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Dining in Bogotá: The New Wave in Gastronomy

Unexpected encounters between diverse culinary traditions and astonishing and delicious pairings and fusions seem to be the order of the day at so many great restaurants in the Colombian capital. The list of already widely known names —Harry Sasson, Leo Katz, Leonor Espinosa, the Rausch brothers, and Andrés Jaramillo— is expanding to include a new tribe of edgy and imaginative chefs.

By: Iván Beltrán Castillo
Photos: Lisa Palomino

 

Conde Cantina

Cra. 9 n.° 79A-26

An ingenious meeting of seemingly disparate cuisines. The almost romantic softness of various Italian pastas acquires a new dynamic when it bumps up against Mexican ingredients: pre-Colombian tortillas are paired with seafood and meats and tostadas (crispy fried tortillas) delight diners when topped by fresh tuna. The restaurant, owned by Camilo Ortiz, chef Nicolás Galvis, and bartender Jonathan Moreno, has been praised for its slow-cooked pork ribs, ceviche in sangrita (spiced tomato juice), arroz enchilado de lomo (flavored rice with tenderloin), and horchata (cinnamon-rice drink) pie.

 

Río, Sabores y Experiencias

Calle 69 n.° 10A-19

The name of María Alejandra Iregui’s restaurant, located in Quinta Camacho, is a poetic invocation of water and its panoramas. The names of the dishes pay homage to this spirited element, including Queen of the River (trout marinated for 48 hours); Potato Prairie (indigenous potatoes served with spicy cured beef, goat cheese, and Sriracha mayo); and Lomo Saltado (beef with indigenous potatoes). Other memorable dishes at Río are the Mekong Vietnamese sandwich and the roasted mushrooms with cheese sauce. Their gin & tonic is already a legendary way to while away an afternoon in the city.

 

Juana la Loca

Calle 90 n.° 11-13, piso 3

A dizzying experience that begins with design —the work of celebrated Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld— unfolds on the upper floor of a futuristic tower in the El Chicó neighborhood. Soupy lobster rice, suckling pig cracklings, carpaccio of veal with artichoke and lemon, and a delicious tres leches cake flavored with Mediterranean flowers are all stunning. Juana la Loca’s calming and delightful cocktails, gin & tonics, and martinis are highly recommended.

 

Seratta Gourmand Market

Cra. 45 n.° 114-44

Imagine a restaurant, a supermarket, a kids’ play area, a bakery, a space for tastings, a beer hall, a delicatessen…. The backstory could not be more appealing: Michelin-starred chef Rubén Trincado, who arrived from Spain to much fanfare, discovered a hotbed of new sensations and creative possibilities in Colombia. He was flabbergasted to find, among other ingredients, Hass avocados, cubio (mashua tuber), fat-bottomed ants, and Cape gooseberries. Treats such as roast duck, osmotized avocado —with an edible skin— steeped in lime-flavored beer and filled with shredded meat, and roasted squash fillet are on offer.

 

Milk and Flakes

Cra. 9 n.° 81-27

Young and lovely Nathalie Perner and her uncle, Tomás Perner, have created a paradise of children’s delights. The menu is a wonderful counter to heavy traditional foods: fruit smoothies topped with granola, blueberry muffins, vegan sandwiches, poppy seed bagels, and donuts served with sauce and a favorite cereal.

 

Instinto

Calle 57 n.° 4-06

A brilliant approach based on the idea that the most exquisite food is born of research, inquiry, experimentation, and balance. Parading through the menu are crab turnovers made with corn ground on site, grilled octopus, crispy quinoa salad with grilled chicken, ceviche of pork cracklings, octopus risotto, and chicken marinated in wine for more than 12 hours.

 

Misia

Cra. 7 n.° 67-39

The new concept created by Leonor Espinosa and her daughter, sommelier Laura Hernández, seeks to add further nuance to the already legendary achievements of Leo Cocina y Cava. The menu encapsulates the marvels of regional Colombian cuisine. You can choose Espinosa-style posta negra (black beef); cayeye (green plantain) salad with cucumber relish, whey, and Costeño cheese; mote de queso (cheese and yam soup) with black bean rice and avocado; or traditional arepas (corn fritters) with egg, among other pleasures. A dessert of plantain cake with guava jelly and cheese or shaved ice with a homemade cola syrup finishes off the meal nicely.

 

Casa Lelite

Calle 64 n.° 3A-29

Young Angélica Bernal is intent on promoting healthy vegetarian eating but she is far from puritanical or dull. She studied at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York and was particularly inspired by her travels through Israel and Turkey. Casa Lelyte presents us with a surprising marriage of art and food. In La nave de los locos (Boat of Lunatics), for example, Angélica composes her menu with the insight of a creative artist and spices her food with inventiveness. Outstanding dishes include mushroom gyozas (potstickers) with chile sauce; barbecued beets; a quartet of tacos; pea-filled agnolottis in a blue cheese and truffle sauce; and cubio cheesecake.

 

Trattoria de la Plaza

Calle 66 n.° 22-45

Located in the densely populated 7 de Agosto neighborhood, an area traditionally devoted to food and hardware stores, this restaurant is a classic that draws both culinary experts and neophytes from around the city. Twin establishments on the same block share the same philosophy: La Tapería de la Plaza and a private VIP salon, where inveterate lovers of fine cuisine can enjoy rituals enacted exclusively for them. Grilled octopus on indigenous mashed potatoes, Italian antipasti, and Rossini tenderloin are a few of chef André’s offerings.

 

Navarra

Calle 63 n.° 11-61

For more than two decades, the tastiest Spanish paella and the entire poetic spectrum of Iberian cuisine have been served in the heart of Bogotá’s Chapinero district. Paco Linda, one of the restaurant’s creators, has passed away, but the other, 86-year-old José Barca, continues to be the heart and soul of Navarra. José took the long way around to get where he is today: he worked in a pickling factory and then at Los Trovadores, El Salón de España, La Hostería Los Quijotes, El Tequendama, and As de Copas before establishing El Mesón del Vasco. Along with his son José Francisco Barca, José himself carefully supervises the waiters and kitchen staff at Navarra. The restaurant has been lauded for its Madrid-style tripe, seafood pot, beef stew, chicken, grilled meats, and high-octane sangria.