17 Restaurants to Try in 2017
It’s our final blog post in January, and we’re wrapping up our 17 in ’17 series for Latin America travel! So far, we’ve given you our top picks for must visit Latin America cities and amazing active tours in the region. This week, we’re hitting foodies in their sweet spot— the stomach— with our favorite restaurants in Central and South America.
All of these authentically tantalizing eateries made either the Diner’s Club International World’s 50 Best Restaurants list or the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list for 2016 (as voted on by their respective academies), so don’t just take our word for it… these hotspots are serving up some truly inspired cuisine!
You’ll notice Lima, Peru takes top billing and dominates not only our list but just about every list out there. With its rich culinary history (and Gaston Acurio leading the way some years ago), this probably comes as no surprise. But, you might be surprised to see other destinations made the cut as some of the best food and wine tour destinations.
Without further adieu, here’s our list of 17 Latin America restaurants to try in 2017:
Central | Lima, Peru
After clinching the top spot on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants two years running (2014 and 2015), chef Virgilio Martinez and his team nabbed the highest ranking of any Latin American restaurant on the World’s 50 Best list this year, coming in at #4. The team at Central travels across Peru to bring the very best ingredients to the kitchen of their top-ranked Lima dining destination. Chef Martinez also helms restaurants in London.
D.O.M. | Sao Paulo, Brazil
Patrons of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s famed D.O.M. restaurant will see a lot of chef-owner Alex Atala’s punk rock personality in the eateries contemporary Brazilian menu that rocks only the freshest Amazonian ingredients as its piece de resistance. It sits at #11 on the World’s 50 Best list for its fine dining fusion and creative local flair. In addition to D.O.M., which stands for Deo Optimo Maximo (or To God, the Good, the Great) Atala also has three other less renowned (but no less delicious) restaurants in the city.
Maido | Lima, Peru
The term Nikkei is used to sum up Japanese influence and technique melded into Peruvian ingredients, and no restaurant so eloquently exemplifies this East meets South fusion as Maido in Lima, Peru. Local native Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura seamlessly blends the two distinctive flavors into a 15-course tasting menu experience filled Amazonian ingredients that secured him not only the #13 spot on the World’s 50 Best list but also the Highest Climber 2016 title. This will not be the last we see of him!
Borago | Santiago, Chile
The forager chef is not a new concept, but it is one quickly gaining in popularity as rock star chefs around the world have begun hunting for obscure and wild local ingredients and indigenous techniques to fill their fine dining menus. In Chile, chef Rodolfo Guzman of Borago is the king of all forager chefs. He regularly heads out from his home base of Santiago to bring ingredients from the four corners of the country back to his contemporary Chilean eatery, and it shows on his menu— and in his #36 World’s 50 Best ranking.
Mani | Sao Paulo, Brazil
The dynamic duo behind Sao Paulo, Brazil’s Mani are something of a legend for their Brazilian-fusion cuisine fueled by time spend in Spain and a love of Brazilian fare. Chefs Helena Rizzo and Daniel Redondo actually met while working in Europe, and Rizzo has been voted both World’s Best and Latin America’s Best Female Chef previously. This year, their restaurant, located in a former home, takes the #51 place on the World’s 50 Best list. Whether you choose to sit inside or on the quaint outside patio, you’re in for a real treat at Mani.
Lasai | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Chef-owner Rafa Costa e Silva of Rio’s famed Lasai restaurant is a passionate Carioca who has racked up quite a following at his hearty Basque-inspired modern eatery for his use of locally-sourced ingredients in his seasonally-evolving menus. The dining room, located in a turn of the century historic home, also boasts a terrace with stunning views of Christ the Redeemer, but it’s his signature gastronomical wonders that have earned him near immediate and consistent acclaim since opening in 2014. He takes the #64 spot on this year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurant list, but this isn’t his first appearance either!
Tegui | Buenos Aires, Argentina
Although Tegui is known for its contemporary Argentinian fare, chef-owner German Martitegui has traveled the world (from the United States to France) honing his craft ever since his early days working another renowned Argentina chef— Frances Mallman. Martitegui brings locally-sourced produced and other ingredients to the table at Palermo restaurant, where sophistication and quality win the day. On a side note, he also co-hosts Masterchef Argentina, where he plays Joe Bastianich’s role of angry guy despite an everyday reputation of being pretty laid back. Either way, Tegui takes #68 on the World’s 50 Best list this year.
Astrid y Gaston | Lima, Peru
Gaston Acurio and his wife Astrid (winner of the 2015 Best Pastry Chef Award) founded this Lima gem together, and the pair have returned to the helm as of last year. Fans of Peruvian cuisine will recognize Acurio as the godfather of Peru’s modern culinary offerings, as he first launched the world’s love affair with Peruvian food nearly two decades ago and has been traveling internationally to tout his home country’s unique and wonderful flavors ever since. Astrid y Gaston took the #7 spot in this year’s Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
La Mar | Lima, Peru
Coming in at #12 on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list, La Mar (in Lima, Peru) is a hopping spot with a no reservation policy, but you’ll be glad you waited! Chef Andres Rodriguez is a student of Gaston Acurio and it shows in his thoughtful and slightly off center (in the best possible way) selection of ceviches and other classic Peruvian fare featuring some absolutely delectable seafood caught sustainably and fresh from the sea. Mix and mingle with the city’s hip foodies, as you sip pisco sours and get a taste of what makes Lima’s scene among the best in the world.
El Baqueano | Buenos Aires, Argentina
Chef Fernando Rivarola of San Telmo’s El Baqueano (Spanish for “the guide”) has the travel bug, which makes him a uniquely VIP favorite, but it is his ability to use unusual native ingredients (think alligator and llama) that nabbed him the #13 spot on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Along with his sommelier and partner, he also runs the Cooking Without Borders pop-up project to invite other acclaimed chefs from Central and South America into his Buenos Aires kitchen. He’s bringing simple dishes with a lot of flavor to the table in Argentina.
Gustu | La Paz, Bolivia
You might be surprised to learn the #14 spot on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list went to an up-and-comer in La Paz, Bolivia. You might be further surprised still to see our first female chef— and the 2016 winner of the Latin America’s Best Female Chef title. The young head chef, Kamilla Seidler, hails from Denmark and is looking to ensure Gustu (the indigenous Quechua word for flavor) becomes a leader and reference point for the Bolivian culinary scene. She’s definitely hitting all the right gastronomic notes!
Leo | Bogota, Colombia
Another rock star chef on the list, Leonor Espinosa, is putting contemporary Colombian cuisine on the map— and she’s doing it with some unusual twists. Bogota’s Leo is her flagship restaurant (she also owns close by Misia). It claimed not only the #16 spot on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list but also The Best Restaurant in Colombia bragging rights for 2016. She and her executive chef Michel Guzman share kitchen duties here and focus on sharing local ingredients, communities and culinary traditions.
Olympe | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
At Olympe in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, it’s a family affair that secured #17 honors on this year’s Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Founder, and long-time champion of modern Brazilian gastronomy, Claude Troisgros has passed the reigns onto his son (Thomas), but the combination of Brazilian spirit with French flair hasn’t changed one bit. Fans of Brazilian cuisine may note this long-time favorite was opened in 1983, and the name was changed to Olympe in 2005. Troisgros senior also received the 2016 Diner’s Club Lifetime Achievement Award.
Ambrosia | Santiago, Chile
Raised around the Americas and trained in France, Chilean chef Carolina Bazan is bringing French technique and fresh perspective to Santiago’s long-standing (and recently relocated) Ambrosia. The deep, rich flavors of savory handcrafted comfort foods are elevated in a simple manner that really shines and helped claim the #20 spot on this year’s Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list. We’re sure her mother (whose restaurant Carolina used to run) would be very proud!
Don Julio | Buenos Aires, Argentina
If heading out to the Pampas for some traditional Argentina asado seems like too much trouble, we’d first tell you you’re really missing out on quite an experience… and then we’d point you toward Don Julio in the Palermo Viejo neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Chef and grill master Pepe Sotelo uses only grass-fed Hereford cattle and Aberdeen Angus and serves up pretty much every part of the cow. Owner Pablo Rivera is a highly acclaimed sommelier whose roots trace back to well known livestock farmers. They’ve taken the #21 Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants spot.
99 | Santiago, Chile
Santiago native Kurt Schmidt is young, hip and something of a wonder kid when it comes to Chilean gastronomy. He’s worked at cutting edge eateries around the world but ultimately landed back home in Santiago, Chile’s Providencia district to helm the kitchen at 99 with assistance from Gustavo Saez. The duo landed the #22 spot on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list for 2016 with their sophisticated yet rugged fare that centers around “fungal textures.” Get ready for bold flavors and locally-sourced ingredients that combine to create one heck of an experience.
Parador La Huella | Jose Ignacio, Uruguay
Uruguay’s Jose Ignacio is a chic beach community known as something of a mecca for international A-listers, and this in vogue family-style barbecue joint might just out style them all. Alejandro Morales takes the lead in the kitchen and serves up scrumptious grilled seafood with partners Gustavo Barbero, Guzman Artagavetia and Martin Pittaluga. The quartet secured the #23 ticket in this year’s Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list, but that may not be the most exciting thing that happened— they also recently opened a Miami outpost called Quinto La Huella.
If your tastebuds are doing a little dance right now, and you can’t wait to begin planning your Latin America food and wine tour, contact us today to begin planning your next foodie adventure.