As foodies will already be well aware, there’s no shortage of gourmet delights in South America. From the region’s gastronomy king, Lima in Peru, which is home to the most highly-rated restaurant in South America, to other widely-recognised epicurean destinations such as Sao Paolo in Brazil, and Santiago in Chile, an eating spree in these cities are a food lover’s dream. Beware, however, of overlooking other equally fantastic gourmet options in the region.
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With unique local flavours, an amazing variety of produce and inventive cuisine on offer, these South American cities have been making waves in the culinary world in recent years. Find out why exactly you should head to these destinations for your next gourmet adventure!
Buenos Aires, Argentina
As the capital of the country, Buenos Aires has grown increasingly multicultural in recent years, which has translated to a rapidly evolving gourmet scene. Besides the deliciously smoky grilled meats and traditional Porteno cuisine that are some of the hallmarks of Argentinean food, travellers can now find a variety of dining options. From seasonal tasting menus that champion local produce at places such as Chila and Aramburu, restaurants specialising in international cuisine such as Mishiguene with its modern Jewish menu and Osaka, which serves Peruvian-Japanese food, and off-the-beaten-path establishments such as Proper, which specialises in elaborate vegetarian dishes — a rarity in the meat-loving country — you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice. Buenos Aires’ also has a considerable amount of restaurants such as Tegui and Crizia that have placed in the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
Still on Argentina, Mendoza is also quickly climbing to the forefront of the international gastronomy scene. As the country’s wine capital, the region’s popularity amongst oenophiles has been the driving force behind the new restaurants popping up around the region. Besides serving wine, most of the bodegas here such as Bodega Ruca Malen also serve degustation menus to complement their award-winning tipples so you can enjoy the full dining experience. Sophisticated restaurants such as Azafran Resto, which uses techniques derived from international cooking to reinvent regional specialities, and traditional restaurants such as 1884, one of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants that focuses on the roots of Argentinean cooking, and Siete Fuegos, which utilises historic open-flame cooking techniques, are also well worth dining at.
A recent host of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants awards in 2017, it comes as little surprise that Bogota itself has an irresistible food scene. With a slew of new openings fuelled by the influx of young chefs from all over the world, the array of food options available will cater to every palette. Sample fresh produce in the colourful traditional market Paloquemao, indulge in the full sensory experience with tasting menus that employ a stunningly diverse amount of local ingredients at Leo, and try hearty comfort food such as ajiaco or chicken and potato soup with avocado and carimanolas or empanada-like pastries at La Escuela Restaurante and Misia respectively. The juicy and flavourful fruits in Colombia are particularly outstanding and a cup of freshly-squeezed juice will surely tantalise your taste buds. Award-winning restaurants such as Harry Sasson and Villanos en Bermudas will also surprise you with their imaginative creations.
La Paz, Bolivia
La Paz first registered on the radar as an up-and-coming gourmet destination when the founder of NOMA, one of the world’s most highly-celebrated restaurants, made the decision to open a restaurant here. Citing the country’s biodiversity and the untapped potential of its local cuisine, Claus Meyer established Gustu, which has since become the spearheader of the Kilometro 0 movement or an all-local food movement and recognised as one of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants. Other than classy restaurants, more casual establishments such as Los Qnapes, which serves dishes from Bolivia’s lowlands, and Popular, where contemporary Bolivian cuisine is dished up, also celebrate local cuisine in their own ways. Of course, you can’t forget the street food that is a staple of many a local’s life and it’s from these stalls that you’ll get to taste some of the most authentic local fare such as tucumanas or deep-fried meat or vegetable pastries and an anticucho or cow’s heart kebab. Some of the other unique items you can expect to find here include charque de llama or llama jerky, chuno or freeze-dried potatoes, quinoa beer and singani or white grape brandy that is the country’s national spirit.
With a gourmet scene that is often overlooked, Quito surprises with its multifaceted food scene. In this capital, you’ll get to try everything from fine-dining to more casual bites and local Ecuadorian dishes to modern reinventions of traditional dishes. Sample some of the best traditional cooking such as llapingachos or stuffed potato patties, fritada or fried pork and ceviches at food stores in Mercado San Francisco, taste flavours inspired by the historic Incan empire at Urko, and try inventive dishes at establishments such as Theatrum and Zazu, which offer more modern tasting menus designed around local ingredients. Ecuador’s chocolates are already famous worldwide so don’t forget to go for a tasting session at the award-winning Pacari, which is also one of the country’s leading organic chocolate producers.
Insider tips kindly contributed by Aliwen Incoming, Bolivia Milenaria, Coltur Peru, Gentian Trails and Glove Travel.