In 2012, several restaurants in Peru, Mexico, and Brazil inched their way up the World’s Best list and countless superb new restaurants opened. Last month I met with Noma founder Claus Meyer in Copenhagen and his words were “I think South America is the next continent.” He was talking about food and restaurants and the sheer amount of opportunity there for haute cuisine. There is much to look forward to:
Nikkei Food Gets Big
With Ferran and Albert Adriá opening a 30-seat Nikkei restaurant, called Pakta, on January 15 in Barcelona, Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine is going to get a much closer look in 2013. This is good news for Lima’s several dozen Nikkei restaurant, which feature some of the most technically advanced chefs in Peru, such as Hajime Kasuga, who opened the phenomenal Ache in May, and Mitsuharu Tsumura of Maido. You can now find Nikkei restaurants in Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Mexico City and even Nikkei food trucks in Honolulu and Los Angeles now. Expect much more to come.
Bolivian Food & Ingredients Take Center Stage
For anyone that has ever doubted the potential of Bolivian food prepare to be pleasantly surprised this year and forever into the future. With the help of Noma founder Claus Meyer – a restauranteur, author, chef, and culinary entrepreneur who has his hand in every aspect of Copenhagen’s mesmerizing food scene – La Paz is getting a cooking school that will be a training ground for the country’s future chefs and a high end restaurant, Gustu, that will one day compete with the best restaurants on the continent. Expect everything from the country’s grape based spirit Singani to heirloom potatoes and grains to get a face lift.
The Uco Valley Becomes the Focal Point of Mendoza
Most new development in Argentina’s greatest wine region of Mendoza is centering in the high altitude Uco Valley (Valle de Uco) about an hour south of the city. Not only is this the site of Vines of Mendoza’s resort and spa, but they’re bringing in Seven Fires chef Francis Mallman to helm their restaurant, which is opening in March in time for harvest. Several important residential projects, such as La Morada de los Andes from the owners of Buenos Aires’ Fierro Hotel, and countless other wine, hotel, and restaurant projects aare also coming to fruition this year.
Peruvian Restaurants Experiment with New Décor
Why nearly every new Peruvian restaurant has been afraid to design their restaurant after anything but a classic white table cloth bistro or something that looks like some tired mostly white South Beach imitation I’ll never know. Great restaurants do not need to feel stuffy and Limeños are proving that if you give them an alternative they will support creative décor. Examples: Los Bachiche’s old school feel, La Picanteria’s more rustic look, and Amaz’s exotic jungle theme. Let’s see a speakeasy bar or a farmhouse restaurant.
Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico Becomes a Year Round Destination
Mexico’s premier wine region – yes, Mexico has a wine region and it’s pretty god damn spectacular actually – is already the home to some pretty great wineries, restaurants, hotels, and shops. The problem is most are seasonal. With new hotels like Habita’s Endemico and new restaurants becoming hopefully permanent, like Drew Deckman’s Deckman’s at El Mogor and Javier Plascencia’s Finca Altozano, this beautiful Baja spot can be visited any time of the year, as it should.
A New Indie Food Magazine Lauches
Something along the lines of Sweden’s Fool or Lucky Peach in the States, a serious, ell written food magazine will be launched somewhere in Latin America. Something where chefs, writers, mixologist, producers, photographers, illustrators, butchers, and everyone else can creatively have their say iwhtout the constraints of the mainstream food media. Perhaps it happens in Brazil or Peru. Maybe Etiqueta Negra will collaborate just McSweeney’s did with Lucky Peach. It’s going to happen…eventually.
The New Astrid y Gaston is Even More Impressive Than Anyone Expects
The flagship restaurant of the Acurio Empire is moving sometime in 2013 to San Isidro’s colonial mansion Casa Moreyra –a project Acurio has said is destined to lose money because he wants more Peruvians to be able to eat there. If the latest tasting menu is any indication of what is to come then we are in for a treat.
Restaurants & Chefs Help Producers Develop
On my recent trip to Scandinavia, I realized just how important the artisanal producers are in that region’s food and the support from the chefs and restaurants is overwhelming. At Fäviken Magasinet, chef Magnus Nilsson speaks of his duck supplier Peter Blombergsson as if he is as an integral part of his restaurant as the sous chef. At Frantzén/Lindeberg they don’t just name the region the product comes from, but they name the farmer. It’s that specific and the quality of products is the driving force of the cuisine. That still needs to happen in Latin America. While I appreciate that restaurants in Peru are naming on their menus that their mushrooms are from Porcón and Camembert from Oxapampa (both of which are coming from fairly large industrial producers) it’s time to recognize the independent producers that are as important to Peruvian cuisine as any chef or restaurant.Let’s hear the name of the fishing pier the tuna was caught, the cooperative that harvested the quinoa, and the indigenous village that harvested that cacao right on the menu.
Argentina Begins to do New Things with Beef
Maybe this is wishful thinking, but I think there’s so much more that can be done in Argentina in regards to beef. Don’t get me wrong, it’s home to some of the best beef in the world, but after two days in Buenos Aires I’m bored with the same cuts being prepared the same way. What I would like to see? A restaurant dedicated to Texas Style mesquite brisket. Another dedicated to Carolina BBQ. Then perhaps someone specializing in aging meat. Not just for a month. Try 8 months.
Amazonian Food Is Continues to Develop
I am convinced that one day the best restaurant in the world will be set in the Amazon rainforest…somewhere. This is the place with the most naturally occurring fruits, fish, and other potential edibles can be found and it has only begun to be explored. Pedro Miguel Schiaffino’s Amaz restaurant in Lima was a huge step forward and there’s already talk of it expanding elsewhere. And it should. Personally I’d like to see Iquitos become the center of Amazonian food and Manaus and Belem to also do more in terms expanding their culinary scenes.
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.