This is hardly a comprehensive survey, of course, but we’ve eaten enough meals (and browsed many more menus) to give a general idea of the food encountered so far:
Chilean food is rather unsophisticated. That is not to say you can’t eat quality food, it’s just that it is at the simpler and rustic end of the scale rather than haute cuisine. Most meals included some or all of meat, eggs, seafood, potatoes and bread. Simple food in hearty proportions, and very cheap in A$ terms. Small bread rolls are offered with every meal, accompanied by a small homemade salsa usually consisting of onion, parsley, coriander and vinegar called pebre. It’s more-ish. Chileans also really know how to cook cow and fish.
Argentinian cuisine is on the whole much more developed, though of course you can get cheap eats of the simpler variety anywhere. Our host at Hostal Caracol in Valparaiso told us that Buenos Aires also has some of the best italian food in the world, a product of years of Italian immigration combined with access to top quality locally-produced wheat and beef. So far we’ve stuck mostly to meaty meals, and we were lucky enough to find on our first day of wandering a superb mid-range restaurant that produces attractive and very tasty meals at very fair prices (Rosalia Parilla in San Telmo). We’ve eaten there twice so far: a meal of two large steaks (eye fillet for Joel, tenderloin for me) with grilled veges and sauces and two side dishes, plus a bottle of quality local red will set you back just A$60 total including tip.
Speaking of tips, 10% is virtually compulsory in both countries. Some places even add it to the bill automatically, others suggest it (sometimes aggressively), others don’t but it is always expected.
And everything happens late here. It is quite possible to get dinner before 9pm, but if you do it’s likely the only other people in the joint will be foreigners. If there’s anyone there at all… eating, socialising and drinking all start late and finish later. It is normal to get dinner around midnight and then stay out until 3am, and I’m talking for ordinary middle-aged and middle-class folk here – not young trashbags.
Some highlight meals:
In Santiago we did eat a top meal at a restaurant called “Patagonia”, which specialises in the delicacies of that southern region. I had wild boar steak with grilled vegetables (excellent though a little tough) and Joel had grilled beef steak. Total cost for two including a bottle of really good red wine and tip: $A70.
Breakfast on our first day in Buenos Aires. Looking for a simple meal (lunch, really, as it was midday) we went to an outdoor cafe adjoining the busy Av. 9 Julio in Centro that was just around the corner from our hostel. I chose a steak sandwich with salad, cheese and egg, and was not prepared for the huge plate that arrived! The beef steak on this simple “sandwich” was so rich and flavoursome you could taste it before the fork hit your mouth, overall it was a simple meal but so satisfying. Cost of sandwich: A$6.