On a corner of a quiet street in the Quinta Camacho neighborhood of Bogotá, there’s a red brick house with a kitchen responsible for a masterpiece of flavors: La Despensa de Rafael. This Peruvian restaurant serves fascinatingly complex meals that create a delicate balance of flavours and textures, combining the crunchy with the creamy and mixing sweet and savory, all with an artistic touch.

The second restaurant Rafael Osterling – one of the top chefs in Latin America – has opened in Bogotá, promotes an informal, bistro feel. Peruvian Chef Omar Ben-Hammou, at the helm of this restaurant defines it as “home-style meals that combine refined techniques with new flavors.”

Inside a casual feel pervades. Wine bottles are displayed on unfinished crates, and the lamps belong more in someone’s living room than in a restaurant. The kitchen completes its rustic look with thick wood shelves stocked full of provisions, giving a nod to the restaurant’s name. The outdoor garden manages to be both casual and elegant, and is a relaxing place to absorb some Bogotá sunshine over lunch.

At night my favorite place is inside on the sofa or arm chairs, where the warm and cozy fireplace is king of the room, and where one large table brings friends together over a meal.

Every week new dishes are written on the blackboard and the menu changes every three or four months, with twelve new dishes revealed in the latest menu change in August. On the casual end there are sandwiches like the popular crunchy pork rind sandwich. There are appetizers to dazzle diners, like the beautiful presentation of the tiradito de pescado del dia. Thin strips of fresh corbina are placed in an artistic line, bathed in a yellow-green sauce and topped with tomato picadillo.

The Anticucho is made with the catch of the day grilled over high heat, keeping it delicate and moist. Marinated with Peruvian peppers and served over a swirl of lemony mashed creole potatoes and shrimp, it’s a visual delight of black, orange and deep yellow.

The Pesca Sumatra is an excellent main dish selection. The day I had it, the grilled corbina was sealed with curry in a creamy and slightly sweet coconut sauce and placed over grilled cherry tomatoes , mushrooms, pineapple and grapefruit and served with a side of coconut and curcuma basmati rice.

The dessert menu is surprisingly long, and the tempting portions are large enough to share. One favorite is the cheesecake ice cream made with goat cheese and almond crumble.  Another is a thick, rich Nutella tart in amaretto crust with almond cream. It comes decorated with berries and edible flowers and a small ball of ice cream at an appropriately discreet distance.

 La Despensa

Calle 70A No. 9-95