Barrica 94, Santiago, Chile.

October 2018.

Wandering the Bellavista neighbourhood of this sophisticated urbane city, we walked up the main drag Pio Nono which block by block became a worsening pseudo-american club (“Idaho”; “Harvard” huge concrete spaces) tourist trap, but we made a right turn into an interesting alley and ended up in ”Patio Bellavista”, a credible medium-scale cluster of restaurants and shops catering to a little less adolescent (but maybe about as alcoholic) crowd. We had a beer and then went looking for a good restaurant for lunch, first doing some tourism before landing in this place, highly recommended online, and by coincidence also right in the “Patio.”

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It was 230 on a Thursday by the time we sat down, the whole little neighbourhood having got busy with people everywhere. We took an outside table and enjoyed the prompt English-speaking service, but eventually found things a bit hurried, plates whistling away without comment and food brought likewise. The menu was eclectic but predictable and tending to Italian-American as things seem to do here in Chile.

The wine list was longer than most, and we were able to get a pinot gris (the whites in restaurants and wine shops here are usually strictly sauvignon blanc and chardonnay) from Errazuriz, a name we know from exports to Canada. It was fine: simple, acidic, and about $C40.

We ordered a starter and a main each to share. The starter was a special ceviche which was very nice with white fish and pickled onion exposed to vinegar and lemon, but served in sections along with lettuce, cut avocado, a carrot (which I ignored) and large-kernel corn which was weirdly mealy in the centre. Without that corn and the carrot the whole thing would’ve been just lovely with its very acidic and slightly oily dressing. We chewed through it, loving the oniony dressed fish and the avocado.

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Our main was an absolutely dazzling bases-loaded home run. We had avoided beef short ribs in Argentina because they were grilled rather than long-cooked, but here the dish (presented completely unaccompanied on a plate) was long-cooked and, we agreed, better than any short rib either of us could remember. Sweet, beefy, and perfectly meltingly tender. We made a fuss with the waiter who went away and along came the young-middle-aged restaurant owner. These ribs he said were sous-vided at 190° (Fahrenheit) for eight hours and then dressed with molasses and spices. He was was a New York guy who had found his way here and now had two successful restaurants.

(Pathetic to divulge we had hoovered our way through 98% of the short rib before it occurred to me to take a picture. This is what was left):

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We will remember the temperature and time (although you can get a similar effect at a lower temperature for a longer time), and could maybe sear the meat once it is done before serving.

Just about $C100 plus about a 15% tip (here they always expect only 10%) which is certainly at or below what we would pay for something similar chez nous.

Anyway, a surprise knockout dish in an otherwise above-average but simple bistro restaurant. We recommend this neighbourhood for wandering if you stick to the side streets like Constitucion and avoid garish Pio Nono. Most people might find Patio Bellavista to their liking, and if you end up in there and sit down at Barrica 94 for god’s sake don’t miss the short ribs. Food 9.5 (very selectively), service 7.5, ambience 7.8, value 7.9, peace and quiet 6.5 (outdoors but four drunk hooting 30ish females at next table).

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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