But gastronomic adventure isn't limited to BordeRio. Upscale
eateries are popping up all over town. "A lot of people have
traveled to Buenos Aires, to Lima, to Europe," observes Chilean
chef Carlo von Mühlenbrock. "They come back to Santiago and they
expect more. That means the restaurants here can't get away with
what they got away with before."
Osadía, von Mühlenbrock's stylish new restaurant, was the perfect
place to celebrate my 40th. Joining us at our table, the dashing
29-year-old chef told us how his well-to-do family originally
frowned on his decision to go into the restaurant biz. "Their image
of a chef was this fat guy who would come out of the kitchen every
once in a while to smoke a cigarette. And a restaurant was a place
where you would go to get steak and French fries." Today, von
Mühlenbrock is something of a poster boy for Santiago's gourmet
set, appearing on TV, writing a food column for a glossy magazine,
and giving cooking classes in a teaching kitchen in the
Osadía's eclectic seasonal menu ventures far from steak and fries:
Peruvian ceviche, seafood ravioli, and fish, chicken, pork, beef,
and rabbit, in simple but often surprising combinations (rabbit
with spaetzle, for example). The dessert sampler (which I had to
order; it was my birthday, after all) has a surfeit of mousses,
tarts, truffles, and sorbets.
The increasing number of non-Chileans moving to the city and
setting up businesses is also giving Santiago a cosmopolitan jolt.
"You've got French, Japanese, Spaniards, Peruvians, New Zealanders
- all sorts of people coming in," notes Dell Taylor, an Auckland
native who quit her office job four years ago to open the popular
Café Melba. "They're bringing new skills, new ideas, new standards,
and a diversity that simply didn't exist before." Her cafe, for
example, offers "exactly what a New Zealander or Australian would
look for": lots of light, good fresh food, and an informal, helpful
staff. And Santiaguinos have taken to it heartily: The lines at
lunchtime stretch to the street.