Santiago, Chile – I’m sitting in the airport here after a long, roundabout flight, and waiting for my final leg back to Buenos Aires. I wish I could exit the terminal to take some photos – the airport is gorgeous – all curved glass and white-coated steel, staggered levels, ramps, vivid teal colored carpets and furniture. And surrounding it, on all sides, the Andes. Flying in was quite the interesting view as well – you basically feel like you’re tunnelling down between mountain ranges (well, actually, you are), in and out of fog and clouds, right until the time you touch ground.
Most of the food available in the international terminal is the standard sort of sandwiches and beer sort. But, like many airports, there is an “anchor” restaurant, in this case apparently called La Sebastiana Aerorestauran (at least based on the napkin rings – though the only sign I could find said The Captain’s Corner, though I think that was in reference to the wine and liquor selection. Two things attracted me to it, beyond just being famished – it was a real sitdown restaurant and the menu had numerous items noted as “typical Chilean dish.” I’m sure they weren’t of the top quality of cooking, but…
I started off with the Empanadas Delicias del Mar, or seafood empanadas. Quite different from any Argentine turnovers I’ve tried. These, first of all, were small, six of them made a decent appetizer, each being about 3 bites. They were deep-fried, something I’ve only seen in Argentine versions from the San Juan province (hmmm, on the border with Chile…). And, of course, they were filled with seafood. Basically a sort of thick stew of pretty much unidentifiable but tasty fish and shellfish, the only thing I could definitively state were in there were baby shrimp. They were also served with an interesting sauce called ají crema, a blend of mildly hot red peppers, garlic, vinegar, salt, and cinnamon. Quite interesting and quite good!
I followed up with a dish that I’ve been told is a true classic of Chilean cuisine, Caldillo de Congrio, or fish chowder. Except in this case, it wasn’t a chowder, missing both the cream and the thickness. A simple broth stocked with a couple of large pieces of a thick white fish, which didn’t look at all like eel, though they claimed it was, and bits of tomato, potato, green and red bell peppers, green and white onions. Overall kind of on the bland side, which doesn’t fit the descriptions I’ve seen of it. The dish was made famous by poet Pablo Neruda in his poem Oda al Caldillo de Congrio. I’ll have to try making it myself or trying it elsewhere, it actually sounds quite good.