Traditionally, squash blossoms are served stuffed in Mexico. The chef at the Los Cipreses Restaurant at Oaxaca's Hacienda Los Laureles has experimented with a totally different take here, turning the squash blossom into a delicate decoration and serving it alongside beets stuffed with cheese and herbs.
There's not a single dish on the ever-changing menu at Mexico City's Pujol that couldn't be considered creative (Chef Enrique Olvera is widely considered to be Latin America's answer to Spain's Ferran Adria, who is credited with the development of molecular gastronomy), but this palate cleanser from Olvera's tasting menu gets creative points for its sheer wow factor-- mezcal is lit and poured over a small scoop of sorbet as it is served to guests.
One of the current trends in Latin America's popular upscale restaurants is the exploration of ingredients through the application of techniques from molecular gastronomy. Multi-course tasting menus allow chefs to offer numerous sensory experiences in a single meal. This dish, from the upscale Astrid y Gaston, features a foam, which is one of the frequently used techniques in this type of cooking. Astrid y Gaston started in Peru and now has restaurants in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Spain, and Venezuela.
Cheese Cotton Candy
Chefs Mikel Alonso and Bruno Oteiza, Spanish expats, head the kitchen at Biko, one of Mexico City's most popular restaurants. Many of the plates on their menu are creative in both concept and presentation, but nowhere is the visual effect more dramatic than in their desserts. This sweet treat delights with its 3D sculptural look, and its wispy puffs of cotton candy... made of cheese.
Julie Schwietert Collazo
Ceviche in Shells
Ceviche features prominently on many Peruvian menus, so competition among chefs isn't limited to taste – presentation is everything. These ceviches, served at Lima's Mi Propiedad Privada, are served in seashells.
Heart of Palm
Though critics complain that molecular gastronomy is too creative, most chefs have profound respect for both local ingredients and traditional recipes; they simply want to explore new ways of working. This is certainly the case at D.O.M., a Sao Paulo restaurant whose chef, Alex Atala, works with seminal Brazilian ingredients. This fettuccine isn't pasta at all – it's made of heart of palm.
Sometimes it's the setting that makes the food seem creative, and such is the case at Aviones, a restaurant inside three vintage airplanes in Barranquitas, Puerto Rico. Neither food nor service soars here, but many locals and tourists stop for the unusual photo op- the planes seem to have just drifted out of the sky and into this permanent landing place in the dense forest of the surrounding mountains.
Don't be fooled by the humble presentation of this nieve (shaved ice) in a simple Styrofoam cup, served up by Nieves Zaly in Mexico City's watery canal neighborhood, Xochimilco. Your taste buds will have to admit that the pop of spicy hot sauce dripping into the sweet pineapple syrup is definitely a creative combination.
Full-on foodies who will spare no expense for a good meal have discovered that Latin America's cities are hotbeds for creative cuisines.