I know, every time I go on vacation you get subjected to an onslaught of photos and videos about everything I/we ate. So this time, not going to do that. I’m going to do a composite photo from each place, and pick out one dish that was, for me, the best of the meal. Quick description, no verbose reviews. All photos clickable for large-size rather than reducing them down to “blog size” – don’t know why I didn’t start doing that awhile ago. Vacation! Starting off with two days in Santiago, Chile.
Ambrosia, Pamplona 78, Vitacura, Santiago – In 2013 the chef, Carolina Bazán, was named by those pesky folk at the World’s 50 best awards, the “one to watch” in the Latin America listings. In 2014 and 2015, the restaurant came in at #37 and then #32 on the list. Beautiful space in a converted home surrounded by gardens and pools of water. Sunlight everywhere. Friendly staff, great ambiance, intriguing menu. Three appetizers and a gnocchi dish, three paired wines (not planned, I ordered two appetizers and a glass of wine – Carolina came out and introduced herself and sent extras of food and wine) – had I paid for all of it it would have come in around 80000 Chilean pesos with tip, about $120. But then, that’s more than you’d probably order.
Locos, the Chilean “false abalone”, tender as could be, perfectly cooked, served warm with a vibrant parsley pesto, pickled onion petals, herbs and flowers, and a light vinaigrette. I could happily eat this, well, right now.
Boragó, Av. Nueva Costanera 3467, Vitacura, Santiago – on that same list, mentioned above, this place came in at 8th, 5th, and then 2nd, in Latin America, in 2013, 2014, and 2015, respectively. Chef Rodolfo Guzmán is noted for his… how do we say this… outside of the box creativity? This isn’t like food you’ll have anywhere else. It’s at times intriguing and at others bizarre. Some flavor combinations work right upfront, others are jarring and leave you trying to figure out what he’s doing. It was fascinating on an intellectual basis, though at several points in the meal I’d say my left brain wasn’t quite as enamored of that creativity as my right brain was (or is it the other way around?). Sixteen course (each really 1, or at most 2 bites) tasting menu (there’s also a shorter, 6-7 course menu, for those who don’t want to do the whole thing), a flat 62000 Chilean pesos ($93), wine pairing, or just ordering wine, an option, I was still feeling the three glasses from lunch, so I went with just a single glass.
At the end of the meal, the sous chef (Guzmán wasn’t there) took me on a tour of the place, including their upstairs laboratory/test kitchen, which was very cool. There was a young cook studying a stack of various cookbooks up there, and I asked him what he was studying – turns out many of the kitchen staff are young cooks, staging, i.e., working for the experience for a short time, who are there for six months. At the end of the six months, their “graduation” is to put together a tasting menu for their colleagues of dishes that they create, and he was in the midst of planning out his menu. Cool idea.
We do a lot with jíbia, the Humboldt squid, at Casa S, though mostly with the tentacles. It’s actually a rarity in BA fish markets that I see the bodies, but they’re perfect for making things like calamari steaks and such. Here, a rectangle of the meat, dry aged like a steak, and then steam cooked, topped with lightly charred tangerine peel and kelp, and served with a crema de pajaritos – cream of little birds, which, on inquiry, turn out to be hongos pajaritos, little bird mushrooms, and the cream is made from the sap of them… so what are hongos pajaritos? Psilocybin, you know, “magic mushrooms”….
Okay, that wasn’t too bad/long, was it?