Last year after eating at Alex Atala’s D.O.M. in São Paulo I predicted that the restaurant, then #18 on San Pellegrino’s World’s Best List, would make the Top 5 in 2011. I was close. It jumped up 11 spots to #7. Thus far, no other restaurant in South America has come close to the level of D.O.M. Atala is sourcing many rare ingredients direct from farmers and artisanal vendors throughout Brazil, including the Amazon, and presenting them in a modern form. Atala isn’t focusing on foraging like at Noma or molecular gastronomy like at El Bulli. Rather he is showcasing some of the most vibrant, exciting, and unknown ingredients in a new way. Two other Brazilian restaurants, Mani (#74) and Fasano (#59), both which focus on Brazilian ingredients, also made the list.
Peru is beginning to set itself apart for the general quality of every dish prepared and the increasingly talented chefs. In Peru, for the first time ever two restaurants entered the list: Astrid y Gaston (#42) and Malabar (#87). Peruvian chefs still have a long way to go to reach the top levels that Atala has achieved, but they are on their way there. Also, it is interesting to note that Astrid y Gaston might be the first restaurant on the list with multiple locations (it’s in Lima, Santiago, Quito, Caracas, Bogota, Mexico, Buenos Aires) – though the Lima restaurant, which is getting a complete overhaul, was specified. Acurio has already stated that the naming of Astrid y Gaston to the list would mean more judges coming to the country to see that there were numerous restaurants that were equal or better than his. Personally, I would have had Malabar and Astrid y Gaston switched. In Mexico, two additional restaurants, Biko (#31) and Pujol (#49), also appeared in the top 50.
What is beginning to set the top restaurants out from the others in Latin America (the same can be said for the world too) are a focus on using local ingredients, which in this region means some of the rarest on earth. Culinary technique and knowledge in Latin America is catching up here to the rest of the world, but no place else has this amount of diversity in native ingredients. I expect many more restaurants from South America to appear on this list in the years to come.
San Pellegrino’s World’s Best Restaurants from Latin America:
- 7. DOM (São Paulo, Brazil)
- 31. Biko (Mexico City, Mexico)
- 42. Astrid y Gaston (Lima, Peru)
- 49. Pujol (Mexico City, Mexico)
- 59. Fasano (São Paulo, Brazil)
- 74. Mani (São Paulo, Brazil)
- 87. Malabar (Lima, Peru)
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.