Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants for 2018 were just announced in Bogotá, Colombia and as always there are some surprises. Since the list launched in Lima, Peru six years ago, with Astrid y Gastón taking the number one spot, only Peruvian restaurants have taken the top spot. For the second year in a row, Maido, topped the list, followed by Central, also in Lima, and Mexico City’s Pujol.
There was less movement this year than in years past, though there were a few surprises. Colombian restaurants fared well, with crowd favorite El Chato from Bogota was the highest new entry, at #21. Leonor Espinosa’s Leo is now at number 10 and Villanos en Bermudas is at #15.
From Argentina, Buenos Aires parrilla Don Julio rose all the way to number #5, one of the very few restaurants without a tasting menu. Other Buenos Aires’ restaurants also did well, such as highest climber Mishiguene (#18) and new entries Gran Dabang (#38) and Narda Comedor (#46).
Much of the list is now limited to a handful of large cities: Lima, Mexico City, Bogota, Buenos Aires, San Paulo, etc. This is a structural flaw with the list that I’m not sure can even be fixed. There have been a few restaurants break out from elsewhere, like Maito in Panama, but most others, such as Gustu in Bolivia and Alto in Caracas, two restaurants that should probably be well ranked in the list, have fallen off. There are no longer restaurants in Paraguay and Uruguay is down to just one. Central America is still being almost entirely ignored even though there are restaurants in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and several others in Panama that deserve recognition. Ecuador has never been on the list either, and a few restaurants there should be considered. Even in countries like Peru and Brazil, restaurants outside the largest cities are mostly missing. The one exception was in Mexico, where there were restaurants in the Valle de Guadalupe, Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Cancun.
Despite the complaints each year of the list being dominated by restaurants run by mostly male chefs, there has been no shift towards a more gender balanced list. Shouldn’t Manu Buffara, named “The One to Watch,” already be on the list? Isn’t Pia León actually the best chef in Latin America, not just the best female chef? There was one new female chef to appear, however, Narda Lepes of Narda Comedor in Buenos Aires.
In the first edition of the Latin America 50 Best Restaurant list, 49 of the 50 nominated chefs attended (Francis Mallmann was the one holdout). This year many of the biggest names stayed home, including Alex Atala, Gastón Acurio, Fer Rivarola, Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, and Alberto Landgraf.
At the 50 Best Talks Argentine chefs like Narda Lepes and Pablo Rivero insisted that the world needed to eat less meat, while Mexico’s Edgar Nuñez explained his work with alternative proteins, such as insects. Few restaurants on the list lack some sort of message surrounding sustainability, from Central’s dishes built around ecosystems to A Casa do Porco’s work using all parts of the pig. While the actual impact any single restaurant actually has is debatable, sustainability becoming a norm is still a positive step.
1. Maido – Lima, Peru
2. Central – Lima, Peru
3. Pujol – Mexico City, Mexico
4. Boragó – Santiago, Chile
5. D.O.M. – São Paulo, Brazil
6. Don Julio – Buenos Aires, Argentina
7. A Casa do Porco – São Paulo, Brazil
8. Astrid y Gastón – Lima, Peru
9. Quintonil – Mexico City, Mexico
10. Leo -Bogotá, Colombia
11. Tegui – Buenos Aires, Argentina
12. Maní – São Paulo, Brazil
13. Isolina – Lima, Peru
14. Sud 777 – Mexico City, Mexico
15. Villanos en Bermudas – Bogotá, Colombia
16. Rafael – Lima, Peru
17. La Mar – Lima, Peru
18. Mishiguene – Buenos Aires, Argentina
19. Chila – Buenos Aires, Argentina
20. Máximo Bistrot – Mexico City, Mexico
21. El Chato – Bogotá, Colombia NEW ENTRY
22. Parador La Huella – Jose Ignacio, Uruguay
23. Harry Sasson – Bogotá, Colombia
24. Ambrosia – Santiago, Chile
25. Osso – Lima, Peru
26. Lasai – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
27. Olympe – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
28. 99 – Santiago, Chile
29. Maito – Panama City, Panama
30. Pangea – Monterrey, Mexico
31. Alcalde – Guadalajara, Mexico
32. Elena – Buenos Aires, Argentina
33. Oteque – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil NEW ENTRY
34. Le Chique – Cancun, Mexico NEW ENTRY
35. Corazón de Tierra – Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico
36. El Baqueano – Buenos Aires, Argentina
37. Nicos – Mexico City, Mexico
38. Gran Dabbang – Buenos Aires, Argentina NEW ENTRY
39. Malabar – Lima, Peru
40. La Docena – Guadalajara, Mexico
41. Rosetta – Mexico City, Mexico
42. Aramburu – Buenos Aires, Argentina
43. Restaurante 040 – Santiago, Chile
44. Proper – Buenos Aires, Argentina
45. Mocotó – São Paulo, Brazil
46. Narda Comedor – Buenos Aires, Argentina NEW ENTRY
47. Osaka – Santiago, Chile RE-ENTRY
48. Amaz – Lima, Peru
49. Oro – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil NEW ENTRY
50. Tuju – São Paulo, Brazi
Header image courtesy Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, October 2018.