The Gustu effect is in full swing in La Paz, Bolivia, where ex-kitchen staff and students of Noma co-founder Claus Meyer’s revolutionary restaurant are launching new coffee roasters and house made pasta eateries all over the city. Not only are these restaurants multiplying, they are breaking barriers. Female chefs are leading the charge and women are integral to nearly every food concept around town. Vegetarian and vegan food is coming to life in many parts of the city. Small distillers and brewers are incorporating native ingredients in their concoctions better than wealthier, neighboring countries. La Paz is no longer just one restaurant. It’s a scene.
In Aymara, Ali Pacha means “the universe of plants.” So yes, this progressive, fine dining restaurant in the center of La Paz near Plaza Murillo is vegan. The bigger surprise than the concept is that chef Sebastián Quiroga – who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in London and also worked at Gustu – are doing vegan food better than anyone else in South America right now, with plates like roasted palm heart with Brazil nut milk and a sort of mozzarella made from quinoa. Menus are affordable with 3, 5, and 7 course menus, plus alcoholic and non-alcoholic pairings. The atmosphere is cool, not stuffy at all, with tables from the 28 de Julio market, recycled flour bags covering booth seats, and restored wood floors, stone walls, and beamed ceilings of the original casona they are housed in. A cocktail bar on the second floor will open soon. Calle Colón 1306, Centro; alipacha.com.
Gustu is more than just a restaurant. It’s the heart of an idea to develop every aspect of gastronomy in Bolivia. But as a restaurant it has never been better. Kamilla Seilder’s core team is still intact, but more importantly, the restaurant has developed a network of indigenous producers in the Altiplano and Amazon that gives them regular access to native ingredients like sustainably hunted caiman and melipona honey. Tasting menus here reveal a Bolivia that you never knew existed. A Bolivia that Bolivians never knew existed. This isn’t just one of Bolivia’s best restaurants, it’s one of the world’s. Since opening, the same building that houses the restaurant is home to Gustu Bar and the first location of Q’atu, a small market selling Bolivian culinary products. Calle 10 300, Calacoto; gustubo.restaurantgustu.com.
This small tapas bar has the most reliable Bolivian wine and craft beer list in Sopacachi. It’s a casual, laid back atmosphere. 2235 Av. Sánchez Lima, Sopacachi; hallwrights.com.
Jardín de Asia
This oversized Asian supper club out of Santa Cruz manages to use Bolivian products throughout the menu, so you might see heart of palm and manioc crusted caiman in maki or paiche tempura. The space is cavernous and beautiful with private rooms created by indigenous Chiriguana weavers and a roof of stars. Calle 13; Calacoto; jardindeasia.com.
Culinary Institute of America graduate Gabriella Prudencio – who also worked in Gustu and Jardín de Asia – learned to make pasta while working in Mario Batali’s restaurants in NYC and is applying those lessons in La Paz. Her house made pastas include touches of Bolivian ingredients like Andean corn (for filling the raviolis), tumbo (for the cheesecake), and spicy ají (for the martinis). The restaurant is filled with a youthful energy and it’s only going to get better as the years go by. Calle Enrique Peñaranda L 29, San Miguel; Facebook page.
Simple food made with love. Hay Pan is a small café with a coffee menu and list of breakfast items like avocado toast and fritattas. In the evenings, they offer Bolivian wines and cocktails.
Murillo 764, Centro; facebook page.
Inside Casona Patiño, a late 1800s building that will soon house a boutique hotel, this high end coffeebar and café specializes in roasting altitude coffees (bourbon, typica, caturra) that are served with geeky equipment like a Chemex or Aeropress. Their charcuterie (llama charqui and salami) stands out, though they also serve local cheese plates and a few heartier plates focusing on Andean ingredients. A decent selection of Bolivian wines is offered too. Plaza Tomas Frias 1570, downtown; hb-bronze.com.
Located in the chic Atix Hotel boutique hotel, Ona Restaurant serves a la carte and tasting menus that celebrate Bolivian biodiversity. The restaurant’s Bolivian chefs have collectively worked at some of the top dining establishments throughout Latin America including Central, Boragó, D.O.M., Epice, and Astrid y Gastón. Another former team member of Central Restaurant, mixologist David Romero, helped open +591 Bar at Atix with original drink creations inspired by Latin American flavors and spirits. Calle 16 8052, Calacoto; atixhotel.com.
This San Miguel salon de té utilizes fresh ingredients and food made entirely from scratch. The specialize in traditional snacks like cuñapés (cheese breads), masacos (mashed yuca or banana with meats or cheese), empanadas, and humitas. Calle René Moreno 1283, San Miguel, facebook page.
3600: Pastelería de Altura
A French style pastry shop with alfajores and macaroons with Andean flavors. Calle Claudio Aliaga F13, San Miguel; facebook page.
A group of baristas, some with Gustu cred, opened this coffee roaster in the Zona Sur in 2015. Focusing on Bolivian beans from La Yungas and other coffee producing regions regions, they also serve lights meals and pastries. Calle Enrique Peñaranda L 35, San Miguel; Facebook page.
Inside the chic Casa Grande Hotel, this sleek restaurant has an almost predictable yet well executed Mediterranean/international menu plus a few surprises like a surubi apanado (breaded Amazonian catfish) and various preparations of trout and pejerrey (kingfish). There’s a good bar on the hotel’s rooftop too. Calle 16 8009, Calacoto; casa-grande.com.bo.