No longer the sole province of overpriced, under-whelming restaurants, hotels in Latin America are tapping into local flavors and international culture to up their dining game.
Long gone are the days when dinner at a hotel was a bland, boring experience. Today's hotel restaurants are tapping into local culture and flavors, while also importing sophistication from around the globe. Here are a few ideas to whet the appetite:
At the St. Regis Mexico City, business-minded travelers can stake out a leather-and-wood-trimmed chair at Diana, a restaurant that offers impressive views of the Paseo de la Reforma - including the fountain of Diana the Huntress, the virgin goddess from Roman mythology who also inspired the name of this venue. Executive chef Guy Santoro, who has won awards for his work at various institutions in Mexico's capital, blends a wide range of flavors for a contemporary take on Mexican cuisine.
The rich flavors of the Yucatan are in focus in that state's capital city of Merida, where the recently opened DoubleTree by Hilton Merida is home to La Casona Colón. This venue combines Yucatan and Caribbean traditions - prepared by chefs using French culinary techniques - for a truly interesting take on the region's diverse cultural roots.
Savoring South America
Several hotel restaurants in South America have mastered the art of combining local flavor with international flair. The W Santiago in Chile, for example, blends typical Peruvian ingredients with Asian cooking methods at its Osaka restaurant. The result: memorable dishes with Thai, Chinese and Japanese influence. Sipping sake over a decidedly trans-Pacific meal can easily lend an international ambiance to any business dinner.
For Peruvian specialties in that nation's capital, business travelers head to places like Maras, a venue with contemporary style located in the Westin Lima Hotel & Convention Center. Under the watchful eye of chef Rafael Piqueras, Andean ingredients work their way into signature dishes such as tuna "tiradito" with chili sauce and glazed sweet potato or foie gras with Pisco aromas and roasted mango flavors.
In Colombia's Capital, one of the newest hotels to attract attention for its dedication to fine cuisine is the Hilton Bogota, which serves Colombian, Latin American and Mediterranean specialties at La Ventana. Its private VIP dining room offers extra privacy for mealtime meetings, set in the restaurant's glass-enclosed wine cellar, which holds more than 150 labels. For a fast, informal meeting that incorporates Colombia's legendary brews, head next door to the Hilton's Devotion Café, which serves a variety of organic coffees.
Bringing Food and Art Together in Sao Paulo
South America's largest city, São Paulo, offers numerous opportunities to impress clients and colleagues without leaving the hotel. Foodies and art lovers alike are drawn to the Hilton São Paulo Morumbi, where a restaurant appropriately called Canvas exhibits the work of different artists every month, dramatically hanging on stretched canvas suspended from its high ceilings and iron catwalks. Its open-show kitchen allows a glimpse of what goes into the cuisine, which features items like shark carpaccio with tropical fruits and scallops with morcilla. Larger groups can rent the venue for private events, with as many as 120 people for seated meals and 350 for cocktail parties.
It's hard to talk about hotel cuisine in Sao Paulo without mentioning the Fasano, a stylish boutique hotel founded by one of Brazil's most famous culinary dynasties. The eponymous restaurant specializes in Italian delicacies, and the venue - handsomely designed by Brazilian architects Isay Weinfeld and Marcio Kogan - hosts live piano music nightly, while a private dining room seats up to 26 people.
Beaux Arts Antiques and Tradition-Inspired Food in Buenos Aires
In Buenos Aires, the newly refurbished Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires debuted a new restaurant called Elena, named for Elena Peña Unzué, whose husband presented her with the Beaux Arts building as a wedding give in the 1920s. Immersed in the elegance of that era, the venue has a dramatic spiral staircase and South American antiques, with cuisine inspired by traditional Argentine recipes. To toast to new business deals, head to its Pony Line Bar, where the décor is a tribute to Argentina's love of polo.