The 10 Best Cultural Restaurants in Santiago: The Rhythms of Chilean Cuisine
The vista of Chile’s capital is like no other: surrounded by the white peaks of the Andes, the bustling metropolis is a vast mosaic of winding streets and tall buildings. The landscape of Chilean cuisine is equally exciting. Mixing Spanish influences with excellent native recipes, the freshest of ingredients with exotic fruits and fish, it offers tantalising combinations best enjoyed with a glass of acclaimed Chilean wine. Here are some of our favourite cultural restaurants in Santiago.
Bar Bajo Llave
Located in the hip neighbourhood of Barrio Lastarria, this small, cosy, and somehow dark bar is the perfect place to take a break from the bustling streets of the metropolis. The hidden and subterranean character of the location adds to Bar Bajo Llave’s dark and cave-like charm, making it the perfect place to combine a meal with the first few drinks of the evening. Locals drop by to enjoy a beverage they choose from the huge selection of national beers and wines. Of course, Bajo Llave also offers generous meals for the hungry: next to pizzas and tapas that fuse Mediterranean and Chilean cuisine, guests can also order more traditional meat dishes.
While Barrio Lastarria is the current It spot in Santiago. El Diablito was already there in 1984 and would not be an exaggeration to state that this restaurant contributed to the development of the now fashionable district. Famous for its traditional beers, local specialties such as pisco sour casero and the carne a la diabla, El Diablito is the perfect place to meet young locals in an alternative and laid-back atmosphere. A special mention goes to the decoration of the restaurant, somewhere between a cabinet of curiosities and an antique dealer’s mysterious shop.
Bar Restaurant Victorino
The place to be for gourmand hedonists, Bar Restaurant Victorino offers a menu made of the best dishes that South American cuisine has to offer. The ingredients selection is exquisite, their presentation simple but classy, and the setting of the restaurant is an absolute must-see: located in a maze-like antique house surrounded by historical monuments, Victorino is without any doubt the most romantic place to discover the delicate traditional food in the Lastarria neighbourhood.
Chile is famous for its wine and so it comes as no surprise that a wine specialist has made it onto this list of Santiago’s best cultural restaurants. Bocanariz is one of the capital’s most famous places to enjoy the best wine that Chile has to offer. Locals and curious tourist gather to taste local wines in a comfortable urban setting where bare brick walls and heavy wooden tables are combined with the seemingly ill-fitting but ultra cool crystal chandelier. A true gastronomic and oenological journey through the country, Bocanariz’s menu has been designed to perfectly fit the different types of wine that Chilean vineyards produce every year.
Juan y Medio
Juan y Medio is one of the best addresses to meet locals while enjoying the Chilean dining ambiente. This rather big and noisy restaurant is always packed with celebrating families and groups that come here to enjoy the tasty traditional food and friendly atmosphere. The family business builds its reputation upon over 60 years of experience. While the décor is functional rather than chic, the clienteleand Juan y Medio’s no-fuss attitude and no-nonsense traditional dishes make it a unique, and extremely authentic Santiago experience.
Mulato takes us back to the Lastarria neighbourhood. The concept behind the restaurant is simple yet admirable: to create a form of local synergy between the restaurant and the neighbourhood by using only ingredients that are sourced from the surrounding markets. This creates for a dynamic and ever-changing menu, with a guarantee of originality from the kitchen staff. Add some home-brewed beer as well as homemade bread to the meal and Mulato becomes the perfect address for guests wishing to sample Santiago’s local food.
Bar Restaurant Opera Catedral
The Bar Restaurant Opera Catedral is not the ideal place for a romantic and intimate candlelight dinner. Instead, it is the perfect place to combine food, drinks, and music. The setting is informal yet intriguing, and the restaurant is a magnet for young adults, indeed an integral part of Santiago's nightlife thanks to its blend of quality food, dance atmosphere and great live music. The night usually starts quietly with a mostly European menu. Then a concert kicks in and the temperature starts to rise. By the end of the night, the bar often becomes a gigantic dance floor. A pleasant surprise is that the second floor offers an elegant French restaurant.
It is true that Chilean cuisine is not particularly vegetarian-friendly. However, El Huerto proves that it is still possible to find original vegetarian food in Santiago. The menu offers a good blend of international cuisine rearranged to fit the credo of the house: healthy and tasty. The calm and relaxed atmosphere is perfect to enjoy some quiet moments and regenerate positive energy to tackle more of Santiago's treasures.
Located in the bohemian neighbourhood of Bellavista, El Republicano is the perfect restaurant to visit before going off for a spectacle at one of the many theatres of this area. Located in an old Chilean house, the décor is inspired by the golden era of the Chilean republican bourgeoisie in the 1970s; luxury and class meet simplicity and nostalgia in El Republicano. The three dining rooms as well as the bar convey this feeling of nostalgia and lost grandeur to the guests. The kitchen offers traditional Chilean food with a modern twist.
It would have been very difficult to round off this list without including a proper meat specialist. To pick out one of the many parillas (South American barbecue style) of the city is not an easy task, but a dinner at Ox is definitely a safe bet. This luxurious parilla serves some of the best, most succulent and flavoursome meat in town. Prepared with love and passion and accompanied with an impressive selection of wines, Ox is the perfect place for meat lovers with high expectations. Rumour has it that the chief parillero of this restaurant actually hails from Argentina.
Ox, Nueva Constanera 3960, Vitacura. Santiago, Chile, +56 2 2799 0260.
By Diego Velazquez
More from our South America Dining Guide: