Rendezvous: Continental flavors meet the Andes in La Paz

I’d like to share with you another restaurant that embodies the spirit of The Culinary Diplomat. Rendezvous in La Paz, Bolivia brings the techniques and flavors of continental Europe and North Africa to one of the more insular capital cities of South America. While most people will never make the trek to Bolivia, I found this restaurant to be such a great find that it helped ignite the passion I have for food and culture to start this blog in the first place. End cheesy philosophical statement.

When I think of Bolivian food, I think of salteñas. I’ll address that in a future post. Most people would not associate French or Moroccan food with the exceedingly high altitude of La Paz (which ranges from about 10,500 feet to over 13,000 feet above sea level). The altitude is a killer. The locals warned us not to eat heavy meals at night, but after I tried Rendezvous, I chose to ignore that instruction. Oh, did I ever pay for it! But the food was so good that it was more than worth it.

This restaurant is a must try for anyone – tourists or locals alike. If I transplanted the restaurant in the sea of great restaurants in Europe, it would still measure up. Even better and particularly for foreigners, the restaurant offers an incredible value that is the “icing on the cake.” It may not be the finest meal you might ever have, but it is great food, a lovely, refined and yet cozy atmosphere; a broad, French-inspired international menu with something for everyone; and service that might frustrate if not for the context: good service typically is lacking in La Paz, and on many nights, Rendezvous is understaffed. Taking all that into account, the service and speed is actually pretty amazing.

Food tends to be cheap in La Paz by outsiders’ standards, but finding truly outstanding food for a third to fourth of what we might pay at home or on vacation made this place a repeat visit for myself and my group…four times. Of about 25 total meals, I heard not one complaint about the quality or presentation of any dish.

The must-haves:
Steak. Any steak. The Llama steak impressed many who tried it, including myself; however, I preferred the beef medallions. For anyone that hasn’t tried Llama, it has a mild, non-gamey taste; it is surprisingly light, tender, almost not needing a knife.

The lamb tagine (tajin de cordero):
Lamb is not one of my favorite meats (sometimes it tastes like the smell of wet wool); however, the lamb in this Moroccan-inspired dish is akin to beef pot roast, but exceptionally more tender and well-flavored (not overly salty; I actually added salt myself). As is typical in Bolivia, the Moroccan flavors are a bit more subtle than you might find elsewhere, but everyone raved about the Moroccan vegetables. The accompanying minted yogurt sauce is a nice addition, if not a bit too thin in consistency. Still, this dish was a major crowd hit and my personal favorite at Rendezvous. In fact, it was as good as any tagine I had in North Africa.

The trout piccata (trucha):
I did not try this dish myself, but my dining companions tried it multiple times and praised its delicate flavor. It was trout elevated to another level.

The chocolate mousse:
This dish outshone the other desserts. It is intense, rich, not overly sweet and elegantly presented. Having tried it multiple times, I can safely say this was the crowd favorite – and my own as well.

Other notable dishes:
The duck two ways: It was good but not great. I did enjoy the fig sauce (it is also used as an accompaniment from the French-inspired Bolivian cheese and charcuterie starter), but thought it could use a bit of citrus or tart flavoring to balance the sweetness. The confit was outstanding; perfection. My duck breast was a bit fatty for my taste, but duck breast does tend to be a bit on the fatty side, in its defense. Another dining companion also tried it on another day and found it to be a perfectly cooked and textured cut of meat.

Tierra y Mar: Dining companions loved the pairing. Be advised that it is a bit heavier on the tierra (steak) and less on the mar (shrimp), portion wise.

Starters: The charcuterie plate had a great variety and flavor for sharing. It included both imported and local ingredients. Calamari appeared to be well flavored.

Desserts: Rendezvous’ tiramisu is excellent – light and airy. I am a creme brûlée fiend, but I have had much better and felt it was just a bit too subtle (no vanilla bean seeds) and fluffy (not dense and creamy) for my palate, though I did really enjoy it. Hey, this is Bolivia, so creme brulee here should be judged accordingly and not by my standards.

Sides: The papas gratinadas (potatoes au gratin) were my favorite side dish, though slightly inconsistent in texture. Most, if not all, dishes also come with a ‘default’ small side of vegetables, the composition of which varied slightly each time I came. They were typically well-cooked and seasoned. While their mushroom risotto (risotto con champignones) drew me in on one visit, it’s not quite risotto in my book.

Rendezvous truly elevates international cuisine in La Paz.

Disclaimer: The time comes in every writer’s life when you have to take a day or two off and pirate your own work. If you were to search a particular, well-known travel website, you might come across a review that looks suspiciously like this post. That is because I wrote said review. Apparently, over 1,000 people have found it “helpful,” which I take as the start of a good blog post. It also begs the question: 1,000 people wanted fancy food in La Paz?! Hmm. Please forgive me for recycling old work. But it’s new to you, right?!

I also ask any of you reading for feedback. What would you like to see more of in The CD? Less? I’m still on the hunt for guest bloggers, so please! Share your own culinary adventures – even if in your own backyard!

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