You know it’s summer in Santiago when long lunches give way to even longer asados (barbeques). Just like neighboring Argentina, Chile has a reputation as a haven for carnivores, so discovering Quinoa in trendy Vitacura was a relative shock.
It is a vegetarian restaurant.
It is also spacious, light, airy – all those things you long for when the days are hot and you require food that fills your belly but does not tip you over afterwards. It also embraces the theme of being a produce lover with pots of herbs on windowsills, fresh flowers on tables and a menu that shouts refinement and simplicity – in other words, the veges really shine here.
We ordered a beetroot lasagne and the Mezze salad main. Both were delicious and around $7000 each. Bread and dip were given at the start of the meal (love all the complimentary bread Chilean restaurants dole out!), and we both had natural juices (there’s quite a few juice options including detox).
Everything was excellent: the food, the staff, the decor … but the reason why we will return is actually for none of those. We will go back for the mindblowingly fantastic dessert, which was a chocoholic’s heaven so delicious that Luis, Emilio and I nearly hyperventilated eating.
As you may have gathered from my frequent blogs about food, I’m a bit of fiend when it comes to eating out, especially when it’s something exotic and flavourful like Indian cuisine. But there is an area where Luis and I are equally clueless and that’s – Chinese cooking. We have both only ever eaten a Chinese takeaway, usually accompanied by chips and a soggy wantan. Here in Santiago, the Chinese restaurant was one of the first “exotic” foods to really take off, brought here by some of the many first-generation families from Asia of which Recoleta, in particular, has many. To Luis’ friends and family, a meal from one of these elaborately decorated establishments is the pinnacle of exoticism and worthy of a special occasion, despite bearing almost no resemblance to what is actually eaten across China and Asia. Since being in Chile I have been lucky enough to meet from all walks of life, including from Taiwan, a country I honestly know nothing about except for the fact that it’s the birthplace of my friend, Amy (who you may remember from Pasteleria Lalaleelu). Amy really knows her food and she speaks Chinese, so who better than to initiate Luis and I into the wonders of Chinese food?
Last weekend we headed in a group to I-Ching, a huge second-storey restaurant that Luis and I have driven past a hundred times as it’s near our house. The place is BIG and almost forbiddingly so, with a water feature and an army of staff who direct you upon entering. This is important: Chinese patrons are always directed to the right which is characterized by large circular tables, while everyone else is directed to the left, which has smaller rectangular tables and Spanish-speaking staff. On the left you will find the usual recognizable menu (it’s massive) including all the usual dishes such as chop suey, spring rolls and even sushi. But it’s on the right-hand side where you must request to be seated, and it was a promising sign that when we entered this entire space was filled with Chinese diners. In this area there are three menus. There is a dim sum menu, featuring small dishes that are most commonly eaten in Hong Kong, there is the original menu (Chinese and Spanish with pictures) and there is a newer, smaller menu that has been on offer since August (Chinese only, pictures). Given that patrons occupying this side are Chinese-speaking, the serving staff speak Chinese and very little Spanish so expect to point to what you want!
We left it to Amy to order for the table, and many of the dishes that we tried were seasonal and not on the menu, because like many cuisines, Chinese food is regional and based around seasonal ingredients. Tea (free) was poured for each guest and frequently refilled; hot tea is what is usually drunk with a meal because it cuts through the oil in the food. Dishes were brought rapidly from the kitchen and placed in quick succession on the rotating raised plate in the middle of our table, the idea being that food is shared between all.
And the food?
YUM! It’s always a good sign when the chef is actually from China and that the place is packed with people who know the food.
“From my point of view, I-Ching changed their flavour after the chef came back from vacation in August, it was my favorite chinese restaurant, but since then they have changed some of the chinese chefs. They have to improve to reach the standard they used to be,” Amy tell us. Her other favorite Chinese restaurant is called Sheng Xing, which is a bit cheaper than I-Ching, and is located downtown.
“Both restaurants are good for certain dishes, they sometimes have similar plates for example duck, but the one in Av. España does a better job, while I-Ching does better fish. There are other Chinese restaurants with different styles, but I-Ching and Sheng Xing are the styles that I personally like more.”
The restaurant has some other bonus points. It’s pretty loud and spacious inside so children can make noise without really being heard, plus there’s an indoor play area to rival all others (suitable from age 3+). Car parking is free for the restaurant.
Overall, highly recommended!!!
For four, Amy recommends ordering a stirfry noodle or rice, a vegetable, a meat plate and several dim sums. Expect to pay between $10,000-$15,000 per person depending on what you order.
I-Ching address: Av. Independencia 1928, Independencia (closest metro is Einstein, 2.9km)
Sheng Xing address: Av. Espana 101-107, Santiago Centro (metro Union Latinoamericana)
If you live in Nunoa then you are SO much luckier than I am.
No, no, no – it has nothing to do with any of those reasons you are probably conjuring up right now. It’s actually because you live in close vicinity to this place: Pasteleria Lalaleelu!!
Run by Young and Amy, a husband and wife team from South Korea and Taiwan respectively, this is a shop that knows it’s cakes and takes them seriously. The couple met in Australia while studying French Cuisine and the French’s reputation for excellence, refinery and delicious pastries are evident the moment you step inside this small but chic shop located just steps away from Metro Santa Isabel. They opened when Amy was pregnant with baby Andres with the idea that everything on offer would be suitable for children, families and pregnant women. They use no colourings and offer plenty of sugar-free and also dairy-free options for the vegans. No corners are cut either – everything is prepared from scratch on the premises using seasonal ingredients. See that Raspberry Tart? That vibrant, rocking red is all from the fruit which Young has the skills to masterfully display.
The shop itself is small and simple but one of it’s highlights is Amy and Young themselves who man the store every day. They talk to everyone and when I visit they seem to know every customer. The serving staff greet everyone with huge smiles and, to be sure, everyone leaves happy. This is a place where the atmosphere is genuine and where families are welcome, just take a deeper look at the shop name, a mix of Amy and Young’s last names and Lala, the nickname of Andres.
But the reason to visit any cake shop is surely for it’s cakes and Lalaleelu does not disappoint. Highlights for me include the Jezy Limon, Torta de Limon and the so-good-I-want-to-marry-it, Devil’s Cake. For those stuck at the counter struggling to decide between winter fruits and chocolate, why not try them all by splurging on the Cake Testing option? There are also a variety of drinks, breads and other pastries to try.
Young is a master of his craft who serves a dazzling array that places Lalaleelu at the top of their game. Nunoans you have a good reason to smile with food of this quality on your doorstep. Definately worth a special trip.
Do you want delicious homecooked food that is also healthy? Do you also want to support a fellow English Speaking Mum? Or maybe you are looking for authentic Indian cuisine with ingredients brought all the way from the land of Ganesh?
I was lucky enough to try a meal a wee while ago and in all honesty, it was so good that I just have to blog about it! Sujithra hails from Kumbakonam (Tamil Nadu state), has lived in Chile for four years and has two children. She began this venture in order to bring the people of Santiago a taste of real Indian cooking (which we all know has been a bit lacking here!).
Sujithra brings ingredients, such as lentils and spices, to Chile and prepares her food in the exact same way she would at home. She soaks, grinds in a special grinder and ferments her dishes in order to capture the elusivity of Indian cooking that all of us miss when we leave a visit to her country. The process is so elaborate that it takes Sujithra extensive planning – particularly the fermentation – as the temperature of the weather directly affects the result. She is also particularly health conscious and prefers not to use oil or artifical colours in her cooking. The Masala Dosa, for example, is a delicious and filling tortilla-type food that Sujithra prepares by soaking lentils and rice overnight before allowing the paste to ferment naturally for 8 hours. This allows for the resulting batter to be filled with nutrients and the combination of rice with lentils allows for easier digestion in the body (which is a huge component of Ayurvedic thought). In fact, when you eat one of the meals, the order in which you eat it is highly important to ensure the full benefit of the nutrients are absorbed and then digested easily.
I think what I appreciate the most about Sujithra’s venture is that this is food from Southern India. Few people are aware of the difference in cooking across India, given that most of the Indian restaurants outside of India have a Punjabi influence and serve up the same sauce/meat/rice/naan combination. For the newbies, here are a few facts:
South Indian food generally uses more rice-based items as opposed to wheat because rice flourishes in the tropical and semi-tropical south.
Due to this rice content, food tends to absorb sauces so dishes have generally less thick sauce
Dishes made from rice and lentils include idlis, dosas, and uttapams.
Coconut is often added, for example to make chutney, and is a revered staple.
Dishes contain more seafood
Spices are generally roasted and freshly ground before cooking. They tend not to use the masala mix so many of us know, which is often prepared in advance.
Dishes tend to be more spicy than northern staples!
South India is a mixture of mountains and hilly slopes, tropical beaches and calm backwaters. This region is well known for growing spices, particularly cloves, black pepper, and cardamom.
Favourite Indian restaurant in Santiago: Saffron in Vitacura
Favourite thing to do in Santiago: Visit the Cajon del Maipo
You can order the weekly menu via the South Indian Flavours Facebook page. The menu changes each week but Sujithra can also made to order. The process starts a few days ahead of the weekend (it’s long!) and orders can be picked up from Sujithra’s place in Las Condes. Individual dishes and combination plates as well as South Indian sweets can be ordered.
Visit Pardeshi Tadka on Avenida Holanda 067 inside the little Galeria. The 0 in the address is actually super important (learnt this the hard way!) because it means it’s on the other side of Av. Providencia, closer to Costanera Centre.
Pardeshi is not five star dining. It’s quick, cheap food served on a few tables inside a small shopping arcade – BUT if you know your Indian food and are searching for something that is authentic to what they really cook in India, then you won’t be disappointed.
There aren’t many tables and they were all full when we visited yesterday lunchtime, but we were quickly accomodated. I ordered the vegetarian lunch which came with rice, salad, drink and parathas, for 4.400 pesos. The moment it was placed in front of me my eyes watered. I could actually see the cumin seeds on the potatoes, the color was fantastic and the smell alone transported me back to my stay in India in 2009. Each bite brought back memories: on the train hurtling through the countryside, squished amongst hundreds of others eating street food in the outskirts of Mumbai, eating on the floor in rural Gujarat with family while listening to Bollywood songs. It was absolutely delicious – and cooked without a trace of packaged sauce. Luis ate a chicken dish in a red sauce that had a bit of heat; meat mains I think are around 5.400 pesos. It was so good even Emilio gobbled his up!
Service was excellent. The chef came out to speak with us and the waiter was very friendly, efficient and even spoke English when he heard me talking. There was none of this “bad customer service” that you resignedly come to expect in Santiago – quite the opposite. We even received chai tea which came in little styrofoam cups exactly the same as in India! I love chai and haven’t been able to replicate the flavour since, and so a sip of this brought out a few tears. Maybe all this sounds like an extreme reaction – I’m not Indian after all – but I spent half a year in that beautiful country and it seems like a world ago, especially now that my life has since changed so much . Nothing prepares you for a visit to India, but nothing prepares you for when you leave either. Your never quite the same once you’ve experienced having all five senses truly working. There is just no comparison with culture shock – Chile is so tame in comparison!!
This is not a sponsored post, either. I’m raving because I’m genuinely impressed. This is a must-visit for foodies!