Astrid y Gastón, Madrid
This posh Peruvian import may make ceviche the new sushi. Lima-based celebrity kitchen warrior Gastón Acurio, who already presides over a formidable Latin American restaurant empire, is clearly aiming for maximum exposure. Why else would he choose for his Madrid debut a Paseo de la Castellana location far too exclusive and ritzy for any local chef to afford? The gambit paid off: Madrileños love the widely spaced tables in the clean-lined, cream-colored dining room; they adore the potent, properly frothed pisco sours; and they go loco for Acurio’s energetic nuevo andino (nouvelle Andean) ways with raw fish, ajíes (chiles), potatoes, and yuca. Corn crêpes are topped with suckling-pig skin and a rocoto chile–and–honey marmalade. Ceviches and tiraditos come in a rainbow of flavors (try the clásico sea bass with lime juice, sweet potato, and corn). Clams and hake cheeks are simmered in an arresting slurry of cilantro, curry, lime, and aromatic ají amarillo. Too bad the desserts are a clunky, sugary miss.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.