Maido is the No. 1 restaurant in Latin America for a third straight year. The win for the Lima-based restaurant means the Peruvian capital is now seven for seven atop the list.
Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants awards took place earlier tonight in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the top three positions were unchanged from 2018. Lima-based Central held the No. 2 spot, having previously enjoyed its own three-year run at No. 1. Mexico City’s Pujol also remained unchanged at No. 3.
Lima-based Astrid y Gastón, which topped the inaugural list in 2013, was unseated by Central the following year. It’s currently sitting at No. 13.
Maido (up top and below) specializes in a Japanese-Peruvian fusion known as Nikkei, whose roots date back to the late 19th century when an influx of Japanese immigrants came to Lima and recreated their traditional dishes using Peruvian ingredients. Maido chef Mitsuharu Tsumura, who was born in Lima and went to college in Rhode Island, trained in the culinary arts under a master sushi chef in Osaka, Japan. He later returned to Lima to run the kitchen at a Sheraton hotel before eventually breaking out on his own with Maido.
In 2017, Tsumura opened another Nikkei restaurant, Karai, at the W Hotel in Santiago, Chile. The new venture, which has yet to crack the list, replaced another Nikkei restaurant called Osaka. The former occupant reopened in new digs last year and returned to the list at No. 44.
Virgilio Martínez might be the most recognized face behind second-place Central, but his wife Pía León (the 2018 Best Female Chef winner) played an instrumental role as the head chef for several years. The duo opened the Cusco-based Mil in early 2018, and León followed with her own Lima-based Kjolle that summer. Kjolle debuted at No. 21 to win the award for Highest New Entry, while Mil made its list premiere at No. 36.
Interestingly, Maido tops Central with the Latin American voters, but over on the World’s 50 Best list, Central currently sits at No. 6 and Maido at No. 10.
As a young 24-year-old chef, Enrique Olvera opened third-place Pujol (below) in 2000 with the idea of putting a contemporary spin on traditional Mexican cuisine. The chef-owner then reached deep into the country’s culinary history to craft signature dishes like Mole Madre, Mole Nuevo, where fresh mole meets a sauce that’s been aged for years. Olvera also received acclaim (with Daniela Soto-Innes, the reigning World’s Best Female Chef) for NYC’s Cosme. Pujol currently sits at No. 12 and Cosme at No. 23 on the World’s 50 Best list.
The rest of the Top 10 were as follows: Don Julio (Buenos Aires, Argentina) at No. 4, BORAGó (Santiago, Chile) at No. 5, A Casa do Porco (São Paulo, Brazil) at No. 6, last year’s highest debuting restaurant El Chato (Bogotá) at No. 7, Leo Cocina (Bogotá) at No. 8, famed butcher shop Osso (Lima) at No. 9 and Alex Atala‘s D.O.M. (São Paulo) in the ten spot.
Guadalajara, Mexico’s Alcalde just missed the Top 10 at No. 14, but it won the Highest Climber Award after moving up 17 positions from 2018.
Peru and Mexico were the big culinary winners with each landing 11 restaurants on the list, with Lima alone placing six in the Top 20. Brazil followed with nine entries and Argentina with eight. Buenos Aires’ Mishiguene (below) won the Highest Climber Award last year and Chef’s Choice honors for 2019, but Tomás Kalika’s Argentine-Jewish fusion actually dropped two spots to No. 20.
In 2016, Panama City’s Maito debuted at No. 36 to become the first Central American restaurant to make the 50 Best. Chef Mario Castrellón, who offers a tropical adventure through Panama’s egological diversity, jumped 12 spots to No. 17 in its fourth year on the list.
The 50 Best highlights up ‘n’ coming restaurants with the Open to Watch award, and this year’s honors went to Celele in Cartagena, Colombia. After working at top restaurants from Bolivia to Spain, chefs Jaime Rodríguez and Sebastián Pinzón travelled across the Caribbean learning about the indigenous culinary traditions in places like the Guajira peninsula bordering Venezuela and San Andrés island as part of the Proyecto Caribe Lab initiative. The chefs bought their newfound knowledge to life in late 2018 by opening Celele.
Manoella Buffara, who scored the One to Watch award in 2018, made her 50 Best debut this year at No. 42 with Manu. The Noma and Alinea vet opened Manu in Curitiba, the capital of the southern Brazilian state of Paraná. Buffara is literally a farmer’s daughter who was raised in Paraná, and she sources ingredients that showcase the state’s diverse ecology, which includes rainforest, farmland, coastline and the magnificent Iguaçu Falls.
Chilean chef Carolina Bazán, who finished at No. 30 with Ambrosia, won the Best Female Chef award. Bazán and her mother ran the original Ambrosia, a lunch spot, before heading to France to train at the Michelin-starred Frenchie in Paris. When she returned to Santiago in 2013, she reopened Ambrosía as a fine-dining concept in a new location where her talents truly shined. Bazán, herself now a mother of two with her business and life partner Rosario Onetto, opened the more casual Ambrosía Bistro in 2017.
Singling out “female” chefs is a common yet questionable move—they’re chefs, not female chefs—but Latin America stands out for regularly having more female-led restaurants on its list than the World’s or Asia’s 50 Best lists. The 2019 winners include the following female-fronted restaurants: Leo Cocina at No. 10, Maní (São Paulo) at No. 18, Kjolle at No. 21, Rosetta (Mexico City) at No. 27, Ambrosia at No. 30, Parador La Huella (José Ignacio, Uruguay, image above) at 33 and Narda Comedor (Buenos Aires) at No. 50.
The oyster bar & grill La Docena (below) scored two seperate list debuts with its Mexico City (No. 38) and Guadalajara (No. 41) locations. Other newcomers included La Chique (Tulum, Mexico) at No. 32, De Patio (Santiago) at No. 34, Mil at No. 36, Evvai (São Paulo) at No, 40, Manu at No. 42 and Mayta (Lima) at No. 49.
Finally, chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino won the Icon award for his work with Amazonian cuisine and sustainability at Malabar (No. 48) and Ámaz in Lima.
The London-based trade magazine Restaurant launched the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2002. If the Michelin Guide offers the most prestigious star ratings, the World’s 50 Best has become the most prestigious global ranking. The organization added the spin-off Latin America’s 50 Best and Asia’s 50 Best lists in 2013, featuring many countries not covered by the Michelin system.
David Jenison (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Editor-in-Chief at PRØHBTD. All photos provided courtesy of World’s and Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants and the respective restaurants.