Can you imagine a dish prepared with poisonous cassava, which loses its toxic component after days of fermentation? That’s the first proposal in the menu of the restaurant Ocio.
If that does not capture your attention, wait for the waiter when he explains that the chef uses banana leaves as a cooking technique for his dishes, and then you will know that you have reached an extraordinary place. Located steps away from the National Museum in the Colombian capital, this small restaurant is one of the best-kept secrets of the culinary scene in the country.
Chef Alex Salgado, an economist by profession and a chef at heart, gave life to Ocio –Cocina de Autor– a space where tradition and innovation come together to create a new phase in the evolution of Colombian cuisine.
When we talk about Colombian gastronomy, we have to start in its history and geography. Its geographical location is a unique one in the world, since in its coasts touch the waters of the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, in its southern border is the Amazon, and the heights of its mountains allow an excellent diversity for crops and ingredients. Besides, it is a country highly influenced by different cultures such as indigenous, African, Arab, and Spanish. All of this allows restaurants like Ocio to cook with multiple combinations of textures, colors, aromas, and techniques of the different regions of the country.
In his kitchen, Ocio uses replicas of slow cooking in a wood-burning stove, where patience and time are used to obtain the best flavors and express the great diversity of the Colombian cuisine. Beyond its native recipes, modern techniques in the kitchen, and excellent customer service, the Ocio team focuses on ethno-gastronomy, or the study of food, plants, herbs, flowers, fruits and spices, and interaction between human beings.
This knowledge gives them a different perspective when it comes to cooking, making new recipes, serving their guests, and, above all, giving a flavor like no other to the dishes they serve. It is entirely remarkable when you try the sudado de res simmered for 40 hours with hogao, tomatoes, native potatoes, and white rice; it is at that moment where you understand how it is to eat with the traditional Colombian home-style seasoning.
Ocio is much more than a Colombian restaurant, it is a place where knowledge is power, and power is transformed into a pork belly cooked in four ferments (guarapo, tucupi, vinegar, and wine) mashed avocado and rice arepa fermented with cheese.
Now you know, and this secret restaurant is no longer a secret.
Paul E González Mangual is an author of four books, founder of FOODIEcations, columnist for Sabrosía Puerto Rico, TEDx speaker, Guinness World Record Holder, whiskey enthusiast, coffee addict, and producer of the Coffee & Chocolate Expo.
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