When people think of Chilean cuisine the idea of slightly bland, hearty home cooking often springs to mind. An image that's partly true as Chilean food traditionally involves stews, pies, and mounds of meat and carbs. But Chile, and Santiago in particular, is experiencing something of a foodie renaissance with chefs becoming more and more daring with their ingredients and techniques. The influx of tourism has also brought with it a range of fusion foods and international cuisines, resulting in numerous restaurants popping up serving exciting, delicious and very reasonably priced Indian, Peruvian, Japanese, Italian and Lebanese food all over Santiago.
As a massive foodie myself, I spent a large percentage of my year and a half living in Santiago scouting out good food spots. In no particular order, here are a few of my favourites:
Happening: South American Steakhouse
The title of 'favourite steakhouse' is a hotly contested one and runners up include Ox (Vitacura), Vacas Gordas (Barrio Brasil), and Eladio (Providencia). But for me the clear winner is Happening. I can safely say that everything on the menu is absolutely delicious (having been more times than I care to mention) and the wine menu is excellent. My personal choice is the Tenderloin Chateaubriand with Béarnaise sauce and French potatoes. The steak was so tender it could be cut with a spoon and all the extras complimented it beautifully. The waiters here speak little English but if your Spanish isn't up to scratch, all you need to remember is bien hecho (well done), a punto (medium) and poco hecho (rare), and you will be fine!
Fukai: Sushi Lounge and Asian Bistro
Fukai features some of the most innovative and, dare I say it, weird sushi you'll ever find. Dishes include bacon-wrapped sushi rolls (who needs nori when you have bacon?!), yellow curry-topped sushi rolls and ceviche sushi rolls. Delish. The restaurant is located amongst the hip eateries and bars of Patio Bellavista so if you aren't in the mood for Asian food, there are few better spots for sitting outside sipping a pisco sour and watching the world go by.
If I'm honest the atmosphere in Ky is more memorable than the food. This is not to say that the food isn't good, but the decor is truly unique. From the outside you would think/hope that you have come to the wrong place as the building is covered in graffiti and fairly run-down, but do not let this put you off. Upon entrance you will find a hugely theatrical interior with a mix of eclectic lighting, curtains and sofas. The only way to describe it really is "cool". The bar is stocked with hundreds of bottles from around the world and if you want an experience from your meal, Ky is the place to be.
Como Agua Para Chocolate: Peruvian / Chilean
I am a huge ceviche fan so I am always drawn to Peruvian restaurants, whichever city I am in. This restaurant is inspired by the romantic novel Like Water for Chocolate, meaning the menu is based on aphrodisiac foods and the environment is very sensual. One of the tables is made to look like a bed (complete with headboards and pillow), there is a fountain in the middle of the restaurant, and rose petals are sprinkled on every table. Aside from the romance, Como Agua Para Chocolate serves very traditional, honest food, and includes many locally-sourced ingredients. I recommend sharing the deliciously fresh ceviche for starters, and the torta de tres leches for pudding is a must. One word of warning, the portion sizes are very large, so do not get too carried away when ordering!
La Vega: Chilean Market Place
La Vega is Santiago's biggest food market where locals come to show off and sell the best of the country's agriculture. Here you can buy fruit, vegetables, meat, bread, cheese, pulses, spices - almost everything! I loved spending hours wandering up and down, admiring the rows and rows of colourful produce.
There are also restaurants where you can have lunch in In La Vega, enabling you to enjoy some typical Chilean food for exceptionally good prices. Yes, you will be sitting in a small plastic chair, surrounded by stray cats (not an 'elf and safety certificate in sight), but it just makes the experience even more authentic. My favourite Chilean dish is pastel de choclo - a pie comprising meat (usually a mix of chicken, beef and sometimes chorizo), eggs, olives, and topped with mashed corn. Combine with a delicious smoothie from one of the neighbouring stalls and you're on your way to foodie heaven.
Emporio La Rosa: Ice Cream
For good reason, Emporio La Rosa is probably Santiago's most popular and well- loved ice cream parlour. They not only focus on the classic flavours, but also experiment with new and exciting recipes, such as rose (rosa), cinnamon (canela), grapefruit (pomelo) and strawberry with black pepper (frutilla y pimienta). My personal favourites are the super creamy hazelnut (avellana), and banana with toffee sauce (plátano manjar).
So if you are nearby, climbing the Cerro Santa Lucia, exploring the cobbled street of Lastarria, or sightseeing in Plaza de Armas, and need a bit of a cool down, this is the perfect spot.