When a November 2016 peace agreement ended Colombiau2019s 53-year-long civil war, an unintendedu2014and deliciousu2014benefit resulted. Decades of guerrilla warfare prevented many Colombians from traveling freely to different parts of their own country, leaving them largely unexposed to its diverse culinary spoils. Today, adventurous chefs in Bogotu00e1 are at last exploring those riches, leading to a resurgence of regionally inspired cuisine across the nationu2019s capital.
u201cColombia is the second-most biodiverse country on the planet,u201d explains Laura Hernu00e1ndez-Espinosa, the sommelier at Bogotu00e1 haute-cuisine spot Leo, u201cso there are hidden ingredients we can find throughout Colombiau2019s different climates and regions.u201d The restaurantu2014which ranked 18th on the 2017 S. Pellegrino & Acqua Panna Latin Americau2019s 50 Best Restaurants listu2014takes its name from Hernu00e1ndez-Espinosau2019s mother, head chef Leo Espinosa, who was named Latin Americau2019s best female chef. The restaurantu2019s Ciclo-Bioma menu, the latest iteration of which was released last October, spans Colombiau2019s five climate zonesu2014the Andes, the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Amazon and Guajira junglesu2014and includes paiche, a massive finless Amazonian fish served in a punchy sour yucca and Brazil nut broth, and stewed capybara, sourced from a dry region of the Pacific rainforest.
Meanwhile, at 2-year-old Hippie, chef-owner Paula Silva serves dishes that feature a Technicolor array of tropical fruits not seen anywhere else on the planet alongside other strictly Colombian ingredients, such as papa criolla (Andean potato) and granadilla (a variety of passionfruit). u201cBogotu00e1, as the capital city, is at the center of this exploration,u201d says Silva, who returned to Colombia after four years in Barcelona.
Though the culinary tide is rising, there are still changes to be made. u201cItu2019s hard to get Colombians to part with their meat,u201d says Mexico-born chef Sergio Meza of Villanos en Bermudas, a restaurant he opened in 2016 with Argentine chef Nicolu00e1s Lu00f3pez. u201cBut weu2019re booking up as a plant-heavy restaurant that never serves the same thing twice.u201d Their artful dishes have included a white-chocolate mousse with cauliflower and amaranth; leek ceviche with grasshoppers, elderflowers, and epazote oil; and langoustine with banana broth and goat cheese.
By focusing inward, Colombiau2019s creative chefs are spreading word of their countryu2019s cooking prowess. u201cWe were isolated by conflict, from the world and each other,u201d Silva says, but after this yearu2014when the Latin Americau2019s 50 Best Awards returns to Bogotu00e1u2014Colombiau2019s status as a global culinary citizen should be beyond doubt.