor, GoodFood).
I recently tried their express lunch menu which offered a 2-course meal at two different prices – $25/$35. I thought this was unusually structured and I was slightly disappointed with the absence of a dessert option, suggesting the intention to steering the customer towards ordering additional desserts to add to the final bill. Also, just eye-balling the $35 menu, it is difficult to convince me that a beef stir-fry could be worth paying $10 more for. That $35 option should really have a seafood dish as well.
Having ceviche is an absolute must-have when partaking in Peruvian cuisine. Fresh fish naturally cooked by the sheer acidity of citrus, flavoured with some hot chillis for that extra zing. Pastuso has a ceviche bar which offers a fun view of the kitchen on-goings. While the NZ snapper used was firm and sweet, I did feel that the citrus marinade was disproportionately on the sweet side. Lots of sweet tang which overwhelmed the natural flavours of the fish. It also lacked a contrasting flavour like chilli, so I thought this was rather one-dimensional dish. The beef stir-fry wasn’t what I was expecting as it was a medium-cooked fillet propped with cassava spears and cherry tomatoes. I would have appreciated it if I had been asked how my meat was to be cooked, but I do not doubt the quality of the beef here. The side serves of salads to share were of well generous proportions and nicely prepared. My table ordered Picarones all-round, yummy sweet potato and pumpkin doughnuts glazed with cinnamon-infused sugar syrup and white chocolate mousse ($12 for 3). I’m tempted to return for the Suspiro a la Limena – a cream caramel PX meringue.
One plus point for Pastuso is its wine list which does offer some interesting wines at reasonable prices. I ordered the Alta Alella Tallarol 2014 ($63) which comes from Alella in Spain and is made through natural fermentation of Pansa Blanco, the local variant of the Xarel.lo grape. It is also fermented in clay amphoraes and bottled without additions of sulfur. This return to ‘old-school’ methods predictably yields an earthy, spiced, almost dry-cider style of wine with a cloudy yellow colour. (Note the colour difference between the 2014 bottling and the previous 2013) Yet, on the palate it is moderately weighted with savoury saltish flavours which pair nicely with fish (ceviche or swordfish skewers). An easy-drinking wine with a clean finish. Small production of only 1000 bottles. Drink now. 92.