Juan Luis Martínez (pictured) and José Luis Saume
What it's all about: The organic encounter of two cultures – Venezuelan and Peruvian – in a small and welcoming space defines Mérito. The team’s impeccable use of ingredients from the Peruvian pantry, showcased in creative and ever-evolving preparations, sets the standard. The plot thickens when flashes and memories of Venezuelan cuisine – the chefs’ country of origin – feed in. Respect for the product and exaltation of its qualities are key parts of the experience. Debuting on the list at No.37, the restaurant is the winner of the Highest New Entry Award 2020, sponsored by Aspire Lifestyles.
About the chefs: Juan Luis Martínez and José Luis Saume, both from Caracas, studied at La Casserole du Chef and met at restaurant Planta Baja in the Venezuelan capital. Saume went on to work at La Fontana in Miami, while Martínez moved to the south of France before working at Diverxo in Madrid and Central in Peru. Mérito is their first joint project.
What you will eat: The short and ever-changing menu privileges seasonality and what’s available at the local market, although some dishes have already become classic. Try the grilled corn with huancaína sauce; the rice with the catch of the day; the delicate homemade bacon; or the tender grilled gizzards. But you won’t be disappointed by the perfect corn arepas or the Peruvian cocoa chocolate rock, an unforgettable dessert already gaining notoriety. If it's the right season and you're lucky, the grilled custard apple will be your happy ending.
To drink: The short cocktail menu highlights seasonal ingredients, while the wines are chosen with an orientation towards the natural and biodynamic.
Other ventures: During the pandemic, Saume and Martínez created Demo Mérito, a delivery initiative that channels Mérito’s essence, as well as a small shop with some of their most popular preparations. In late 2020, the expanded the premises, with Demo still doing delivery while Mérito focuses on ever-changing tasting menus – don't expect to find the same dishes every time.