Santiago de Chile – Bellavista – good places to eat and drink

As I mentioned in my previous post on Stuff to See in Bellavista, the neighbourhood is the avant garde entertainments district for central Santiago. At the weekend the numerous bars and restaurants are packed out with students and boho types. It’s an exciting, vibrant area to go out and my first choice for a fun night on the town. You’ll find everywhere mentione below on my map.

The best restaurants I’ve eaten at in Santiago are here…

Peumayén Ancestral Food (Intermediate B), 136 Constitución, www.peumayenchile.cl

Peumayén is one of two restaurants I visited where the menu is inspired by Chilean ingredients (see also Borago in the next Vitacura post). Peumayén is the more traditional of the two as it also attempts to recreate pre-Hispanic cooking techniques. More specifically it features the gastronomy of the Quechua people in the north of Chile, the Mapuche from the central Andean plains around Santiago and the Huilliche tribes of Patagonia.

You can order à la carte, but there are four possible selections for the “Origins” tasting menu with sea, land, vegetarian and mixed versions, as well as an extensive range of Chilean wines and piscos. I went for the ‘land’ option.

First a board of eight kinds of bread, arranged geographically according to the source of their ingredients. From the bottom left we have Milcao (potato bread mixed with lard), Catuto (wheat and barley bread with Patagonian Ulmo honey), two kinds of Millokin (white bean bread and pea bread), Chopon (fried potato bread), Po’e (square bread made with a mix of banana, pineapple and coconut milk), Q’ala’tant’a flatbread served with Trapi Cacho de Cabra (goat horn chile salsa) and finally Muquina (served with a mixture of quinoa, onion, herbs and spices).

The next board brought the starters. from bottom left, a cold cut of Rose meat with garlic and parsley sauces, sweetbreads & crunchy corn. Next, ‘Tonge’s pate’ on a bread base with pickles, ground pine nuts, honey and smoked coliflour (sic). The middle starter is a Rabbit causeo (‘salad’) with pickles, fried yucca (aka cassava/manioc), chuño potato with vinegar. Then a seaweed salad with smoked fish and a smoked mussels dressing. I’m not quite sure what the last one is, sorry. The menu says beef belly with raw tomato sauce and garlic but it doesn’t look much like it.

Before the main there was a palate cleanser of fried seaweed (I’m guessing cochayuyo after my visit to Borago) served with avocado and more goat horn chile salsa.

The main course board involved a cylinder made of potato dough stuffed with crab & fish sauce, also conger eel with beetroot sauce, creamy wheat with potatoes and cilantro, fried fish with sea chimichurri and a crispy potato. Again, after the first two, it was hard to tell which was which.

All this washed down with a bottle of good Carménère, my favourite Chilean red.

For dessert, from bottom right, Chañar mousse (a sweet fruit), coconut panna cotta with a base of pumpkin seeds and caramelized pineapples, chocolate & huacatay (marigold herb) cake with rocoto (a hot pepper) marmalade & papayas, and at the top, sweet chochoca (cylindrical potato pancake) stuffed with seaweed jam.

Did the food taste good and was it nicely presented?
Yes, I’d score it a B.

Did I taste lots of new flavours that I’d never had before?
Yes, I didn’t know what I was eating most of the time.

Did any of those new flavours blow me away?
No, not particularly. Perhaps this is the reason old dishes disappear.

Would I go back?
Yes, I’d like to try the sea menu, and since my visit I’ve heard the pisco sours are great.

And here are some places from my 2011 trip (all still open in 2020)…

Barandiaran (Elementary A), in Patio Bellavista, 38 Constitucion, barandiaran.cl

Patio Bellavista is a large complex of shops, bars, live venues and restaurants which form a focal point in the neighbourhood. Barandiaran is down one of the side passages and not very well signed, but if you ask the security guards, they’ll point you in the right direction.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Peruvian food has an excellent reputation throughout South America and this is a good place to come and eat it on the cheap. The ambience is more modern and quite plain and simple in comparison to its older, more atmospheric sister in Providencia. The service is good and they know how to pour a beer, Cusquena from Peru (A), and mix a stiff Pisco Sour (A).

cusquena.jpg

I started with Choclo Huancaina, kernels of giant maize with a pungent sauce of goat’s cheese and yellow Aji peppers and a couple of olives which were non-descript individually but when tossed together were an excellent combination (B+).

choclo-huancaina.jpg

For the main, Cordero a la Nortena, that is southern lamb cooked in a northern style (a sauce of tomatoes, onions, reduced red wine and ‘Peruvian spices’; probably cumin, garlic, coriander and a couple of different chilli powders) with some great white rice on the side. It wasn’t a looker but tasted really good (A-).

Cordero a la Nortena

After this I went for a drink at Venezia at 196 Pio Nino, (a former haunt of Pablo Neruda whose third house, La Chascona, is just up the hill). It’s primarily a restaurant, although there are a few stools at the old bar where you can have a beer and a sandwich.

Venezia

Although not much to look at from the outside, it has an atmospheric, woody interior and plays much more downtempo music than that being pumped out by its more modern neighbours. If I’d had time I’d have come and checked out the food but I never got the chance.

If the frenetic activity on the main strip on Pio Nino is not your thing, the parallel street of Constitucion is a lot more chilled. I’d had a tip that Etniko at Constitucion 172 was a good place to go but didn’t realise you had to reserve a table to get in. However, when I said I only wanted one drink, the friendly English-speaking greeter found me a spot to stand by the wall with a shelf to put my drink on.

I had the house cocktail, something called a Luciano, made with Pear Wyborowa, grapefruit juice and topped up with tonic, which was very refreshing (B). I really liked the atmosphere here; lots of beautiful young people scoffing huge plates of sushi to a soundtrack of cool house music. There’s a separate small room where you can go for a dance after eating. This would be a great place to go with a group of friends.

So lots of action to be had in Bellavista! I only scratched the surface, there’s lots more which I hope to explore more in the future. Next, the posher end of town…

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