Mr. Harper's Travel Guide
Chile comprises a narrow coastal strip between the Andes and the Pacific that stretches for more than 2,850 miles. Neither the mountains nor the ocean is ever far away. In the north, the Atacama Desert contains great mineral wealth, primarily copper. The relatively small ...
Chile comprises a narrow coastal strip between the Andes and the Pacific that stretches for more than 2,850 miles. Neither the mountains nor the ocean is ever far away. In the north, the Atacama Desert contains great mineral wealth, primarily copper. The relatively small Central Valley, which includes the capital, Santiago, dominates the country in terms of population and agriculture. Today, Chile is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of wine. The south of the country features a string of volcanoes and lakes, and its coast is a labyrinth of fjords, peninsulas and islands. Owing to the frigid Humboldt Current, the sea abounds with marine life, including penguins and whales. North American trout were successfully introduced, and Chile now offers some of the world’s finest fly-fishing. Chile controls Easter Island, located 2,180 miles out in the Pacific. In general, Chile is safe and prosperous, with none of the corruption and economic chaos plaguing some of its neighbors.
Chile consists of a northern desert area, a Mediterranean central section in which the majority of the population lives (Santiago) and a rugged, mainly forested southern region that is often compared to the coasts of Alaska and Vancouver Island (Puenta Arenas).
Recommended Luxury Hotels in Chile
Best Restaurants in Chile
Almost anyone who has visited Santiago recently will suggest Bocanáriz. This time, I must agree with the crowd and wholeheartedly recommend this wine-focused restaurant two blocks north of Casa Lastarria. The 36 Chilean wines by the glass can be sampled individually or in one of 11 flights. I created my own flight of wines from the highly regarded Casablanca Valley, including a forceful Morandé Brut Nature, a light and spicy Nimbus Gewürztraminer and a rich and earthy Cono Sur “Ocio” Pinot Noir. Both the traditional chupe, a creamy seafood stew, and piquillo peppers stuffed with savory lamb stew served on a bed of meaty quinoa were outstanding.
Housed in a triangular Tudor-revival building a short walk from The Singular hotel, this friendly, stylish restaurant has a well-priced list of fine Chilean wines and a tempting menu of Mediterranean and traditional Chilean dishes. I opted for a hearty appetizer of grilled octopus with potato confit and olive tapenade, and a smoked Angus sirloin steak accompanied by pan-seared gnocchi topped with tomatoes and olives. Glasses of round, rich Sauvignon Gris and focused, elegant Cabernet Sauvignon made for delicious pairings. The roof terrace is too sunny for lunch, but on warm evenings, it has some of Santiago’s most enviable dinner seating.
Santiago has its own version of noma, the famed Danish restaurant known for its unorthodox presentations and use of unusual seasonal, local ingredients. Occasionally, presentations at BORAGó went over the top — some dishes arrived perched in small trees — but almost everything on the reasonably priced tasting menu offered insight into unique Chilean ingredients. Our first course comprised a squid-ink breadstick coated in fresh garden herbs; a loco (Chilean sea snail) “sandwich;” and a briny, citrusy bite of piure, a local tunicate (marine invertebrate). Other memorable dishes included Valdivian venison tartare “hiding in a forest” of cenizo leaves; free-range Parral veal topped with scalded milk skin and tiny chaura fruit; and refreshing Atacaman rica-rica ice cream. Pairings of local wines were as audacious as the cuisine.
Aquí Esta Coco has long been a popular restaurant in the smart Providencia neighborhood. Having arisen from a major fire in 2008, it remains one of the capital’s most fashionable places, thanks to the loyal following of the Pacheco Baquedano family. We started with shellfish-packed empanadas, which were just delicious, and continued with the signature "mai mai" conger eel (which looked and tasted rather like North Atlantic loup de mer) in a fresh cream sauce with shrimp, mushrooms and ham. Closed Sunday and during the month of February.Calle la Concepcion 236 Providencia Santiago http://www.aquiestacoco.cl/?lang=en
Azul Profundo is located in the lively Bellavista neighborhood. As the name — “Deep Blue” — would lead you to suspect, the spe-cialty is seafood, a suspicion confirmed by the nautical décor. The menu features fish from Chile’s 3,000-mile coastline — swordfish, sea bass, salmon, hake and flounder, plus yellowfin tuna from Easter Island — and the best way to order them is a la plancha, which means grilled on a cast-iron skillet. Nothing else is required, except perhaps a turn of pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon. A good way to begin is with ceviche or the selection of ocean-fresh shellfish. The perfect accompaniment is a crisp Sauvignon Blanc — Chilean, of course.Calle Constitucion 111 Providencia Santiago
Astrid & Gastón is actually the Chilean branch of a well-known Peruvian establishment, but pedigree aside, it is probably the best restau-rant in town. (In 2008, it was awarded this accolade by Santiago’s Guía Culinaria.) Also in Providencia, it is tucked into a small pink building with a bustling dining room flanked by an open kitchen. We were seated on the very pleasant upstairs terrace, which for some reason known only to locals seems to be regarded as a social Siberia! Fortunately, the food was superb and beautifully presented. The starter of grilled octopus was a lovely composition, arranged in the shape of a star and set on a potato purée along with tangy dollops of olive foam and dabs of pepper coulis. A main course of grilled turbot came with potato gnocchi in a zesty tomato sauce. The service could not have been more gracious. Closed Sunday.Antonio Bellet 201 Providencia Santiago http://www.astridygaston.cl/