10 years ago I visited Chile and had a very hard time when it came to meal time. We ended more often than not in the bar of the hotel or in the sushi shop in front of the office. There were many cheap but disappointing restaurants. Eating looked like a necessity; the pleasure associated came more from the company and the atmosphere rather than from the quality of the food.
Time has passed and things have changed, for the best! I would still not recommend entering a restaurant just taking your chance; you’ll definitely need some cherry picking. But today you can find all sorts of good restaurants in Santiago.
For some more pesos
Cheap places have become a very relative concept in Santiago. A Salad, a Sandwich or a Burger would cost you about 4 000 CLP, add a drink and a desert and you’ll get up to 8 000 CLP (I suppose it is still less expensive in popular neighborhood, but here, near my office, that’s what it costs). Now you might get lucky and eat something decent but most of the time you’ll be offered some crap that would be tolerated in Paris only in touristic places
That is really a pity knowing that for about 15 000 CLP you have gastronomic options with a full menu (starter, main course, desert and may be a drink). So take your time, go to the right place and enjoy the day lunch menu!
Classical big plates or innovative cuisine?
When it comes to the best restaurants in town you basically have two styles: the old Vitacura concept made of some typical foods, good quality, big quantity, nice service (though it has to be gauged at the light of Chilean standards) and high prices. In this category you’ll find the typical beef restaurants Ox or Rubaiyat and the Peruvian ceviche specialist La Mar. It is generally a bit gross (due to high volume the details are not considered too carefully the quality of the products and the quantity do the job instead) and you’ll never be surprised when you go you know what you’ll go for, and there it will be, no deception, no miracle.
And the more innovative cuisine with Chefs who are managing smaller places, proposing less options in their menu but changing more often. Best examples are 99 and 040 (yeah they use all their creativity in the cuisine, nothing left for picking a name so they use the number of the street they are located in!) Here you’ll find much more risks, savors, mixture, unusual local products; you’ll have good and bad surprises (hopefully more good than bad if you choose the place well).
If you’ve followed our blog, well you know which side we are 😉
Where to go if you only have a couple of day to spend in Santiago?
As a confidence, we’ll give you our Top 3 restaurants in town:
Number 3: Ambrosia, best for a dinner, we would advise to go for a meat with sauce. It lacks a bit of variety but it tastes wonderful so you shouldn’t be disappointed!
Number 2: 040, arguably Santiago best restaurant, very innovative, strong in tastes, high in techniques, we love it!
Number 1: 99, you can go for lunch for dinner whenever, we like the spirit of the place, bistro style, we like the innovation of the cuisine, sometimes it is not great but it is always good. Cherry on the cake, that is the best place for deserts in Santiago for sure! And speaking about value for money it is the best as well.
Now, if Santiago is your unique stop in Latin America, you may want to add Rubaiyat for the beef and La Mar for a ceviche but if you go to Peru, Brazil and/or Argentina, you should probably skip it.
To enjoy fresh, local delicious seafood, make a stop at La Calma.
For vegetarian food go to El Huerto,
For an ecofriendly kind of pick-nick to Cocina Planeta
For a burger to Capicua
For ice cream try Emporio la Rosa
For a breakfast / brunch welcome to Métissage
And finally to discover Chilean (and beyond) wines with great food, go visit La Mision!
There is a lot to be eaten in Santiago, enough to experience new kind of foods and ingredients. There is something here waiting for you. Whatever you like, you can find it. Sure we are far from the Parisian standards and I doubt any restaurant would deserve a Michelin star (I would argue 040 deserves it though). But the good news is creativity is sparkling every day a bit more, new Chefs are opening and reinventing the Chilean cuisine. The products are fantastic, the price still very reasonable. So feel free to enjoy!
And let us know if any doubt or comment, we’ll be happy to guide you in your choices.