Without wishing to cause offence, I have to say that for me, very generally speaking, the standard of cuisine in Chile is quite poor. That’s not to say there aren’t some fantastic ingredients, like the meat and vegetables, and some excellent individual dishes, like Pastel de Choclo, and I’m sure that there are many fantastic home cooks, but going on the restaurant scene, I feel cooking standards are rather low. Certainly in comparison to Europe which is what I’m used to. That Viña del Mar has a particularly awful restaurant scene is highly ironic given that it’s one of the wealthiest places in Chile.
I ate very badly on my first visit in 2011 but having been forewarned by that experience, I did a lot of research and managed to do a little better on my second visit in 2018. In an attempt to put limits on my negativity I’ve put all the bad rewiews in this post and the few good ones in another.
All five of the restaurants reviewed below scored a C, which means the food is edible but not something you’d search out again. However there were no Ds which are only given when the food is not fit for human consumption, so it’s not completely bad.
This first place is worth a walking past on the promenade just for the visual spectacle…
Cap Ducal (High Intermediate C), 51 Avenida Marina, www.capducal.cl
This classic building is a hotel restaurant masquerading as a boat on some rocks. It’s hard to resist a visit to see what it’s like inside. As you can see from the photos, the atmosphere is quite dark. The terrace might be better though. The food I had, the Sopa de Almejas (clam soup with white wine and cream) followed by the Cap Ducal Conger (grilled conger with assorted seafood in a ‘natural cream-based sauce’ with sea urchins and white wine) was fine but unexciting (C). I’m not a fan of cream in food and virtually every dish on the menu has it here.
A teacher told me that a lot of politicians eat here, maybe due to its proximity to the Cerro Castillo Presidential Palace up on the hill behind it. I can believe it as I doubt they’d be hanging out in Valpo much during their freetime.
Apparently this next place is one of the best Italian restaurants in Viña…
Divino Pecado (Intermediate C), San Martín 180 Esquina 3 norte, www.divinopecado.cl
I’ll let the photo do the talking on this one.
When I ordered the house special of Fettucini Frutti di Mare with the tagline ‘fresh pasta with seafood sauteed in olive oil and italian pomodoro sauce’, I expected an essentially dry pasta and at least three kinds of seafood tossed in a bit of cooked tomato, but instead it was two mussels and a clam with pasta in a soup (unheard of in my fifty trips to Italy). Also, if you put cheese on seafood in Italy as they do here, you’ll most likely be run out of town. My appetite ruined, I picked at it, paid and left without ordering anything else. The Sauvignon Blanc was fine though.
Enjoy del Mar (Advanced C-), Peru 100
At the end of the promenade on Peru you can stop off at this place (a satellite building of the Hotel del Mar casino complex. It has an outside terrace with glass walls to shield you from the wind with a great view of the sun setting over the faux Castillo Wulff on the point separating the two bays.
After a Campari (minus the soda which I’d asked for) I ordered the cerviche, hoping for something similar to the amazing experience I’d had the night before at Osaka in Buenos Aires (see previous post). Sadly what I got was three deep ceramic tubs of white fish, crab and salmon swimming in citrus juices of various kinds and no discernable taste (D), except for the salmon in orange juice which wasn’t too bad (C). To be fair the nice female waitress asked if I wanted something else by way of compensation but I’d lost my appetite by then.
The next two restaurants are actually closed now, probably for good reason. I’ve kept the reviews though for my own amusement as they are still experiences I’d like to remember.
Delicias del Mar (Advanced C), 459 San Martin, NOW CLOSED!
Hoping for a decent meal after two days of sub-standard fodder, I put my trust in this reputable Basque-influenced restaurant on the main San Martin drag. The ambience is pleasant with low lighting and polite bow-tied and waist coated waiters, my young chap being particularly friendly.
His recommendation of a fragrant Sauvignon Blanc reserva (Leyda Valley 2010), amongst higher priced options was a good one (A), and eventually saved my evening from being a disappointment.
The starter of smoked salmon blinis with capers, citric cream and grated Parmesan, was a good choice (B+) too and I was hopeful that the next course would be a good one.
Unfortunately however their ‘house speciality’ of Paella Viñamarina with seafood, chicken and pork, supposedly in the classic Spanish style, was over salted and had a strange after-taste I found hard to describe. The veg seemed half raw and hadn’t married well with the rice. After picking out and eating the seafood and meat, I left most of the rice and vegetables (D). Other customers seemed to have left theirs as well.
After mentioning it to the waiter however he offered me an alternative and I kept it simple with some grilled Salmon(B) and Papas Duquesas aka croquettes which weren’t to my taste either (D).
This place may be better on other nights though. I made mistake of coming on the night that Chile were playing Paraguay in a qualifier for the 2012 World Cup and all the kitchen staff were busy cheering their team on in the back room. Had I known I would have gone straight to the crowded local bar I passed on the way but after finishing up quickly I managed to catch the last 20 minutes there, and the second goal in Chile’s 2-0 win. Chi-chi-chi le-le-le!
Savinya (Intermediate C), San Martín 199, entrance at the rear of the Hotel del Mar, on the second floor above the casino, NOW CLOSED!
After a hard week of grafting (and not eating particularly well) I was in need of a treat so took myself off to this place, recommended by the local teachers (thanks for taking care of me Claire and Lydia) and which likes to think of itself as one of the best restaurants in the area. Once you get up to the second floor ask for it by name as it’s not well signed and it’s easy to confuse it with the more downmarket place on the same floor. Neither place batted an eyelid when I showed up in jeans, trainers and t-shirt. The view of the short-lived sunset over the bay from the window tables is fantastic but I had to sit in the smoking section to get it.
I quite liked Christian the effusive English-speaking sommelier with his caustic laugh and huge official looking medallion the size of a mayoral chain. He recommended a local Sauvignon Blanc (William Cole 2010) from the nearby Casablanca valley which he told me, along with the Leyda wine-growing area, is where the best Chilean whites are from. As one of the cheaper options, it was very fragrant and dry with a subtle flavour (B).
After nibbling on their excellent brown bread (A) and an amuse bouche of salmon and unagi sauce with too much parsley (C)…
…I ordered the seafood special which involved some white fish cerviche (C).
Also some clams au gratin (B) served in Chinese spoons and…
…tiny seared scallops (A-) and king prawns (B).
The taste of the scallops was really brought out with a smear of reduced balsamic, but I couldn’t for the life of me discern the oysters or the pil pil sauce included in the description on the menu.
For my main course I ordered the conger eel, another recommended local ingredient, with ‘lightly fried, basil-flavoured vegetables with garlic-seasoned shrimps and Chiloe potato chips’ however the next thing to arrive was an unexpected palate-cleansing lemon sorbet (B+) delivered by a grinning insane-looking waiter who Christian described as ‘my friend the monkey’ and who grasped my hand in an iron grip.
The prawns were battered, potentially with garlic (B) and sitting in a rather rank tasting foam (C-). The seared conger eel was pretty good (B) and came on a bed of slightly undercooked but fairly flavoursome (C+) legumes (chick , butter, black, and green) and cherry tomatoes. The yucca chips were interesting (B). I wasn’t impressed at first but I gradually warmed to it. I appreciated the heated plates which needed to be warm in the chilly air-conditioned atmosphere.
Christian said he would talk to the chef about what was best for dessert and marry a digestif with it, then promptly forgot about me when another table arrived, although I did get a complimentary mousse as a pre-dessert from a waiter, which was nice (B), but it was only a mouthful.
The principle dessert was very poor, a tasteless (C) passion fruit concoction next to something looking like a Chinese dumpling in an even more flavourless (D) swimming pool of orange sauce, a contemporary take on the traditional dish of Mote con Huesillo.
The complementary ‘lemoncello’ was another letdown, unchilled but with a few ice cubes thrown in as an afterthought, it wouldn’t happen in Italy. And there’s another thing. Although they are quick to tell you the chef is Italian, when I asked which part he was from, it turned out he wasn’t on the premises. Perhaps he just oversees things but none of the preparation seemed Italian to me, more a hotchpotch of influences that didn’t quite work.
Conclusion: this place pretends to be the best but is really all fur coat and no knickers as we say in the UK. Nothing on the menu actually seems to exist as described. Total cost was only about £45 though so it could have been worse.
And that’s the end of my negativity for now! I did write some positive reviews too which you’ll find elsewhere. Good luck!