Limiting yourself only to places tourists go, like museums and major attractions, means missing out on some of the places to eat or shop off the beaten track that are enjoyed by Santiaguiños.
Knowing some of the intricacies of Chile’s capital can completely change your view of the city, allowing you to experience the streets like a local does. A good place to start is by skipping the city’s many glitzy malls and big-box department stores and opting instead to sample the wares of independent craftspeople who have created a new local fashion and design culture, lending to collections of one-of-a-kind Chilean shoes, dresses and jewellery.
Instead of the big agricultural and seafood exports like blueberries and salmon, seek out unique local flavours like the smoked chilli pepper blend used by the indigenous Mapuche, called merkén. Rather than playing it safe with Santiago’s incredible array of seafood sourced from Chile’s extraordinarily long coastline, sample delicacies like the meatiest, tastiest sea urchins you’ve even had, or traditional dishes like caldillo de congrio, a soulful stew made with conger eel. Pop-ups and closed-door restaurants called “puertas cerradas” are not generally known to many tourists, though for those willing to take a chance they’ll bring you up close and personal with Santiago’s culinary community. Being more modern and comfortable than many major Latin American cities makes Santiago easy to navigate, therefore some insider information allows exploring the lesser-known aspects of the city to bring you in touch with all of its authentic charms.
De jeunes chefs pleins de promesses, fraîchement sortis de grands restaurants d’Europe ou d’Amérique Latine, retournent chez eux pour insuffler une nouvelle vie à la scène culinaire de plus en plus animée de Santiago. Les restaurants temporaires et les puertas cerradas [restaurants à huis clos], les auberges clandestines sans licence officielle, sont devenus un moyen, pour des cuisiniers créateurs qui n’ont pas beaucoup d'argent, de se faire connaître et de s’engager sur le chemin vers un espace officiel. À Santiago des douzaines de restaurants temporaires et d’événements culinaires non officiels sont apparus ces cinq dernières années, organisés souvent, après les heures normales, dans d’autres restaurants ou dans des entrepôts abandonnés. Un exemple a été le très célèbre Come Y Calle, qui a organisé des soupers dans un parking requinqué, avec des plats innovateurs comme le longaniza - merlu en croûte de noix de coco dans une sauce au curry – et des cocktails avec du thé d’hibiscus, de la vodka et des coraux mous (fraises de mer). Si vous n’avez pas eu la chance d'y aller, ne vous en faites pas - il y en a beaucoup d'autres. L’un des meilleurs vient du célèbre chef Matias Polomo, qui a fermé son restaurant très coté le Sukalde il y a quelques années, pour le rouvrir ensuite en organisant des dîners de fête ambulants. On peut trouver le Sukalde Secreto, comme on l’appelle maintenant, à des dîners réalisés dans la salle à manger de la maison de Polomo. Vous avez envie de créativité ? Des groupes peuvent louer les services de Polomo pour créer leur propre 'dîner éphémère' ou événement privé à la maison, sur leur lieu de travail, ou dans n'importe quel espace imaginable dont ils peuvent rêver. www.sukalde.cl
A new trend in Santiago is to make everything locally, in small batches and as uniquely Chilean as possible. Everything. There are now artisanal sausages that sit on buns made from Chilean grains. “Garagistes” are making top-notch wine on a small scale in garages that rivals anything being produced at the large bodegas to the south and west of the city. While beer was once limited to industrial lagers, a flood of energised home brewers have turned their hobby into one of South America’s most important small-batch beer scenes. The handcrafted phenomenon also extends to men’s shoes. At a shoe shop in Barrio Italia called Padre Nuestro, they custom-make beautiful leather shoes. With hand-burnished leather from Chilean cows, you help design the model, the colour and the type of sole. Variations include Oxfords, Derbys and boots, as well as matching leather belts. Each of the elegant shoes produced is 100 per cent unique. The process isn’t quick, however, taking somewhere between four to eight weeks to manufacture the shoes, which includes final testing to ensure a perfect fit.
With thousands of miles of coastline, there are few places in Chile that do not have easy access to fresh fish and seafood. While farm-raised salmon in the south gets plenty of attention on the export market, in Santiago you are more likely to encounter lesser-known species in the city’s restaurants.
There’s congrio, the conger eel, which is used in the traditional fish stew, caldillo de congrio. Then there’s piure, a filter feeder that resembles a rock with blood-red organs inside, and is eaten raw or minced and served with rice. Chile's sea urchins, called “erizo” in Spanish, are a particular highlight and they rival those of Japan. They are enormous without any sacrifice in flavour. You can find them not just in fine dining and Japanese restaurants around the city, but you can also buy sea urchin at stalls or marisquerias (seafood restaurants) in the Mercado Central. Most of these restaurants, set beneath the more than a century-old ironwork in the centre of the market, have the same set of recipes, so you can order sea urchin in a tortilla, a Spanish- style omelette or as ceviche with just some lime and cilantro.
While Chile does not have as strong of a connection to its indigenous people as its neighbours Peru and Bolivia, a greater interest in endemic ingredients has meant a closer look at the relationship of native Chileans and the plants and animals around them. In the north of the country in the Atacama Desert, the aromatic herb rica rica has been used for generations for its medicinal properties, though now it’s finding its way into sweet recipes such as ice creams and pisco sours. From the south of Chile, there’s merken, a spice blend made from a mix of dried and smoked ají cacho de cabra (goat’s horn peppers), which is used to flavour soups, sauces and meats in Mapuche cooking. Piñones, the nuts of the Monkey Puzzle trees used by the Pehuenche, are being sold raw or toasted, and are even being used to brew beer. Gourmet stores like Coquinaria (with branches in Las Condes and Vitacura), stock many of these spices and ingredients in bottle form. The shops, which have attached restaurants, even sell cheese, sea salts and marmalade spiced with merkén, alongside other gourmet Chilean products like the creamy and floral Ulmo honey and premium extra virgin olive oil from the Las Piedras line.