I  glanced at the sign several times before I understood that my lunch wasn’t about fish but ritual. Although I know the difference between a pescado (fish) and a pecado (sin), it didn’t immediately strike me, but the décor inside did.

Located near the main Usaqúen Square with its colonial church and bustling bars, Santo Pecado is a stylish restaurant specializing in Colombian foods, of which fish is an important element. At the helm of this “holier than thou” establishment is Chef Jairo Baquero, and his menu is a gastro offering of regional delicacies, revamped classics such as ajíaco and sancocho, and a new take on traditional appetizers which are ranked as ‘Amasijos.’

Inspired by grandma’s table and wanting to showcase Colombian gastronomy, Baquero emerges from the kitchen like a priest in a vestibule. Although tempted to try the house favorite drink, a Panela martini, I settle for a bottle of Argentinean merlot before exploring what’s on offer.

The appetizer selection covers Colombia from north coast to southern Andes, with costeño cheese and meat filled carimañolas, pipián empanadas and peanut sauce, dough balls filled with crispy pork rinds (marranitas) and yuca pies. Feeling festive and with the Barranquilla carnival approaching, I order the marranitas  and a portion of grilled chorizo.

Santo Pecado’s menu is divided into meats, seafood, soups and salads. Using the best ingredients and carefully selected meats, the restaurant is pure gastro, but no gluttony. At Santo Pecado, plates are served artfully and by friendly wait staff. I stick with the Caribbean and the Cartagena kitchen by ordering as my main course a Posta Cartagenera.

This braised flank steak which is prepared by domestic help in the best costeño homes, has its charms as a can of Coca-Cola is added to the pot to give the gravy a sticky texture. The choice was a good one as the flank was tender and juicy, with just enough sweet to be savory. Other options are the ovenfired lamb cutlets, the Huila pork in herbs and the Llanero beef known as Falsa Mamona.

Santo Pecado’s deserts are a nice way to wrap up this gastro tour of Colombia and you’ll find coconut cookies, fig and raspberry conserves and Arequipe on the menu. Deserts won’t break the bank, if you still have room, and the restaurant’s wine list is affordable.

In a country where food is often farmed locally, Colombian cuisine shouldn’t be overpriced, especially if you are cooking for foreign clients. This is where Santo Pecado gets it right. It offers an agreeable and lofty space for either a weekend lunch or dinner out. And it would be sinful not to go back and try the fish.

 

Carrera 5 No. 119-47