South America has emerged in recent years as a major food destination. Peru, Brazil, and Argentina are the continent's gastronomic capitals, but in recent years, Colombia, Uruguay, and Ecuador have been earning attention of their own.
The Daily Meal recently put together its list of the 101 Best Restaurants in Latin America and the Caribbean; from that list, we've drawn the top ten scorers in South America.
To conduct our research, we consulted industry experts, local food guides, reviews, and listings, and compiled our own knowledge from experiences at restaurants in the different regions. What we ended up with was a short list of 261 restaurants from 28 different countries and regions. This list was then shared with our panel of judges (comprised primarily of restaurant critics, food and lifestyle writers, and assorted bloggers from across the globe), who undertook the tough task of selecting their favorites across a broad geographical area. In the interests of accuracy and fairness, panelists were asked only to vote for restaurants where they had eaten within the past 12 months. The voting — based on region, cuisine, and the style of the restaurant (budget, casual/neighborhood, and serious dining/special occasion) — narrowed the list to an honored group of 101. The final list includes a versatile mix of restaurants from different countries whose establishments were nominated.
Leading the list of the best restaurants in South America is Lima, with four restaurants, followed by São Paulo, a close second with three. Though the 10 restaurants here ranked highest on our list, they only represent a small portion of the culinary excellence that can be found throughout South America.
#10 Epice (São Paulo)
After working under some of the world’s top chefs, including Gordon Ramsay in London and Pierre Gagnaire in Paris, Alberto Landgraf came home to Brazil with a vision: to give authentic Brazilian flavors a modernist makeover. The result is Epice, a cozy, warmly lit restaurant in São Paulo's stylish Jardim Paulista neighborhood where Landgraf practices some serious culinary magic in the kitchen. His tasting menu descriptions are minimalist — dried cassava and cured pork belly, quail egg and fresh seaweed, fried pork ear — but the dishes are intricately fashioned and often brilliant. Landgraf's sense of contrasting flavors and textures is superb, paving the way for Epice’s creative dishes like scallops served with pickled carrot or cubes of cold carrot jelly served with luscious warm carrot purée. The à la carte menu ranges from the seemingly mundane elevated to the gastronomic (a plate of pumpkin gnocchi, sautéed pumpkin, pumpkin cream, Parmesan gelatin, and shimeji mushrooms) to the unlikely (grilled octopus with sweet corn, black garlic, broccoli, and vegetable broth) to the luxurious (foie gras with green corn, farmer's cheese, endive, and sorrel).
#9 Maní (São Paulo)
Both Daniel Redondo and Helena Rizzo, the husband-and-wife team at Maní, spent time at El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain (Redondo was born in that city), hailed as "the best restaurant in the world," and the true heir to the culinary throne after the closing of elBulli. Redondo and Rizzo have made their own mark, using what they learned there and incorporating its Spanish culinary influences with those of Italy and Brazil. What to expect at Maní? Among many other delicious and unusual dishes, curried quinoa balls with celery jam; octopus sticks with confit potatoes and sweet paprika; cold soup of jabuticaba (a Brazilian "super-fruit") with cachaça-steamed crayfish, pickled cauliflower, and amburana nuts; lightly grilled tuna with quinoa, blackberry chutney, ginger foam, and shiso peppers; and sweet smoked eggplant with curdled goat milk, lime zest, orange flower jelly, pistachios, crispy shredded phyllo, and black sesame seed ice cream. There is also a skillfully designed nine-course tasting menu.