Is it a table decoration or is it dinner? That's the question you'll be asking when you confront the Tree of Life at Miami's El Cielo.
The answer? This outrageously impressive creation is both. The mastermind behind it is chef Juan Manuel Barrientos, who also runs El Cielo in Bogota, Colombia—ranked among Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants, according to the prestigious "World's 50 Best" list. At the Miami branch, his tasting-menu masterpieces reflect age-old Colombian recipes modernized with innovative techniques. The Tree of Life is just one of the more spectacular examples. Shaped to look like a Bonsai tree, the dish is Inspired by the traditional Colombian bread known as pan de yuca (made with tapioca starch, eggs and fresh cheese). At El Cielo, the yuca bread is flavored with paprika and basil and comes with a traditional dipping sauce of tomato, onions and cacao.
The "tree" is held together with copper wires and arrives smoking in a cloud of dry ice. Once you've blinked a few times, you'll want to dive right in while it's piping-hot. Because really, how often in life do you get to eat an entire tree?
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