we're in santiago now, just back from dinner. central santiago is a little confusing, it's hard to get the pulse, hard to get a handle on it. busy, cramped, small stores & "fast food" restaurants everywhere, but at the same time very reserved and civil, almost to the point of boredom. i can't really say why, maybe it was the shock in coming from patagonia back to a big city, or maybe that it was that our first couple of meals here paled in comparison to what we were eating in the south.
this evening we went out to barrio bellavista for dinner. barrio bellavista is the cultural quarter and was a lot of fun. there were street stalls, booths with local artists, lots of restaurants, sidewalk cafes, and boisterous student bars. walking around bellavista, i felt a lot better about spending part of our trip here. we ended up at a restaurant recommended by our taxi driver called "como agua para chocolate" (after the movie? probably, but we've no idea...) where we had a great meal - a big cauldron filled with chicken, smoked pork ribs, sausages and various seafood in a delicious broth, with a few veggies thrown in for good measure.
this is a country that's spoiled for good food, or at least good ingredients: lamb, beef, fish, and seafood are already really good and really fresh. sure, some places waste it, but most respect what they're starting with and do it well. in patagonia we had many good meals - sometimes eating the day's catch from the sound - and only one or two marginal. here in santiago we're not doing quite as well, but now we know where to go, things are looking up.
drinks... the pisco sour is the national cocktail, and has certainly earned it's reputation. i was skeptical about drink made with egg white, but made well they're great. the Shackleton bar at the hotel jose nogueria has had the best so far.
chilean wine has been our dinner drink of choice almost every night, and hasn't disappointed yet. standing out so far are the sauvignion blancs and carmeneres (a chilean relative of the merlot grape).
the beer scene isn't as bad as i expected. cerveza austral (made in punta arenas, patagonia) has some decent beers (the dark ale and calafate are the best) and puerto natales even has a microbrewery cerveza baguales that brews up a couple of good ales. here in santiago, though, asking for a cervesz is more likely to end up gettng you a marginal lager. kunstmann bock it's bad either.
not many decent coffee shops in santiago, but in a ultimate irony, starbucks actually brews a decent cup of coffee here... i hope the corporate overlords don't find out and make them start burning their beans.