Header image, left to right: layered yellow manioc with malagueta pepper sauce at Glouton (image: Jô Moreira) and tuna ceviche with ruby red leche de tigre at Hartwood (image: Gentl & Hyers)
Latin America is so hot right now – from the nutrient-rich superfoods that are popping into cuisines around the globe to the stunning settings of world-class restaurants in hard-to-reach valleys and secluded beaches.
Having whet your appetite with Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, we’re now bringing you the next six to keep an eye on, courtesy of our Diners Club® 50 Best Discovery Series. These restaurants span from the Caribbean to the south of Brazil and they all have one thing in common: the vibrant colours that come from the region’s incredible natural ingredients.
1. Maras Restaurante – Lima, Peru
Calle Las Begonias 450, San Isidro, Lima
+51 1 2015023
Tuna and avocado ice cream
What makes it special? Part of the Westin Lima Hotel, Maras is one of a new wave of Peruvian restaurants that pay homage to the country's native ingredients and culinary traditions, while also referencing modern international influences.
Who's the chef? One of Peru's best-known chefs, Rafael Piqueras first trained at Le Cordon Bleu before spells at restaurants across Europe including Guido in Italy and El Celler de Can Roca in Spain, and was the first Peruvian chef to be invited to participate in the Madrid Fusion Festival. Maras opened in 2011.
What to eat: Signature dishes include foie gras with pisco aromas and flavours of roasted mango or tuna tiradito with chilli sauce and glazed sweet potato. A globe-trotting wine list, including a strong line up of South American wines, is a further reason to visit.
2. Le Chique – Riviera Maya, Mexico
Carretera Cancun-Puerto Morelos km 27.5, Manz 37, Super Manz 12, Riviera Maya
+52 998 872 8450
Lemon pie (image: Tinsley Advertising)
Why go? The white sandy beach and jacuzzi suites at the Azul Sensatori resort are compelling reasons to visit, but for food lovers the main attraction is Le Chique. Opened in 2008, the restaurant takes an avant-garde approach to Mexican food, deconstructing traditional dishes and playfully reinventing them with cutting-edge cooking techniques.
On the menu: The multi-sensory tasting menu is an epic affair stretching across 20-plus courses. Dishes are designed to play with diners' perceptions of how food should look, feel and taste. A Yucatán dish of panucho, which is traditionally made with fried tortilla stuffed with refried black beans, is re-imagined as a perfectly shaped egg with a surprise black bean filling. Similarly, the whole lemon in the 'lemon pie' dessert (pictured) is actually made from a candy shell and filled with curd.
3. Hartwood – Tulum, Mexico
Carretera Tulum KM7.6, Boca Paila, Quintana Roo, 77780
Roasted grouper collar (image: Gentl & Hyers from Hartwood by Artisan Books)
What makes it special? Apart from its truly iconic location in Mexico’s postcard-perfect beach resort of Tulum and the fact that Noma chef René Redzepi calls it “the place I dream about,” Hartwood is also the place to go for delicious, hearty dishes made from fresh local ingredients in a super-relaxed setting.
The story behind the restaurant: Chef-owner Eric Werner and his wife Mya Henry were on holiday in Tulum in 2009 when they had the idea to ditch their fast-paced life in New York. They set up Hartwood from scratch and settled in Tulum, where they now live with their daughter, Charlie.
Discover more about Hartwood
4. Blue by Eric Ripert – Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
PO Box 32348 KY1-1209, Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman
+1 345 943 9000
Inside Blue by Eric Ripert
Why go? Surrounded by the sparkling azure waters of the Caribbean Sea, Grand Cayman is a fitting location for this sophisticated seafood restaurant overseen by chef Eric Ripert of the iconic Le Bernardin in New York.
What to order: The vast menu teems with locally caught fish. Witness seared cobia accompanied by a citrus mustard emulsion and wahoo sashimi with pesto broth. Don't miss the signature tuna foie gras, comprising layers of pounded tuna and foie gras on a toasted baguette and sprinkled with chives.
Worth knowing: Before you book your flight it's worth noting that the restaurant tends to close during ‘off-season’ in September and October.
Discover more about Blue by Eric Ripert
5. Glouton – Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Rua Bárbara Heliodora 59, Lourdes, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais
+55 31 32924237
Chicken rice with okra and Jerez (image: Jô Moreira)
What's it all about? The food of Minas Gerais, which mixes Portuguese, African and indigenous influences, is much loved throughout Brazil, but pioneering young chef Leo Paixão is taking it in exciting new directions.
Menu highlights: Traditional Mineiro (from Minas Gerais state) dishes are given a new lease of life thanks to Paixão's classical French training. Start with yellow cassava and pepper sauce, followed by piglet with crispy farofa (toasted cassava flour), apple and cachaça. Mango tart with sweet avocado cream and tarragon ice-cream provides a fragrant finish.
Discover more about Glouton
6. Manu – Curitiba, Brazil
Al. Dom Pedro II, 317, Batel, Curitiba, Paraná
+55 41 3044 4395
Tuna, watermelon, chuchu, capuchin leaf and avocado cream
Chief reason to visit: Manoella 'Manu' Buffara has swiftly become one of Latin America's hottest young chefs by celebrating the diverse natural produce of the Paraná region in beautifully presented, contemporary dishes.
What to order: Choose between three different tasting menus (four, seven or 11 courses), which showcase ingredients from a network of artisan producers that Buffara has cultivated through regular visits, plus produce grown on her own small-holding. The line-up changes regularly but diners can expect dishes such as a modern take on the Brazilian classic bobó de camarão (cassava paste flavoured with dried shrimp, coconut milk and cashews) or pumpkin soup pepped up with coffee and lemon powder.
Discover more about Manu