One of the best meals I experienced in Chile was at Sabor Color in the Cerro Concepcion neighborhood in Valparaiso (at the apex of the hill).
This restaurant truly had a theme, color. Colorful oil paints decorated the walls and warm reds and oranges were splashed throughout the interior. The dishes all displayed flashes of multi-hued vibrancy from the ceviche to the grilled meats and fish.
The image below is an artfully prepared 100 percent salmon ceviche with a shot of tigers milk to chase it down. Tigers milk is the spicy citrus surplus that accompanies your ceviche and is sometimes reserved in a glass to toast. I’m pretty sure drinking tigers milk shots for breakfast lunch and dinner gives you superpowers. Also, this was the best ceviche I’ve ever had in my life.
Filet with figs and mashed potatoes. Tender. Perfect. The figs added a nice sweet dimension to this savory dish.
This was amazing, sea bass and a risotto made of pearl barley. The texture of this risotto was like caviar, eclipsing any aborrio rice I’ve ever tasted. Note to any interested cooks out there, this is not merely a substitute, but an upgrade.
This fantastic meal was also accompanied with an aromatic and delicious local Sauvignon Blanc from the Casablanca Valley in Chile. (For only 8 dollars US!!) Proof.
Down a long alley in the simultaneously gritty and beautiful port city of Valparaiso, Chile you can find the Chilean version of the late night drunk snack- Chorrillana.
The best of the best is located at J. Cruz M. Social Club and Casino (Condell 1466) . J. Cruz is only open 10 pm to 1am during the week and weekends, but luckily for me it is also open for lunches on Fridays and Saturdays from about 10am to 4pm.
Chorrillana is a gigantic portion of french fries buried underneath fried steak, onions and scrambled eggs. Absolutely addictive and fantastic. A group effort that lends itself to ice cold beers and humorous anecdotes. The social club is full of people toasting drinks and listening to ballads played on flamenco guitars. The walls and tables are covered in graffiti and random mementos. Just my kind of place.
Two thumbs up! Let the devastation begin!
Besides Chorrillana, I’m not too sure what other fare is offered here… I did see some local Portenos gnoshing on gigantic bowls of stew, but there certainly are no menus. Luckily, however they had an ample selection of beers to help wash down this monstrosity.
Above is the graffiti decorated table cloth, and below is the decimation and carnage post-Chorrillana. Proof!
Quintay, Chile is an old whaling village outside of Vina Del Mar. The whale oil trade is no more, but its environmental impact and industrial relics can still be viewed in this small hamlet.
There is an amazing whaling museum that overlooks a spectacularly beautiful cove. Check out the pristine Pacific waters in this video:
There are numerous places to eat right on the water, (30 feet from the breakers). The views of the Pacific coast are absolutely breathtaking and the waves and the rocks provide a dramatic backdrop to some freshly caught seafood. I couldn’t stop eating Camarones al Pil Pil throughout my trip to Chile. It’s just a perfect dish. A boatload of shrimp cooked in butter with white wine, with a glass of local Casablanca Valley Sauvignon Blanc, what could be better?
The best market in Valparaiso, Chile is the Mercado Cardonal. You can venture upstairs above the numerous overflowing vegetable stalls to a whole galaxy of busy seafood restaurants. (Steer clear of the now-defunct Mercado Puerto in Val-po which seems to be closed down and condemned). We chose El Meson to dine at because of the view, but most of the 2nd floor restaurants had similar menus, prices and offerings.
Before arriving, my travel companions and I were caught in a mass protest for student rights, including tanks and tear gas. Opportunistic capitalists were selling lemons out of shopping carts to the crowds. Lemon’s acidic properties seem to negate at least some of the affects of tear gas. After the protests ceased though, and the crowd dispersed, many of the protesters adjourned for a late lunch at the mercado. Very civilized. After a hard day of protesting, there’s nothing like a hearty seafood stew to replenish you!
Just as chaotic as the protests outside is Curanto, which is a traditional seafood stew containing shrimp, mussels, barnacles, clams, a pork chop, a chicken breast and a steak. This dish cost approximately 8 dollars US and could have fed at least four people. They also provided a bowl of consomme along with it to dip your shellfish into.
Above was hidden steak. Yup, that’s right! After digging through barnacles and clams and pork-chops and chicken, there was a grilled steak hidden in the bottom of the bowl. I was NOT hungry for dinner in the evening.
How was it? Honestly it was a meat overload. Too many land and sea animals ingested at one sitting. I felt like I ate Noah’s Ark. Also the clams and mussels added way too much grit to really enjoy the dish. The consomme on the side proved indispensable to wash off sediment.
The highlight here was the traditional Chilean conger eel soup, Caldillo de Congrio. So light and flavorful:
Also the clams and cheese appetizer was another winner. The Machas a la Parmesan which seem to be ubiquitously on every menu in Chile. Whoever said not to combine cheese and seafood?
Behold one of the greatest all-time dishes, Camarones al Pil Pil. A clay bowl overflowing with shrimp in a butter, wine, paprika and garlic sauce. According to Chileans, a very traditional dish to order in the bustling seaside city, former residence of poet Pablo Neruda and Unesco World heritage site Valparaiso (or Val-po) Chile. Gaze upon its buttery glory!
This was at Los Portenos (Valdivia 169) down dockside in Val-po right next to the bombed-out fish market. It seems as though the main city seafood market Mercado Puerto is closed down with a few lonely fish mongers left in a back alley outside the main building down the street. Note to the 2010 Lonely Planet: South America on a Shoe String– please update this information immediately so other travelers don’t have to experience this supreme buzzkill first-hand. The restaurant Los Portenos however, was amazing. No frills, walls covered with anchors and buoys and seemingly a 100% local clientele… And again, the Camarones al Pil Pil. Here’s some video:
Another amazing treat here was the clam stew, which featured the gigantic local clams, which my traveling companions the “New Ruda’s” and I dubbed ‘ham clams’ because the color, texture, and taste of these shellfish are distinctly clammy and hammy. They are gigantic too.
A trip to South America wouldn’t be complete without some Empanadas. Twelve of these bad boys cost about 3 bucks US. No one really knows the precise origins of the delectable puffed pockets but Italians claim it is the South American take on the calzone.
This was just from a local mom and pop shop next to some hot springs at the foot of the Andes Mountains. Yum.