By Maria Luisa Rios
Maria Luisa Rios is a native Venezuelan, food lover, and author of Mil Sabores. When she’s not giving food tours to eager food lovers like herself, she’s at home creating classic Venezuelan creations in her home kitchen.
With such a diverse climate and various growing regions scattered throughout the country, Venezuelan cuisine has the potential to become one of the best on the planet. Even though tourism in Caracas may be tricky these days, they still have a vibrant restaurant scene, and celebrate the fruits of the land in traditional dishes, and a blend of cultures. If you do happen to be a tourist, or just in town for business, we’ve selected a crop of restaurants that aren’t to be missed, especially if you want a true taste of Venezuela. From high-end cuisine at Alto to a taste of grandma’s cooking, these are the essential Caracas restaurants.
Alto serves contemporary cuisine and fine Venezuelan Criollo cacao is the star at Alto Restaurant. Chef Carlos Garcia plays with chocolate not only for desserts –such as Tierrra de gracia- but also for main dishes like lengua de Canoabo. Pabellón, ají dulce, fosforera, tajalí, cachapas y caraotas are some of the creole words most used for naming their unique and delicious dishes. They’re currently sitting at Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants List.
From the table you can see people walking down the street as you remember the aromas and flavors of the cuisine of our grandmothers. Two women, Irina Pedroso and Mercedes Oropeza, command the kitchen highlighting the essence of traditional local dishes and ingredients. Our favorites are the strudel filled with dogfish, croquettes of asado negro, tequeños de telita cheese and buñuelos de yuca.
European and especially the Spanish Immigration of the 50’s left an important mark on the palate of Venezuelans. Many of them established restaurants and shared tastes of their ancestors in this, their new land. La Candelaria used to be the most famous Spanish dining areas in Caracas. The mero en salsa verde and camembert with honey and walnuts have been especially delicious for decades
El Centro de Estudios Gastronómicos is a private non-profit organization created to train young people in research and development of Venezuelan cocina criolla. It’s a beautiful restored house of the 30’s and they offer a weekly menu according to seasons and available local ingredients
There are very few elegant restaurants where to eat delicious Chinese dishes. Chez Wong, at Plaza La Castellana, is one of them. Our favorites are Peking duck and those made with fish and vegetables.
An “Arroz con mango” is usually known as a mess that no one understands. Until you reach this restaurant and meet chef Felicia Santana in order to enjoy mixing aromas, textures and flavors. Eleven shots filled with mixed vegetables and chopped fruits accompany diced cooked rice with chicken curry. Although it is their signature dish in Hajillo’s, you can always ask for queso relleno, pastel de chucho or plato navideño, which is served with hallacas, asado, ensalada de gallina and pan de jamón only during the Christmas holidays. Frutas en almíbar will make you smile with happiness. It’s a nice restaurant in El Hatillo, a tourist town inside Caracas.
In a friendly atmosphere with excellent attention to dinners, Elias Murciano’s dishes surprise with trendy techniques and local quality ingredients. Vieiras in cappuccino are a must in this legendary restaurant where popes, presidents and very famous people have eaten.
You can find the best and most varied dim sum in Caracas at this restaurant on Sunday mornings. Steamed dumplings stuffed with pork, duck, fish, vegetables or seafood are unforgettable. They are neighbors to the Chinese Social Club, where a farmer’s market every Sunday take place.
Edgar Leal is one of the best known chefs in Venezuela. In his restaurant the only luxury is on the flavors that remind you of great family dinners at grandmother’s house. The mini reinas pepiadas, los langostinos crujientes en salsa de rocoto con aguacate or la terrina de cerdo con confitura de higos are delicious. The lumpias de pato con salsa de ciruela o el pato ahumado en casa con puré de wasabi.
This is a very cozy new restaurant filled with furniture made of light colored wood, ideal for relaxed conversation, drinking and eating. Original, internationally-inspired dishes made with fresh, local ingredients completely. Crunchy Wasabi and Fresh Sardines Marinated Shrimp are our favorite dishes.
Helena Ibarra became very famous by offering her tequeños filled with telita cheese and accompanied by a delicious papelón and anise infusion. Bocados de hallacas, baby squid in coconut milk, red snapper in banana leaves and pork loin with rosemary and passion fruit are some of the most recommended. For dessert, Venezuelan Criollo cacao shines on a dish called Negro en camisa.