Many Guatemalan chefs study overseas early in their careers, which is clearly evident in the international influence permeating Guatemala City ’s excellent fusion cuisine. In other cases, talented chefs from New York and other international cities have set up shop in Guatemala, completely raising the bar for everyone else.
Such is the case of Jake’s (17 Calle 10-40 Zona 10, tel. 2368-0351, noon–3 p.m. and 7–10:30 p.m. Mon.–Sat., noon–4 p.m. Sun., $10–25), started by New York City artist-turned-chef Jake Denburg. Travel and Leisure magazine rated Jake’s one of the Top 10 restaurants in Latin America. Several features combine to make a visit to Jake’s something truly special, including its wonderful atmosphere in a converted house with tile floors and wooden ceilings, eclectic decor, including some interesting black-and-white photographs, tables covered in butcher paper (crayons supplied), and most of all, the food. The wine list is also impressive and rounding out your meal with one of the delectable homemade cheesecakes is a must.
Housed in the Otelito hotel, Olivadda (12 Calle 4-51 Zona 10, tel. 2339-1811, lunch and dinner daily, $7–12) serves sushi and exquisite international dishes with Guatemalan flair in a wonderful garden courtyard. Try the caldo de tortilla Moreno.
Oliva (Avenida La Reforma 9-55, Zona 10, tel. 2360-7485, all meals daily, $8–20) fuses Mediterranean and Peruvian cuisine in a gorgeous, modern atmosphere that uses large, floor-to-ceiling windows to their full advantage. Try the tenderloin with rosemary honey while enjoying jazz and bossa nova on the stereo amid the cool furnishings.
Also serving as a culinary school, Camille (9a Avenida 15-27 Zona 10, tel. 2368-0048 or 2367-1525, noon–3 p.m. and 7–10 p.m. Tues.–Fri., 7–10 p.m. Sat., $10–15) serves creatively prepared fish, chicken, and seafood dishes. The steak in chipotle sauce served on a cheese pupusa (Salvadoran cheese-filled tortilla) is truly extraordinary. The atmosphere is pleasantly cozy with carbon sketches etched on the white plaster walls and also on ripped-out pages from spiral bound notebooks framed and hung.
On the list of runners-up for distinction by Travel and Leisure’s Latin American Top 10 list is Tamarindos (11 Calle 2-19A Zona 10, tel. 2360-2815, reservaciones [at] tamarindos [dot] com [dot] gt, 12:30–3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.–1 a.m. Mon.–Sat., $10–20), which makes some fine sushi and does an excellent job of combining Thai, Italian, and Guatemalan flavors into some irresistible dishes. There is pleasant indoor and outdoor garden patio seating and the hip ambience is set by postmodern decor and electronica music on the stereo. Try the vegetarian pad thai or the four-cheese gnocchi.
A welcome arrival on the Guatemala City fusion cuisine scene is Misso (16 Calle 6-17 Zona 10, tel. 2368-0175, noon–3 p.m. and 7–11 p.m. Mon.–Sat., $13–25). In addition to well-prepared sushi, there are a variety of creative dishes on offer. The crowning achievement is the duck in cinnamon-raspberry-peach chutney sauce. You can dine in the hip lounge (which also includes one of the city’s swankiest bars) or outside on the terrace overlooking the bustling Zona Viva.
Zona 14 also has some highly recommended restaurants. Céfiro (3a Avenida 15-43 Zona 14, Plaza La Rioja Local #2, tel. 2385-5212, 12:30–10:30 p.m. Mon.–Sat., $10–15), in a shopping center in a quiet upscale neighborhood, has some creative menu options, including a delicious pasta salad made with watermelon, fennel, feta cheese, red onions, and black olives; plantain soup; a lasagna with seasoned mushrooms and brie, salmon cooked in tequila; and the outstanding tenderloin and foie gras scallop in a Zacapa Centenario rum reduction.
In a much more exclusive shopping center amid spacious gardens set apart from the road is Ambia (10a Avenida 5-49 Zona 14, tel. 2366-6890/7, lunch and dinner Mon.–Sat., lunch Sun.), where the emphasis is on New Age cuisine consisting largely of Asian recipes, including Thai chicken and shrimp recipes, pad thai ($10–12), excellent soups, Italian pastas, and lobster Thermidor ($26). There are excellent desserts, including black-and-white chocolate mousse and pears in red wine. The wine list, incidentally, is extensive and includes a $278 bottle of Spanish Vega Sicilia Valbuena.
A recent addition to Iglesia Yurrita  in Zona 4 is Restaurante Casa Yurrita (Ruta 6 8-52, tel. 2360-1615, lunch and dinner daily, $7–15), serving up fancy dishes such as duck in hibiscus (Rosa de Jamaica) sauce and fish al pesto.