All eyes on Chile after the dramatic mine rescue and let’s not forget last year’s earthquake that devastated the region south of the capital, it’s an appropriate time to examine Santiago’s blossoming food scene. A new wave of talented chefs, from within Chile and from abroad, are rapidly changing the city’s culinary landscape. There is renewed in old markets and indigenous Mapuche ingredients, while wine bars and bistros are transforming once decrepit districts into cool new food hoods.
WHERE TO EAT IN SANTIAGO:
- Mercado Central (www.mercadocentral.cl): Head to the 138-year-old iron and glass downtown market and listen to the fishmongers hawk their goods and then sit down in the interior patio for a bowl of caldillo de congrio (a thick conger eel soup).
- Osaka (www.osaka.com.pe):The mass influx of Peruvian immigrants to Chile in the past decade has resulted in some of the continents best Peruvian restaurants (Gaston Acurio has an Astrid y Gaston, T’anta, and La Mar here, with Madam Tussan and Bachiche on the way later in the year). Osaka serves high end Peruvian Japanese food like Nikkei suckling pig with tacu tacu and salmon with passion-fruit honey in the W Hotel (South America’s first).
- Baco Vino y Bistro: This chic French bistro in Providencia is Santiago’s best choice for sampling great boutique wines by the glass, which are well underpriced.
- Sukalde (www.sukalde.cl): Chilean-Mexican chef Matías Palomo, who has worked with everyone from Juan María Arzak and Daniel Boulud to Ferrán Adriá, opened this progressive restaurant in 2008. He’s known for pushing the boundaries of both undervalued Chilean ingredients, like Mapuche merken, and more exotic ones, resulting in a style all his own. Example: Duck with agar agar, cherry, apricot and peach puree, cardamom and honey foam, and orange cream.
- Carmen’s: This little no-sign lunch counter in a sea of other lunch counters in the Vega Chica Market serves hearty Chilean standards, but most come for the killer pastel de choclo (corn pudding), which looks like golden mac and cheese in a little aluminum container but is really kernels of very sweet corn piled over chicken, hard-boiled eggs and shredded meat and then baked.
- El Hoyo (www.elhoyo.cl): With almost 100 years of history, “The Hole” is a Santiago classic greasy spoon type eatery. All the dishes are worth a try, but the boiled tongue and potatoes is a must. Original cocktails like the Terremoto (earthquake) – white wine, pineapple juice and a secret ingredient – make it easy to stick around for awhile.
- Osadia (www.osadiarestoran.cl): Carlo von Mühlenbrock was one of the best known faces on Chilean cooking TV, but he left it all behind to open this new restaurant in a traditional manor house in the bustling food hood on Nueva Costanera in Vitacura. Standouts include house made patés, stewed rabbit, Peruvian style cebiches, and Patagonia Lamb Shank.
- Liguria (www.liguria.cl) The three nearly identical wood paneled restobars in Providencia has one of the best wine selections in the capital and slings out Chilean small plates like sea urchins on toasts, abalone cake, roast duck, and parmesan razor clams. You’ll never have a bad time here.
- Puerto Fuy (www.puertofuy.cl) Chef Giancarlo Mazzarelli’s restaurant is a foodie hotspot in Santiago. Using the breadth of national ingredients such as Easter Island tuna, Patagonian lamb and a dozen types of salt, the contemporary Chilean menu has been one of the driving forces to inspire other Santiaguino chefs.
FOOD TOUR: Author Liz Caskey (www.lizcaskey.com) runs a variety of food and wine based tours around Santiago, including city tasting tours that explore markets and bodegas.
CITY WINERIES: Though multi-day wine tasting and vineyard tours in the Maule, Casablanca, and Colchagua Valleys are common for those looking to extend their trips to Santiago and often make the experience their entire reason for coming to Chile, visits to prominentvineyards can be much easier than one might think. In fact, the Concha y Toro winery (www.conchaytoro.com), which accounts for more than one third of all national wine sales, sits only a few kilometers from El Morado National Park, the centerpiece of the Maipo Canyon. Other nearby wineries include Viña Undurraga (www.undurraga.cl) in Talagante and Viña Cousiño Macul (www.cousinomacul.com)in Peñalolén.
STAY: The Aubrey Hotel (www.theaubrey.com) A newish 15-room boutique hotel in a restored 1920’s mansion perched on a sloping street in the bohemian district of Bellavista (where Pablo Neruda had a house) with views of Cerro San Cristobal and the center. It’s also home of Pasta e Vino (www.pastaevinoristorante.cl), one of Santiago’s top Italian eateries.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.