A Flavorful Culinary Adventure

at GUSTU, La Paz - Bolivia

by Cissy

One of the main reasons for living a travelling/expat life for me is curiosity. Curiosity to get different perspectives, experience other cultures, customs and food.

I was not always into trying new flavors. Till my 18th, I was a typical classic Dutch-food-only girl. Meaning: a soup as starter, main course, potato, meat, chicken or fish fingers and a vegetable, dessert: Dutch vanilla vla or ice-cream.

Spaghetti Bolognese? Way Too Exotic for me….

Well, in La Paz, I severely pushed my boundaries in the area of gastronomic experiences…

Gustu Restaurant: all Bolivian Fine-Dining

What better way to celebrate our 20th year ‘Back in La Paz’ anniversary then in an all-Bolivian ingredients restaurant? The restaurant interior is an interesting mix of Bolivian artifacts mixed in a modern way, creating a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. We were seated on a table close to the open kitchen, what makes one realize how many hands are involved to offer you as dining guest the perfect prepared and artfully plated dishes.

Focus on the Extensive Bolivian Menu adventure

Throughout Latin American outside restaurants you will see sign “Hay Pan” – meaning freely translated ‘Fresh Bread available’. I love bread, so let’s find out! We opted for the ‘Menú Bolivia Extendido’ – the extensive Bolivian menu, to get the full taste experience.

Being a food photographer, I treated myself: this time not to bring my camera. So I could just fully focus on the food and, equally important, on my table company Jurgen. With the arrangement to take only snapshots of the first 2 dishes. For the rest mobile off!

Tasteful parade of new culinary experiences

The whole experience was amazing; immaculately artful plated dishes, attentive staff explaining the ingredients and special characteristics of each dish. To our surprise, some of the dishes where brought to the table by the chefs themselves.

So we had Chef de Cuisine, Mauricio López, on our table explaining how we should mix the different ingredients on the plateau for the soup. To one’s liking, lemon with coriander could be added to the champignon based soup. Now there is a combination I would never would have thought about- it was divine!

Really? I am supposed to eat that?

I don’t know about you, but for me, when I see ants marching at my terrace: my first instinct is to grab the insect exterminator spray. So, yes, when the second starter came, was puzzled. Staring down on the plate. Completely tuned out to hear the waiter’s explanation of this dish.

As, Seriously?!?

Am I supposed to EAT an ANT ?

Deep breath. Folding the leaves.

Hesitating. More Hesitation. Jurgen founding that utterly funny. “This was your idea”. Okay, there we go. Crunchy. Jurgen: “That’s ‘cuz the ant was fried I think”.

photo by Jurgen -my mind was blocked...

More challenges

In all the plates your taste buds are challenged with sublime combinations of ingredients. As I need to keep up with Spanish, we asked for the explanations to be in Spanish instead of English.

So at one dish, I heard ‘Cerdo’ (Pork). Ha! Pork, I know pork. I can eat that. Lovely! After finishing the dish, I found Jurgen laughing to tears: “Do you know what you just ate?” “Of course, that was pork”. As his Spanish is nearly native, he explained it was Pork-Ears and the white garnish was made from the pork’s cartilage. Euh….. less say that sometimes 'mas o menos' understanding Spanish can be an advantage.

After the hurdle of eating an ant and, apparently pork-ears, it was surprisingly easy to enjoy eating the tail of a lizard. Never expected a lizard to be so tasteful!

Wonderful food journey

We were dazzled and enjoyed a range of other delicious dishes, Bolivian haute cuisine! And at the dessert – the ants returned : )

So, if you are in the opportunity to visit La Paz, make sure you treat yourself on the ‘Menú Bolivia Extendido’ at Gustu! For us it was an overwhelming dining experience never to forget!

Compliments to the Daring Chefs! Thank you for opening a whole new gastronomic perspective. It was truly an overwhelming dining experience never to forget.

About Gustu

Gustu means ‘Flavor’ in the local Quecha language in Bolivia

Founded in 2013, based on principle to use all Bolivian ingredients

Award winning – in 2017 number 23 on the World’s Best Restaurant list

number 14 in the best top 50 Latin American restaurants

Extensive Bolivian Menu - 590 Bolivianos, equalling circa 68 euro / $85

Located in Zona Sur; easily to combine with a stunning cable car ride on the Green line!

oh,oh, the Ants are back! Pre-crunched this time, in an elegant taste combination with oranges.