In our last blog article we took a look at the Buenos Aires restaurants that made it into Latin America’s Top 50 Restaurants. One particular restaurant in Buenos Aires that we feel is missing from this list is the spectacular, iLatina Restaurant. With 2,386 restaurants currently registered on TripAdvisor, since opening its doors to business in Buenos Aires, iLatina has maintained its position at number 1.
Reading the 540+ glowing TripAdvisor reviews, you too will be looking to enjoy this completely unique gastronomic experience in Buenos Aires.
Created by Colombian siblings Santiago, Camilo and Laura Macías, their seven course tasting menu will take you on a journey through the best of Latin America’s unique flavors and ingredients. We were lucky enough to not only eat in this fantastic restaurant but to speak with Camilo, to find out more about iLatina’s special story that has caught the eye of The New York Times, The Guardian, Qantas Airlines among many others.
♦ Please can you give us a brief overview of iLatina’s story?
It all started when my brother, Santiago, who’s the chef of the restaurant came to Buenos Aires 10 years ago to study the culinary arts. At this time in Colombia there weren’t many Culinary Schools and so Buenos Aires was a very good option and following his studies, he then stayed in Argentina. One day he went on vacation to Bariloche and liked it so much that he ended up staying there and continued to work in the kitchen of a number of hotels and restaurants. A couple of years after moving to Bariloche he came up with the idea of opening a restaurant and he called me up to ask me to leave Colombia and go to Bariloche to open a restaurant with him. In 2008 we opened iLatina in Bariloche and we were there until just after the Puyehue Volcano erupted in 2012 when we decided it was time to move to Buenos Aires. iLatina in Buenos Aires has been open for the last 2 years and it has been extremely enjoyable. As a family business, I look after the restaurant’s dining area and I’m in charge of the wines, my brother Santiago is the chef and my sister Laura takes care of the restaurant’s design and customer service.
♦ What is the style of food from the restaurant and what is its inspiration?
The style of food in our restaurant is Latin American cuisine with a big influence from Colombian cuisine especially from the Caribbean coast. Although we lived in Colombia’s capital city of Bogota, our family is from Cartagena which lies on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast and we also spent some years living there. The food and cuisine from this area of Colombia is therefore very important for us and our family and has had a big influence on us and iLatina.
♦ What has been you best moment since you opened iLatina in Buenos Aires?
We’ve had so many amazing moments since we opened iLatina in Buenos Aires. The truth is that having the approval and acceptance of our clients as well as reading all the good press reviews and TripAdvisor comments brings us a lot of happiness. We are also enjoying the great challenge of continuing to bring happiness and great cuisine to our clients, and seeing the success and results of our hard work and dedication.
♦ What’s the restaurant industry like in Buenos Aires?
It’s good although I read the other day that a lot of restaurants are now closing in Buenos Aires. However I think it’s also the case that a lot of new restaurants are opening up and balancing out the situation. The restaurant industry in Buenos Aires continues to create a new level of the product being produced. If a restaurant is producing a quality product, respects its clients and works responsibly, then it will function very well in Buenos Aires as it would do in any other destination.
♦ What is your opinion about Colombian cuisine in Argentina and the rest of the world?
Colombian cuisine was for some time unknown to those living outside of the country however I think that little by little the popularity of its cuisine has grown. The Colombian cuisine is very diverse and varies greatly depending on the region of the country. If you’re on the Caribbean coast, the Pacific Coast, in the Andes or, exploring the Amazon, each region has a different style and cuisine which thanks to a number of great and talented Colombian chefs, is becoming more recognized outside of Colombia. There is also a number of annual food and gastronomy events, such as the recent Bogota Food and Wine Week that took place at the end of August that are helping to raise the profile of Colombia’s cuisine. The cuisine of Colombia has also gained in popularity thanks to the overall positive marketing of Colombia as a travel destination.
♦ Will iLatina be having a special celebration this Christmas and New Year’s Eve?
Every Christmas and New Year’s Eve we do something special and this year is no different. On the evening of the 24th December and 31st December we will be organizing a special menu for these 2 dates. We are currently putting the finishing touches to the menu and you should be able to see these special menus on our new website at some time in October or November.
♦ What is your favorite dish at iLatina?
It’s difficult to choose one but I would have to say that I really like the Barú-style Ceviche. Barú is a peninsula which is just south of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. It is known for its beaches, and is a paradisiacal and incredible place that you have to visit. It was in Barú that Santiago created this recipe and dish, consisting of sole fish ceviche, coconut, lychee and mango; giving it very tropical flavors.
♦ What is your favorite memory of Christmas & New Year’s Eve at iLatina?
Since opening iLatina in Buenos Aires, our Christmas and New Year’s Eve memories have always been working. We really enjoy sharing these two special days with our customers in our restaurant, where we work hard while enjoying theses special days and celebrations.
♦ How do Colombians celebrate Christmas & New Year?
We celebrate a lot! Colombians love celebrating all types of events and there is a well-known saying by famous Colombian writer, Gabriel García Márquez who said, “Where more than 6 Colombians come together, it always ends in a party and dancing.” I completely agree with this and it means that all our memories of celebrations back in Colombia are very special.
♦ What is a typical Christmas or New Year dish in Colombia?
The 9 days before Christmas in Colombia we get together with friends and family for the ‘Novenas’ and there is always food involved. Traditionally you will have Natilla which resembles a flan or pudding and has cinnamon or coconut sprinkled on top. Another traditional Christmas dish is Buñuelos which are small fried cheese balls. Both Natilla and Buñuelos are very representative of Colombian food at Christmas.
♦ When you go out with your siblings to eat in Buenos Aires (aside from iLatina) where do you like to go to?
It very much depends on what we want to eat. For a good parilla (Argentine barbeque) we enjoy going to Don Julio (Guatemala 4691, Palermo Viejo) and for pasta we like Il Ballo del Mattone (Gorriti 5737, Palermo). The restaurant Aramaburu does a delicious tasting menu which we like going to and when we want something to get a bite to eat and some great drinks we go to Floreria Atlántico (Arroyo 872, Retiro) and 878 (Thames 878, Villa Crespo). In the neighborhood of Abasto there are some very good Peruvian restaurants that we enjoy eating at. Overall, Buenos Aires has a very good and diverse range of restaurants to enjoy.
♦ Does Colombia have any interesting Christmas or New Year customs?
A Colombian custom on New Year’s Eve takes place just before midnight where people go out of their houses with a suitcase and walk around the block of their neighborhood. It is supposed to signify and assure lots of travel in the incoming year and the name we give these types of New Year traditions are ‘agüeros’ in Spanish.
♦ If you could invite anyone, dead or alive to your Christmas dinner, who would it be?
I would invite Ernest Hemingway and Frank Sinatra to Christmas dinner – this would be a party for some days!
♦ What are you going to be asking from Santa Claus this year for Christmas?
I will be asking for lots of presents for my daughter who is just 2 months old.
We would like to say thank you to Camilo and the iLatina team for taking time to speak with us. Don’t forget to make your iLatina reservation or to ask your Class Adventure Travel specialist to reserve a table for you. Keep an eye out for their Christmas & New Year special menu and see their current, delicious tasting menu for an unforgettable dining experience during your vacation in Buenos Aires!
Thanks for visiting our Central & South America Travel Blog! Feel free to contact one of our Travel Specialists via email, phone or chat to plan your unique Buenos Aires Christmas & New Year’s Eve itinerary.