Guest Post by Matt Rines (@rinestone33)
I was thrilled when I noticed Bogotá Eats & Drinks mention that Bogotá was to have a Gourmet Week. Back home, I had been to Restaurant Week in Boston and loved it – I assumed this was similar. If nothing else, it would be a great excuse to check out some new spots and cross a few off my ever-running list of places to visit which I keep in a notebook.
Burger Market in Zona T, just around the corner from The Rockefeller Casino was the first place I visited. Next came Nolita on Calle 85, diagonally across the street from Sofitel, followed by Criterion and El dia que me quieras, both in Zona G on Cll. 69A.
There were highlights to all four- Burger Market had an excellent slider, Nolita a generous portion of well-seasoned tartare, and El día a delicious steak for its main course, but Criterion was the only site which truly grasped the concept of restaurant week.
Conceptually, the pursuit of restaurant week is to provide multiple courses on a unique menu at a discounted price. People are then drawn in by equal parts – ‘I always wanted to try that place’ and ‘Wow, that seems like a pretty good price’. While there, they ideally like what they eat, realize the restaurant isn’t all that expensive, tell friends, and return throughout the year themselves. Restaurant Weeks are not an opportunity to generate immediate income. That comes later with return visits and referrals…..maybe that’s why in Bogotá it’s called ‘Gourmet’ Week?
Ironically, yet not unintentionally, only Criterion ‘got it.’ At 60,000 pesos (or slightly over $30 U.S.) they charged the maximum allowed by Gourmet Week, but it was by far and away the best bargain I experienced. This is expensive for many spots in Colombia, but for one of the best meals I’ve ever had, it’s a bargain. When I glanced at the menu for Criterion, I was disconcerted. They were the only ones to put forth that one could visit for lunch only and they would only accept four reservations per that lunch, per day. I read this and thought they either (A) resented being compelled to participate or (B) were so exceptional and wise regarding restaurant weeks that they didn’t need to pander. I remain incredibly glad it was the latter; I cannot wait to go back.
Criterion was ranked the 19th best in South America by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and with good reason. At an expensive restaurant you do not pay so much for the ingredients as you do for the technique assembling them and the mind of someone acute enough to top a delicious onion soup with a foie gras cappuccino foam.
When we finished our six courses the chef came out to thank us and ask us how everything was. He spoke very functional English. I took this to mean he spent significant time training in another country where he got his arms around the true concept of restaurant week.
It appeared to me as if most Bogotá restaurants simply crowbarred three dishes off their normal menu, slapped them together, and knocked a couple bucks off their cumulative price. I really hope Gourmet Week returns next year, with someone explaining to them the true intent of the week. Hopefully next year they’ll hit closer to the center of the dartboard, it is not a wasted pursuit and I hope to see it again.
I’ll be there, if it is!
- Criterion – Cll. 69A # 5-75, (57 1) 310 1377
- Burger Market – Cra. 14 # 83-53 & Cll. 120A # 6A-16, (57 1) 257 9047
- Nolita – Cll. 13 # 85-25, (57 1) 610 0080
- El dia que me quieras – Cll. 69A # 4-26, (57 1) 540 4585
Guest post by Matt Rines. You can follow Matt on Twitter @rinestone33.