South America has been the setting of a gastronomic boom in recent years, thrusting destinations like Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia and Ecuador into the international spotlight.
The Daily Meal, along with a panel of judges made-up of esteemed restaurant critics, food and lifestyle writers, and bloggers from around the world, carefully curated a list of the top restaurants in the continent. Rating each establishment on its region, cuisine and the style of restaurant (budget, casual/neighborhood, and serious dining/special occasion), the top ten list represents only a small portion of the culinary excellence that can be found across South America.
10. Epice in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Located in the stylish Jardim Paulista neighborhood, chef Alberto Landgraf gives authentic Brazilian flavors a modernist makeover at this cozy, warmly lit spot. With a la carte and tasting menus, as well as an array of culinary choices from fried pork ear to grilled octopus with sweet corn, black garlic, broccoli, and vegetable broth, this place serves up some intricately fashioned and often brilliant dishes.
9. Mani in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Mani boasts a skillfully designed nine-course tasting menu, as well as delicious and unusual dishes like curried quinoa balls with celery jam or cold jabuticaba soup with cachaca-steamed crayfish, pickled cauliflower, and amburana nuts. Created by spouses Daniel Redondo and Helena Rizzo, who spent significant time at El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain (otherwise known as the best restaurant in the world), the culinary duo made their own mark in the South American city, drawing influence from Spanish, Italian, and, of course, Brazilian cuisine.
8. Criterion in Bogotá, Colombia. American, Spanish, Italian and Latin American culinary influences blend superbly at this sophisticated restaurant, but the most influential star is, undoubtedly, French cuisine. Famous for it’s “terrine de foie gras PB&J,” duck liver with peanut butter, unripe grape preserves, caramelized banana, pecans and pureed prunes, brothers Mark and Jorge Rausch have raised the level of gastronomy in the Colombian capital with Criterion.
7. Maido in Lima, Peru. A Nikkei restaurant in the seaside district of Miraflores, Maido serves a century-old fusion of Japanese food with Peruvian characteristics. Peruvian-born chef Mitsuharu Tsumura is a perfect fit for the restaurant, as he spent many years working in sushi kitchens in Japan. The omakase menu is ever changing, based on the daily catch as well as the chef’s imagination.
6. 1884 Restaurante Francis Mallmann in Mendoza, Argentina. Evoking the feeling of grand gaucho living in an earlier time, this showcase for celebrity chef Francis Mallmann’s “seven fires” cooking skills is also Argentina’s first winery restaurant. Using open-fire grills, clay ovens, and other wood-fueled means, the cuisine at 1884 ranges from a beef rib the size of a dinosaur bone to grilled pacu, a fleshy river fish related to piranhas.
5. Central Restaurante in Lima, Peru. Carefully sourcing ingredients to create creative twists on classic Peruvian cuisine is what’s slowly earning this restaurant international praise. Head chef Virgilio Martinez Veliz has curated a tasting menu conceptually based on ingredients characteristics of different elevations of Peru. From the jungle, to the oceans, to the mountains, Central Restaurante offers ingredients not often seen in Peruvian cuisine, like scallops with loche squash, an unusual winter squash found only in Peru. Or whole beef heart cooked and dehydrated, then shaved on top of kaniwa, a type of Peruvian quinoa, and served with milk.
4. Sucre in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Offering an unforgettable housemade goat cheese cheesecake with black figs, dates, and hazelnuts, this sleek, modern restaurant’s interior feels like downtown Manhattan, but it’s faire is deftly and irrefutably Argentinean. While they cook an array of meat Buenos Aires is known for excellently, go with their octopus tiradito with crunchy corn, aji mirasol, and oyster sauce. You won’t regret it.
3. La Mar in Lima, Peru. Gaston Acurio’s internationally famous Peruvian cebicheria franchise originated here before expanding across the continent and up to Miami and San Francisco. Boasting a seafood-heavy menu, the spicy, refreshing ceviches are not to be missed.
2. Astrid & Gaston in Lima, Peru. Featured on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for four consecutive years, it’s easy to see why this pioneer of Lima’s blossoming culinary scene has so much international recognition. Experimenting with traditional dishes results in standout favorites like cuy pekines, in which guinea pig is cooked in the Peking duck style and served with rocoto chiles and a purple corn crepe and lucuma ice cream with raspberry compote and creme brulee foam.
1. D.O.M. in Sao Paulo, Brazil. An acronym for Dominus Optimo Maximo, this small establishment serves as a platform for influential and original Brazilian chef Alex Atala’s to galvanize his country’s food scene. Featuring unmistakably Brazilian fare, the chef has absolutely infused his global culinary education into his dishes, easily marking them as unlike anything else in the world. Hearts of palm are transformed into fettuccine flavored Italian-style with butter, Parmigiano, sage, and popcorn powder, or served as “carpaccio” with scallops and basil oil. For dessert, unique dishes like the Brazil nut tart with whiskey ice cream, chocolate, salt, pepper, and arugula are offered.