4 Can’t Miss Culinary Destinations in South America

4 Can’t Miss Culinary Destinations in South America

Dishes like ceviche and parrilla have long been on menus all over the world for decades, but it hasn’t been until recently that South America’s diverse cuisine gets the attention it deserves on a global scale. Taking inspiration from Amazonian ingredients and Andean staples as well as a fusion of indigenous, Spanish and diaspora cultures, South American culinary destinations like Lima and Buenos Aires feature a mix of traditional dishes and inventive contemporary cuisine that draws visitors from all over the world. While there is a plethora of restaurants in these top culinary destinations in South America – these four cities are standouts when it comes to eating your way through South America.

These Are The Culinary Destinations in South America You Can’t Miss

1. Lima, Peru

Lima Peru

Peru is indisputably a South American culinary destination, if not one of the culinary capitals of the world – with Peruvian food being recognized as the World’s Best Culinary Destination at the World Travel Awards, for over 9 years consecutively. In the capital, Lima, chefs from all over the country, the continent and the world come together to create the dishes that Peruvian cuisine is most known for – like fresh and fragrant ceviche, rich lomo saltado, creamy aji de gallina and more. Limeños are prideful of their cuisine, and rightfully so – the extensive cultural influences, Spanish, Arabic, African, Chinese, Japanese, and Italian, chefs from all over the Americas and plethora of award-winning restaurants make Lima an exciting place to sip and savor.

Restaurants to try in Lima include:

– Central

The Miraflores restaurant of chef Virgilio Martinez, who is also known for the Michelin starred restaurant LIMA in London, Central has a steadfast position among the best restaurants in the world, named Latin America’s number one restaurant in 2017, while coming in at number five in the World’s 50 Best. Through the contemporary Peruvian dishes he creates, Martinez introduces diners to the diversity of ingredients found across Peru, celebrating the country’s biodiversity from the rainforest and coast to high up in the Andes. The inventive tasting menus here are seen as a gastronomic exploration of Peru, and one of the most inventive restaurants in South America.

– Astrid & Gastón

The flagship project of chef Gastón Acurio and his German chocolatier wife Astrid Gutsche — herself once named the world’s best pastry chef — who he met while studying in Paris’s Cordon Bleu culinary school, is now housed in a spacious 17th century palacio decorated in modern, minimalist style.

Acurio remains the father of contemporary Peruvian cuisine, having both championed the country’s rich tradition of home cooking and been the first to tweak it with haute cuisine flourishes on an international stage.

Astrid & Gastón offers a tasting menu that is a tour de force as it takes diners on a brisk journey across Peru’s exhilarating history and geography.

– La Mar

If you know about Peruvian cuisine from one dish, its ceviche – and few places are more notable in Peru’s capital city for ceviche than La Mar. Chef and Founder Gaston Acurio opened this buzzing upscale cevicheria to pay homage to the Pacific Ocean.  Beyond the fresh, classical ceviches include the restaurant’s El Festival De La Mar – a family-style dish featuring fresh lobster, juicy prawns, sea urchin, crab and many other shellfish served with a selection of homemade sauces. If you’re trying to decide what to get here – know you can never go wrong with a classic ceviche – its popular for a reason here.

In a bustling part of Lima, Miraflores, La Mar is the perfect destination for diners to enjoy seafood right by the source and experience Limeño dining at its finest. The restaurant has a no-reservations policy, which also means there is a good chance of a table, even if there is a line.

2. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires Argentina

As a melting pot of cultures, bringing together Italian, Spanish, French, indigenous and other influences – the various cultures that make up the nation of Argentina have all left their mark on the nation’s culinary scene, and there is no better way to experience it than in the bustling metropolitan capital of Buenos Aires. While the city is known for red wine and tender cuts of steak – it has lots more to offer for all types of foodies looking for a taste of this eclectic country.

Porteños, or people from Buenos Aires have a strong restaurant culture, and one that goes late – expect dinner to be served around 8 PM and go all night long until 1 AM when dinner turns to drinking hours. More so now than ever, the spotlight shines on local ingredients from across the country, with an intentional effort made to source Argentina’s unique local products and purveyors.

While you’re here – you have to try a classic Argentinian parilla (medium rare, or you might feel it’s over-cooked compared to the USA), paired with a glass of malbec. Like many countries in Latin America, Argentina has a variety of savory empanadas – made the Argentine way with baked or fried dough and a variety of fillings like beef, sweet corn or chicken – these are a go-to bakery snack that can’t be missed. Another potentially surprising must-try in Buenos Aires is pizza – with an influx of Italian immigrants to Argentina, the country is known for its Italian fusion dishes such as Argentinian pizza or Faina which more closely resembles a “pizza sandwich” with a thick dough crust on the outside, filled with cheese and other popular pizza fillings like tomato sauce, mushrooms and more on the inside -pair it with a glass of red and you have a famous meal of the Porteños.

Restaurants to try to include:

– Don Julio

Though every Porteño will tell you about their favorite parrilla in the city, The title of the Don Julio is certainly a favorite of many with its consistently flawless cooking and top of the line service – a rarity in a city like Buenos Aires. Though Don Julio is not a hidden gem, it is popular for good reason. If you’re looking for dinner and a show – ask to be seated at the bar for a front-row seat at the grill.

– Aramburu

San Telmo is known for its incredible dining scene – and one of the restaurants that leads this scene is Aramburu. Chef Gonzalo Aramburu cooked his way across Spain and Paris before returning to Buenos Aires to open Aramburu, which pushes Argentine cuisine and ingredients to their limits, offering diners an intimate and modern take on this country’s cuisine.

– Mishiguene

A celebration of Jewish cuisine and culture, Mishiguene is an elegant space with hearty, first-class food. Mishiguene (which means lovably crazy in Yiddish) is on a mission to honor the city’s Jewish heritage with a selection of traditional recipes made to co-founder and head chef Tomás Kalika’s exacting standards. From kibbeh nayeh to spit-roasted Moroccan lamb, dishes here are lovingly made and hugely satisfying.

3. Bogota, Colombia

Bogota Colombia

Though Colombia receives less recognition than the culinary power houses of Peru or Argentina, the country has access to rare Andean produce and Amazonian herbs and spices, talented chefs from all over the country, and menus that reinvent Colombian classics and elevate cuisine that has long been enjoyed in the Colombian metropolitan of Bogota. Over time, Spanish influence has combined with  native Colombian, African and Arabic cuisines – alongside those of surrounding countries – to create truly diverse and unique Colombian flavors.

Restaurants to try include:

– Andrés Carne de Res

The city’s most iconic dining experience is actually just 30 minutes outside of Bogotá. Andrés Carne de Res is a multisensory, multilevel restaurant which is as much of a barbeque restaurant as it is an experience. The menu, which reads more like a book, focuses on beef and all things grilled, with plenty of local dishes from arepas to ceviches. Try La Trapa, a salted, muslin-wrapped tenderloin grilled directly on the fire. Every inch is decorated with found objects and memorabilia, like gloriously gaudy neon lighting and stylized bric-a-brac. Any empty floor space usually becomes a dance floor with the party extending well into the night.

– El Chato

Chefs José Barbosa and Álvaro Clavijo are the dynamic duo behind one of Bogotá’s standout restaurants that effortlessly brings together Colombian products and modern flavors. El Chato is part of the recent trend of a more upscale Colombian cuisine, and they set the bar high. Located in the beautiful neighborhood of Quinta Comacho, these small plates style restaurant is a must try to get your mouth watering with modern takes on Colombian favorites.

– Leo

Dining at Leo is like taking a tour into the heart of the Amazon rainforest, up Andean highlands, through deserts and along the Pacific coastline to the Caribbean, all without leaving one of Bogota’s most stylish restaurants.

Executive Chef Leonor Espinosa celebrates the unique diversity of the country and crafts her tantalizing seasonal tasting menu around little-known regional ingredients such as the mojojoy worm, jumbalin and borojó. Beverage pairings – created by daughter Laura Hernández-Espinosa – are no less adventurous, with many tipples fermented or distilled in-house. Espinosa was crowned Latin America’s Best Female Chef in 2017 and Leo broke onto The World’s 50 Best list in 2019.

4. Santiago, Chile

Santiago de Chile

With a diverse climate and geographical ranges from the Andes Mountain Range to the Pacific Ocean – Chile is an emerging foodie destination known for its exceptional seafood, olive oil and wines – with Santiago as the epicenter of the foodie scene.

It’s in recent years that Santiago’s dining scene has flourished with notable chefs striving to champion modern Chilean cuisine and the nation’s distinct food heritage. From savoring what is considered to be some of Latin America’s most accomplished cuisine to dining with a view, Santiago’s dining scene has taken off with notable restaurants from street food to award-winning contemporary Chilean cuisine.

Restaurants to try include:

– Boragó

Listed among the world’s best restaurants, Boragó is modern Chilean cuisine, fusing a focus on nature with chef Rodolfo Guzmán’s innovative cooking techniques. In a dining space that reflects the style of cuisine served here, through its contemporary design and integration of natural materials, diners are given an insight into Chile’s culinary identity. By using produce from Chile’s biodiverse environment and drawing on the country’s native culture, Guzmán creates seasonal tasting menus that tell a story of the people and land. Known as one of the best restaurants in South America – Boragó is a favorite of those visiting Santiago.

– Restaurant Ambrosia

Another of Santiago’s internationally renowned restaurants, Ambrosia serves high gastronomy from Chef Carolina Bazán who infuses inspiration she’s taken from countries such as Peru, Brazil and Italy into the menu. Fresh produce is used in harmony with the seasons, and while the menu changes daily, diners can expect to have dishes like quail with porotitos, or Chilean stew puree and duck consommé, or even a 26-hour cooked wagyu.

– Restaurant 99

At Restaurant 99, Chef Kurt Schmidt and his team cook up modern plates incorporating produce that’s presented in a variety of different forms, from its raw state to a powder or foam.

In a casual dining space, guests are served lunches of traditional Chilean fare, and given the choice between two different tasting menus each evening, with or without wine pairing. These menus could include plates like lamb tongue on a cauliflower puree with prunes and caramel, or carrot sorbet with coconut foam and caramelized peanuts. Each dish is perfectly paired with wine which is sourced from small producers who place the focus on natural and local wines.

Worked up an appetite reading this blog? With a plethora of world-class culinary destinations and dining experiences in South America – get ready to eat your way through the region on your next trip, with Kuoda. As fellow foodies, our travel experts are ready to make sure your next vacation is one full of flavor.