Category Archives: Restaurants

An A for Arrieros Colombianos

Isabel and I were looking for someplace different for lunch. We were up for “relaxed, low-key, good, and fun,” and we found it at Arrieros Colombianos, set in an old house in the “Brasil toward Yungay” barrio of Santiago Centro, on Av. General Bulnes, a block west of Cumming. We pushed through the narrow wooden and glass doors to find ourselves in a cheery yellow and peach-colored bar with natural plank-wood floors and a homey feel. Good start on the fun and low-key part.

Arrieros Colombianos: patacones, chicharrones, arepasWe started with a maracuyá (passion fruit) sour—very good and not too sweet, just as I asked—served icy cold—just as I like it—and a Club Colombia beer to accompany an abundant starter of arepas (thick Colombian cornmeal tortillas), patacones (diagonally cut, flattened fried plantains), and chicarrones (fried pork rinds). Conclusion: “this stuff just has to be bad for you because it just tastes way too good!”

We were going Colombian all the way, so quickly discarded the meat, fish, and Chilean sections of the menu and went straight to Colombian home style: Bandeja Paisa, Sancocho, Ajiaco, and others before Iz decided on a hearty (and huge) Cazuela de Frijoles that came with an enormous plateful of rice, arepas, patacones, and Colombian sausage, and I went for the main-dish Arepa topped with pulled chicken and beef in a tomatoey sauce that reminded us both of barbecue.

Arrieros Colombianos_CheckWe passed on the one by-the-glass wine option (Concha y Toro Exportación) and ordered one of the few half bottles on the list—a 2010 Santa Ema Cabernet, which was served impeccably. In fact, service all around was excellent.

Price–a bit of a splurge for lunch at $26,000, but considering we had way too much food and could actually order half the next time around, it was reasonable enough.

Bottom line question: Would we go back? Sí señor—not a doubt about it.

Av. General Bulnes 86, Santiago Centro, Chile
Tel.: 2-699-4196

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Squeamishly Squella

Got together with friends for dinner last night. They suggested the well-known seafood place Squella over near Barrio Brasil. None of us had ever been there and all were game. Unfortunately, 24 hours later, my stomach is still a bit off and I’m yet to get past that uneasy “played-us-for-suckers” kind of feeling that comes with a less-than-clear pricing policy. It went something like this.

We walked into the 2-story house-turned-restaurant with the big “Club de Lectores” sign at the door announcing a discount for El Mercurio subscribers (good news! we have the card). The first floor was rather dark and certainly lively, but the smokers downstairs, non-smokers upstairs policy sent us to the 2nd floor. Nice, cozy white room, nothing snazzy, but pleasant and about what we expected.

I ordered a pisco sour (not bad, $3200) and everyone else went straight to the wine. We asked about the year of the Leyda Chardonnay listed. “Most of our white wines are 2010 or 2011,” the waiter assured us. (Nice trick, considering that the 2011 harvest season has just begun and the grapes are either still on the vine or fresh in the tank. Not even winemakers are drinking 2011 yet!) Didn’t matter, because they didn’t have it anyway, so we moved on to a Casas del Bosque Chardonnay Reserva, which showed up in its 2008 vintage ($11,800). Reasonably oaked, insufficiently chilled, but no one complained.

The waiter really pushed highly recommended the locos (Chilean abalone).
“On special tonight,” he says, “Nice big jumbo locos with papas mayo and guacamole. So tender you can cut them with a fork.” The two guys ordered them as a main course instead of an appetizer. Turned out there were just two to a portion. They were pretty big though and nicely presented, and the guys seemed very happy with their choice.

The ceviche craver in the group oohed and ahhed over her generous 3-version sampler (1 reineta/whitefish, 1 shrimp, 1 shellfish, $7800). I chose mero (Chilean sea bass) ($7200, sauces extra), and may never touch the stuff again. I suspect that what I really got was oilfish, a common switch, with less than comfortable after effects. I expected a rather thick portion of tender white fish, but got 3 small and thin slices that were tough and oily. The texture was just strange, like improperly cooked congrio (I made the really bad mistake of trying to make ceviche from congrio once—don’t do it—for many reasons—really!) But that’s what I was remembering as I tried to cut and chew this thing. It wasn’t dry; it wasn’t overcooked. Just strange. I probably should have sent it back, but didn’t. I left most of it on my plate. Good thing because I’ve been feeling queasy ever since.

Add some scallops al pil pil here ($7800, fine), some dessert there (stuffed figs, heard no complaints, $2800).

The bottle of wine emptied, and with insufficient quorum for a second bottle, the thirsty one asked for a glass of Chardonnay from the wine dispenser (don’t be fooled!). It arrived nameless and golden yellow. “That means a lot of oak, right?” the fresh-glass-holder asked me. “Or seriously oxidized,” I reminded him. Sure enough. Who knows how long that bottle had been kicking around, or what it was, for that matter, but it was having some serious identity issues and was more than a little confused with some Tío Pepe. (In other words, mega-oxidized).

I do have to admit that while I personally was less than pleased, the rest of the group was quite content with their food and service. But the big surprise came with the check (in Chilean pesos):

$68,400 – $9,150 discount = $59,250 total (In USD: $141 – $19 = $122) before tip.

Hm, we thought, must be just 15% instead of the usual 25% you get with Club de Lectores.

We asked. The waiter assured us that it was indeed 25%, but that locos and lobster are not included (well that seems like it could have mentioned that somewhere)… And oh, BTW, those two loco appetizers? They turned out to be $12,000 (about $25USD) each!
Get Out… No way!
Way.

Will I go back?

Not any time soon.

What to take away from this:

Our side:

  • Ask, ask, and ask again. Anything that isn’t put in print is subject to surprise.
  • Skip the mero unless you’re in a very upscale restaurant; you’re not likely to get the real thing, and the substitute is not even close to being worth it.
  • Just because the place has a fancy wine dispenser, it doesn’t mean that the wines will be good, fresh, or properly chilled.

Restaurant side:

  • Be more straight-forward with your customers.
  • Make sure that what’s on the plate is what’s on the menu.
  • If you’re running a special, make sure you specify very visibly in writing, hopefully–on the menu–any item that is not part of the discount program!
  • Bone up on your wine service, and please offer some decent by-the-glass choices.

Squella
Ricardo Cumming 94
Santiago de Chile
F: 699-3059

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Elfos Restobar

Elfos Bar Santiago de ChileIt’s spring here in Chile, and we’ve decided it’s high time we returned to our old habit of an evening stroll—which more often than not ends with us rewarding our healthy walking efforts with stopping somewhere for a bite and a sip. That’s pretty easy to do in our “neck of the hood” because we figure there must be at least 50—maybe double that—bars and restaurants within walking distance of our place.

So we meandered through what I call “Old Providencia” between Manuel Montt and Seminario, admiring the many beautiful homes that haven’t been torn town for high rises (yet), and eventually stumbled upon a place we’d never noticed before. Elfos, on Roman Díaz, about a block from Av. Providencia.

We were game. Or wait. Maybe we were IN a game… Continue reading

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Fuente Mardoqueo: Best sánguches in town

The search is over. I’ve found the perfect chacarero!

cacharero, Fuente Mardoqueo, sánguche

The perfect Chacarero: tasty beef topped with fresh tomato, crisp green beans, and a touch of green chili

I am admittedly not the world’s biggest sandwich fan…and them’s fightin’ words in Chile.  Chileans love—and passionately defend—their beloved sánguches. So I’m here to call a truce. And while I’m not likely to ever get up much enthusiasm for the basic avocado- and mayo-smeared ham & cheese, there are other Chilean sandwich combinations that are pretty hard to resist. Make mine a chacarero, a super sánguche whose special defining feature is a big pile of green beans. Yep, that’s right, green beans. Who knew?

Fuente MardoqueoFuente Mardoqueo, half a block from the Plaza Yungay, is one of those word-of-mouth type places—a true picada—and it had been on our radar for a while. Continue reading

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Chile’s Culinary Front: the Best of 2010

It’s that time of year again: Chile’s El Mercurio newspaper’s Wikén magazine has announced its favorite Chefs and Restaurants for 2010. Here’s the skinny–in English– along with a bonus track…

El Mercurio's Revista Wikén, Aug 27, 2010

Cover Revista Wikén, Aug 27, 2010

At our house we always read Wikén, the weekly food, wine & entertainment supplement that comes with El Mercurio every Friday, but there is one edition per year that we especially look forward to. And today was the day: the Annual Ranking of Chile’s best chefs and restaurants.

You can read the whole thing yourself in Spanish here: (El Wikén: Mejores Chefs y Restaurantes 2010), but I’ll give you the basics in English right here, complete with comments as a bonus track. All restaurant addresses and phone numbers are listed in alphabetical order at the bottom of the page.

Click to discover what the crew at El Mercurio (and I) think about the Best Chefs, Best Restaurants, and up-and-coming people, trends & foodie hangouts in Chile er, Santiago, er, kinda the same thing… ? What do YOU think?

Continue reading

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Coquinaria: The Jury’s Still Out

CoquinariaThis is a place we’ve had our eye on for quite a while. A new concept in Santiago, an upscale market offering gourmet products (Chilean and imported)—a foodie’s delight—and tables indoors and out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

We stopped by with friends the other night, originally on our way to someplace else, but stopped in to check it out and decided to stay.

The ambiance is delightful. Modern yet cozy, sophisticated yet friendly. My kinda place.

But I am sad to say that the dining side of the set-up still needs work. Continue reading

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Jofré: shall we stay, or shall we go…?

Cool place; great food… service? Room for work…

Did you ever notice how some people are just not cut out for service? And how much a difference it makes in how you feel about a place?

Last night a group of friends decided on the spur of the moment to go get a drink and a bite. Someone suggested Jofré… Great place; I’ve been there several times over the course of its 6 or so years in business… Low-key Latina bistro type, set in a renovated cité with small dining rooms and a nice terraza. There’s cool artwork on the exposed adobe walls,  the kitchen’s open to view, and the wine list is printed in colored chalk on an enormous board on the wall…

Food wise it’s a keeper too. The menu usually offers 4–5 reasonably priced dishes determined in accordance with the daily market finds… (in fact, the menu is printed daily). But last night we were there for drinks and apps, so I didn’t even check out the main courses.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First impressions first. Let’s start with one foot in the door… Continue reading

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