In Bogota, Sunday brunch has been trending for some time. Many of the restaurants at top hotels boast a brunch menu, whether buffet or a la carte. Coaxing Bogotanos to leave their homes on Sunday mornings for a hearty meal isn’t tough – it’s traditional to go with the whole family to get their fill of tamales and hot chocolate and buñuelos.
When you look around at what’s offered for Sunday brunch in Bogota, there’s a definite tendency towards American or Colombian traditions. Waffles or tamales, scrambled eggs or empanadas, it can be hard to break that mold (not that I mind the waffle mold).
However, Tamarine broke the mold.
It’s not the first time I’ve written about Tamarine, the restaurant at the JW Marriott that occupies the place La Mina vacated. It’s still got the cavernous ceiling reminiscent of one of the area’s most important tourist destinations, the salt mine in Zipaquirá. The decor is both elegant and somber.
Sunday Brunch in Bogota: Buranchi
And now they have Buranchi, the Japanese word for brunch. They also have a new chef, Sombat Phanlamphu from Thailand. I met him in front of the salad bar, where I was contemplating bamboo shoots and pickled onions.
Since he’d only been in Bogota for a few months and his English wasn’t fluid, we struggled to understand each other over the electronic music pulsing from the speakers.
But I did understand some of the most beautiful words a chef can say to a woman: “Can I make you something?”
Sombat originally studied architecture but then shifted his focus to building culinary experiences. He’s been cooking professionally since 1998, and has spent time in kitchens in Cancun, Dubai, and Thailand.
Now, when you accept a Thai chef’s offer to make something for you, you can be sure of one thing – heat. The curry I requested was delicious, and it was also one of the hottest dishes I’ve had in my life. And yes, that includes the time I nearly burnt my lips off in Trinidad when I doused my Bake and Shark with heaping tablespoons of what I thought was a sweet pumpkin sauce (it’s amazing how similar yellow hot sauce and pumpkin can look). This curry was vegan, healthy, delicious – and hot as a lazy afternoon in Cartagena.
So let me tell you about buranchi, Tamarine style.
The salad bar has cold meats, rice noodles, veggies, octopus, shrimp, fruit and four dressings.
The curry area had four offerings:
- Yellow: The Flavors of Bogota top choice was the creamy yellow curry with beef and peanuts.
- Green: Our second favorite was this chicken curry, which was hotter than the red.
- Red: This creamy curry with pineapple and beef was mildly hot and the flavors harmonize well.
- Japanese: A very mild seafood curry, this was not as spectacular as the others. It’s not hot at all, so if you need extra heat, talk to the chef.
The dim sum had been sitting for a while by the time we got close to it, so we didn’t spend much time on that section. The sushi table had sushi (ready-made or made to order), satay (seasoned meat kebobs), and over a dozen sauces.
The meat table had good meats. However, they are kept under heat lamps, so they were no longer hot by the time we served ourselves. On the other hand, the salmon was fabulous. There is also a section with rice and pasta dishes (beef, chicken, seafood or a vegetarian choice).
We tried their cocktail, amai (which is Japanese for sweet). Like a Japanese mimosa, Tamarine’s amai is made with sparkling wine, syrup (peach, sorrel, or green tea) and lime juice served in a champagne flute.
What dessert would you expect to have after an Asian buffet? I hadn’t really thought about it, but it wouldn’t have mattered – the dessert would have surprised me anyway. What happened?
A team of two dressed in white came with a metal cart, but they weren’t there for surgery. They spread out a large sheet of plastic on the table and began to draw.
Their arms moved in arcs as they designed swirls and curves on the table. Fruits and creams became the paint, and the brushes were spoons. The two chefs moved in unison to paint a picture with coconut and cardamom cream, lychees and blueberries, mango sauce and chai jellies, bits of meringue in various colors and sizes, and caramelized nuts.
Then they took out a yellow flame thrower (just kidding, a kitchen torch) to put the final touches on the crème brûlée and the show was over. We huddled over our table made into a canvas of red swirls and white delights and nibbled on macarons and scooped up sauces until we couldn’t eat another bite.
That’s how we spent a Sunday brunch in Bogota with no waffles and no tamales. Tamarine’s buranchi is a refreshingly different way to pass a lazy Sunday afternoon in Bogota.
Where: JW Marriott, Calle 73 #8-60, Bogota
When: Sunday afternoons, 12 – 4 p.m.
Cost: COP$90,000 per person