Tag Archives: Colombian food

Colombia’s Top Restaurants and Chefs

Recently the World’s 50 Best Restaurants came out with some news that will affect Colombia’s top restaurants and chefs. And, if you live in Bogota or are planning a visit, this may very well affect you too.

It’s about their restaurant awards for Latin America.

However, before I get to the news, I want to talk about the awards themselves. Because you may be asking yourself why in the world you should care about restaurant awards.

Perhaps you’ve heard criticism of restaurant awards. After all, who is truly qualified to judge restaurants? Chefs, journalists, people in the restaurant industry – couldn’t they all be biased or have criteria that are completely skewed? Sure, they do know much more about the industry than the average person. But then again, the average person that would consider following their suggestions might not value the same dining experiences.

If that’s what you’re thinking, well…you’re right.

You could also ask yourself how they can judge the best offerings in a vast area, such as an entire country or a vast region. Have their judges eaten at all of those restaurants to be able to compare all those experiences?

And again, you’d be right: few judges can afford the luxury of trying all the restaurants in a large area or even one city. Unless, of course, you’re Jeffrey Merrihue, the man who’s literally eaten through the  world’s best restaurants list. But he’s a different story, which we’ll someday get around to telling our version of.

Another point you could question is what are those awards based on? Glitz? Famous chefs? Fancy ingredients that few people can afford? A restaurant owner’s influence in the industry? You could be right about each of those points. At times, restaurants do get on those lists because of everything except the chef’s skill in the kitchen.

So why should you care about these awards?

Because in spite of any challenges and drawbacks to choosing the restaurants that make it onto the lists, awards are still the best way to recognize and congratulate those who are doing something extraordinary in a tough – and often unforgiving – industry.

Most food awards do give a nod to lesser-known chefs who are doing extraordinary things in the quiet obscurity of their kitchens and other delightfully creative spots (home stoves, backyard fire pits, or rural gardens).

It’s through these awards that you can discover some amazing chefs who are working to make their world a better place. They do things like supporting small producers and the local economy, employing former guerrilla soldiersbattling destructive marine life, and helping women make a living.

Ooops, did I suddenly shift to talking about Colombia? Yup. Because the exciting news from the World’s 50 Best Restaurants is that the Latin American Awards will take place in Colombia for the next two years.

[Applause]

Yes, after taking their turn in Peru and Mexico, the awards ceremony will land this September in another gem of a culinary city, Bogota.

For those of us who believe in the restaurant industry’s ability to change lives and the value of discovering Colombia’s fascinating culinary traditions, we truly do applaud this move.

This year the world will turn its eyes to Bogota and ask, “Why Colombia?” And over the next 7 months leading up to the awards ceremony, the chefs, restaurant owners, culinary schools, and yes, food writers here in Bogota will stand up and shout out the clear answer.

So keep your ears open this year to discover the best in Colombian ingredients, innovative techniques, renewed traditions, and perhaps the most passionate chefs anywhere. Because whatever Colombians do, they bring to it a passion and energy that takes the ordinary and makes it shine.

Some of Colombia’s top restaurants and chefs

Interested in finding out aboutColombia’s top restaurants and chefs that have won the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants awards in the past? Here’s a quick overview.

A word of warning – remember that many of the true gems in this city and around the country have never been on an awards list, and probably never will be. Over the coming months we’ll be focusing on those little-known but incredibly valuable chefs that the world has largely forgotten to talk about. Please join us – subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date (you’ll find the form at the bottom of this page).

Perhaps you’re not interested in fancy restaurants with staggering price tags. That’s right up our alley, too – after all, the best way to discover a city’s culinary roots is to get out on the street. Read about some of our favorite places for food lovers in Bogota.

Leo

Restaurante Leo Bogota Grilled angus

Colombia’s top chef, Leonor Espinosa, brings international attention to lesser known ingredients like corozo, yacón, and fried ants. Her artistic creations have put her in the limelight. In 2016, her restaurant LEO, in the heart of Bogota’s downtown financial district, was at number 16 on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

That achievement positions her as the best chef in Colombia. Although some chefs have reached that fame by expanding beyond Colombia’s borders for inspiration, Leonor sticks not just to Colombian food, but to food from little-known regions of the country.

Through her Leo Espinosa Foundation, she works with small rural communities all over Colombia. She brings rare ingredients and methods to her restaurant and combines a love of discovery with a sense of social well-being.

Even the coffee at LEO will make you feel good: it comes from a rural Afro-Colombian community that has been afflicted by unrest and violence. For a more casual look into Colombian cuisine, try her Misia restaurants.

Calle 27B # 6 – 75, Bogota

Criterion

Criterion restaurant Bogota Colombia
Photo courtesy of Criterion

Criterion has been on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list ever since the awards began. Led by Colombia’s beloved culinary brothers, Jorge and Mark Rausch, in 2015 the restaurant moved up the list to come in at #18 and in 2016 they placed at #29.

Criterion’s location in Zona G puts this duo in one of the hottest restaurant areas with some of the top dining establishments. The  menu is based on French cuisine with Latin touches. Hidden among foie gras, gigot d’agneau and bouillabaisse on their menu, they include typical Colombian dishes like the famous posta negra cartagenera, a braised short rib with tamarind and panela (raw sugar). Their desserts appropriately focus on Colombia’s outstanding tropical fruits, with guanabana sorbet, coconut mousse with arequipe cream, or cuajada (fresh cheese) with melao and guava sauce.

Calle 69 A # 5 – 75, Bogota

Harry Sasson

Harry Sasson restaurant Bogota Colombia

One of the first Colombian chefs to gain celebrity status, Harry Sasson headed up fine dining back in the mid-1990s in Bogota.

His restaurant, set in a gorgeous National Heritage mansion with a Tudor look, is just a stone’s throw from one of the most impressive gastronomic scenes in the city. From the elegant upstairs bar and chef’s table to the bright and modern atrium outside, Harry knows how to set the scene for an outstanding meal. This is where heads of state, national and international artists, and famous musicians go for memorable meals.

The menu isn’t just about Colombian food. You’ll find Asian and international touches mixed in with Colombian ingredients. Dishes done on a Japanese robata grill sit on the menu next to salads with hearts of palm from Putumayo, the south of Colombia. Harry came in at #40 on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2016.

Carrera 9 No. 75-70, Bogota

El Cielo

At El Cielo, baby-faced owner and chef Juan Manuel Barrientos’ inventiveness and his constantly changing experimental tasting menu will challenge your preconceptions about food. El Cielo is all about creating emotions and reactions to the dishes. Recent tasting menus focus on Colombian ingredients and traditions mixed with international techniques.

What Juan Manuel wants to transmit to those who eat at his version of heaven is Stop. Live the moment. Look at what you have in front of you, and look again because maybe you didn’t see it right the first time. Feel it. Smell it. Turn it over and over and understand it. Each minute of life is precious and we won’t get it back.

After visiting the restaurant you’ll understand why Barrientos is considered among the top chefs in Colombia. El Cielo came in at #30 on the Latin America’s Best Restaurants List in 2015.

Calle 70 4-47, Bogota

Andrés Carne de Res

Volumes could be written about the craziness at Andrés Carne de Res. It’s on most must-do-while-visiting-Bogota lists. And when you walk through the door, you’ll realize why. Musicians wander from table to table to play typical Latin ballads, waiters are dressed in colorful and bizarre outfits, and random objects such as steel cows and neon hearts dangle from the ceiling.

The menu is almost 70 pages long, presumably in an attempt to list the majority of Colombian dishes. As the name suggest, this place shines when it comes to meat preparations like lomo al trapo. Most of the dishes are overpriced for typical Colombian food, but what you’re really paying for is the party (which is priceless).

The original restaurant is in Chía, but if you don’t want to battle traffic to get out of the city, try the five-level monstrosity in Bogota for a crazy, fun night out. Andrés Carne de Res squeaked in at #49 on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2016.

Calle 3 N° 11A – 56, Chia

Calle 82 #12-21, Zona Rosa, Bogota

Where do you love to to eat in Colombia? Do you have your favorite Colombian chef? Please tell us about them! Let’s start our own 50 Best Restaurants in Colombia list.

 

Restaurants in Colombia: Criterion

Quick Reviews are short peeks at restaurants in Colombia

Colombia’s beloved culinary brothers, Jorge and Mark Rausch, have been on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list with their restaurant Criterion ever since the prestigious awards began. In 2015 they moved up the list to now come in at number 18.

Their popularity has reached new heights since Jorge formed part of the Master Chef Colombia team. Criterion’s location in Zona G puts this duo in one of the hottest restaurant areas with some of the top dining establishments.

Continue reading Restaurants in Colombia: Criterion

Top 11 Colombian Foods to Try When You Visit Bogota

So what should be on your hot list of Colombian foods to try when you visit Bogota? Here are some of our favorites.

(Disclaimer, warning and apology: You will not find arepas on this list. Not because we don’t love them, but just because we’ve talked too much about them already.

And we promise to not mention coffee.)

For meat lovers

Bandeja Paisa

Bandeja paisa is not for the faint of heart. Born in the “paisa” region of Colombia, it’s called bandeja because it’s served, not on a plate, but on a tray (bandeja) to accommodate the huge portions. Rice, plantain, chicharron, ground beef, blood sausage, avocado, arepa, and red beans, with a fried egg on top. Did we mention the large portions? (Tip – plan on a nap).

Continue reading Top 11 Colombian Foods to Try When You Visit Bogota

Menu at the Museum

Suburbio

Museums are all about learning, and how appropriate it is when restaurants within museums focus on education, on discovering something new, on continuing the cultural experience of visiting the museum.

Bogota has recently seen two new restaurant openings in important museums, and these restaurants focus on enlightening visitors on food, health and Colombian cuisine.

Enter the Museo de Arte Moderno, or MamBO, walk up the stairs to the left and step into a learning experience. Suburbio – El Bodegón del Museo, the second Suburbio restaurant in Bogota, opened recently and continues the philosophy of ‘biogastronomy’, which could be defined as the art of healthy eating.  Organic. Natural. Local. Healthy.

At Suburbio they emphasize light meals that teach people proper proportions. For instance, only 100 grams of protein are served at each meal, which can be downright shocking to many Colombians. The style could be considered international techniques interwoven with Colombian ingredients.

A typical soup served could be a healthy Chontadura with honey and cilantro, or pea soup with mint and green pepper. Salads feature puréed cubio, or haba beans prepared with mint, Colombian potatoes and local farmer’s cheese. Here chicken gets a Colombian touch, cooked in Bogota Beer Company’s Candelaria beer.

And since the focus is on healthy and local, there isn’t any Coke or Sprite, but a variety of fruit juices and local beers from Bogota Beer Company. Since we’re in Colombia they serve, of course, good coffee, which is also a learning experience. Organic Azahar specialty coffee has coffee appellation, which means the coffee is grown in specific geographic microclimates which produce distinct aromas and tastes.

Even if you’re not planning on visiting the museum, the restaurant is easy to access. The decoration is a bit bare, but the overall environment is pleasant and, next to the bookstore and photo gallery, feels scholarly and could even inspire artistic inclinations.

Calle 24 #6-00

From the creators of Mini-mal we have a new addition to the Museo Nacional. In September of 2013 El Panóptico was born, a restaurant designed to give us a look inside Colombian culinary traditions.

Placed under the arches of the National Museum in an open space shared with the museum gift store, El Panóptico is casual, with sparse decoration. The stone and brick of the original jail walls are visible, and outside a fountain surrounded by the old brick walls and small, heavily barred windows are a reminder of the past of this jail-turned-museum.

The name of the restaurant, El Panóptico, refers to a type of architecture used for prisons, a circular building where the occupants of each cell are clearly visible to officials; another appropriate reminder that this museum was once a jail.

The mission of this restaurant is to keep typical Colombian ingredients and culinary techniques in the public eye. A few dishes were borrowed from the menu at Mini-mal but mostly it’s a new menu with an inclination towards Pacific-coast cooking, with some ingredients from the Amazon.

Here you’ll get dishes you won’t find in just any restaurant.

Proof of that is the carpaccio de guatila, made from thin slices of pickled papa de pobre, cubio, hibia and chugua. Before you reach for your dictionary, a word of warning; these words probably won’t be there. These are Colombian terms for root vegetables. If you’ve taken a tour of the Palo Quemado market, you’ve no doubt seen them – and wondered what in the world they are. Here’s a chance to try them.

The menu in general is a lesson in vocabulary and customs of Colombia. Pusandao is a meat and cassava dish served with delicious coconut rice from the Pacific region. Curulado is a rice and shrimp dish. There are also tropical juices like lulada, which is lulo juice with bits of fruit in it. One of the few decorations in the restaurant is a platter with tropical fruits and vegetables that gives you an idea of what you’re eating; achiote, guatila, cubio, papa nativa.

To fully understand the cultural focus of the restaurant, you just have to go and visit this unique opportunity to get a taste of Colombia.

Carrera 7 #28-66

Street Food in Bogota

Something that amazes me when I walk around Bogota is street food. Now, I don’t mean just any street food, but food that shows the ingenuity and creativity of Colombian people. Here, foods that perhaps should only be made in a restaurant are taken to the street, made right in front of the client, taste good, and as a bonus, are really cheap.

Continue reading Street Food in Bogota