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Dec 26, 2010 01:43 PM


Patagonia is fascinating. Great scenery, interesting people, fantastic places, but not such great food.

Just returned from a 6 weeks and 7500 km roadtrip around Chile and Argentina in Patagonia. Here are the only few selected memorable places to eat worthy of Chowhounders (with GPS locations since many of these are not easy to find):

El Chejo, Quemchi on Chiloé, Chile (gravel road on coast), Fantastic king crab empanadas. 42° 8.6818'S 73° 28.4457'W

Chamaca Inn, Puerto Varas, Chile. Excellent seafood. 41° 19.0614'S 72° 59.1676'W

Como Vaca, El Chalten, Argentina. Excellent parillada. 49° 19.8287'S 72° 53.0573'W

Restaurant in Los Alamos Hotel, El Calafate, Argentina. Expensive. Excellent lamb asado, whole lamb spit roasted.

Club Britanico, Av. Pres. Roca 935, Rio Gallegos, Argentina. Classic. Hasn't changed since Bruce Chatwin's visit, though one waiter does speak English.

Restaurant Kiel, Chinquihue road, west of Puerto Montt, Argentina. Beautiful place. Good fresh shellfish. Overcooks fish.

El Viejo Expresso. Esquel, Argentina. Locals favorite for very good parillada. Hard to find.
42° 54.1765'S 71° 18.9594'W

Two great Careterra Austral B&Bs with excellent dinners for guests (and others?):

Hostel el Puesto, Puerto Tranquilo, Chile. 46° 37.5023'S 72° 40.6455'W

Entre Hielos Lodge, Caleta Tortel, Chile. 47° 48.0548'S 73° 32.1982'W

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  1. Thanks for the tips -- I was in Patagonia last year and I'd love to go back. The seafood in Chile and the lamb in Argentina can be amazing.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Seafood far south in Chile can be amazingly good or bad, all too often fish gets overcooked. And one tires of congrio (conger eel) and farmed salmon, which dominate to exclusion. The huge semi trailers, carrying 20 tons of salmon fry tanks from the fresh water of the mountains to the farms in the sea, careen down narrow gravel roads and can be very scary, like our logging trucks.

      BTW correcting an error, Puerto Montt, and Restaurant Kiel, is obviously in Chile, not Argentina.

      1. re: Thomas Nash

        Here's a picture of some of the sea creatures available in the mercado central in Santiago, and a delicious corvina with crab.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Ruth, I'm headed to Patagonia/Puerto Varas/Santiago in January. Do you have any noteworthy places to recommend?

          1. re: farmersdaughter

            I was with a tour when I was in Chile, so I don't have a lot of specific recs: some of the places we ate were specially arranged (at a winery and a horse ranch), and the others tended to be a bit more upscale/tourist-oriented than I would have chosen on my own.

            There are lots of recs for Santiago on this board. The central market in Santiago is a must -- there are varying opinions about where to eat there. Most people say avoid the Augusto restaurants (which have very aggressive touts) but I had that pictured corvina dish at one of them (on the menu as something crab "relleno") and it was delicious (and a big enough portion to share). We just walked around and read the menus until we found one that looked good. The king crab is very expensive in Santiago (and Chile is more expensive than Argentina), so if you are going to be going southward it might be a good idea to hold off (I got my king crab fix in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, which is in Argentinian Patagonia).

            Puerto Varas is a tourist town (it was the only place in Chile I bumped into another American) and I felt safe walking around there alone at night. I stumbled on a nice little crafts market in a big tent near the waterfront where there were some food stuffs, including some rather good locally made cheese (that part of Chile is dairy country). If you like exploring supermarkets, there's a good one in "downtown" Puerto Varas.

            I'm sure Thomas has much better recommendations!

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              We really liked Chamaca Inn in Puerto Varas. It is right across the street from the supermercado Ruth refers to. A bit away from the lake and it took us forever to find because the address, such as it is, was confusing. The GPS coordinate I gave will help.

              It was recommended to us by a (big) guy who clearly liked to eat we met in Tortel. He was from Puerto Montt and also suggested another place, which we didn't try, in Puerto Varas. It is La Olla just outside of town on the road to Ensenada. We passed it one afternoon so I have the GPS: 41° 19.6802'S 72° 57.1121'W. Also a fish place.

              His comment was that there was nothing as good in Puerto Montt as these 2 places in Puerto Varas, and I would have to concur. Unless that is, you are into the Hot Doggies Complejo (covered with an inch of guacamole and another inch of mayo) at the shopping mall food court (which has a glorious view BTW) or the dinner plate size Hamburger Complejo (same coverings) at a sports bar whose name I forget half way between the mall and the Hotel Grand Vicenza... their Hot Dog is 15" long and 6" high with the glop and has to be propped up in a stainless holder apparently specially designed for the purpose. We were wondering if this is the national dish of Chile. We didn't see it further south. Does it appear in Santiago? I have heard it does.

              Beyond that, I think I covered Patagonia rather completely in my earlier post...

              1. re: Thomas Nash

                I had dinner at La Olla last night. It was the one place that was recommended by all the locals, and every time it was mentioned the person would say “muy bueno.” It’s about a $4.00 cab ride from downtown and I’m pretty sure I was the only tourist in the place. The restaurant is huge and nothing fancy, but the service was very friendly and accommodating. It wasn’t quite packed when I was there on Thanksgiving evening, but almost. Reservations definitely recommended.

                I started with an excellent pisco sour (one of the better ones I’ve had in three weeks of trying them all over Chile). For an appetizer I had the cold king crab with mayonnaise. I couldn’t believe it when the plate arrived. There was at least a half a pound, maybe three-quarters of a pound, of shelled crab claws. The mayonnaise was homemade and excellent, but put on the table with the bread was another mayonnaise concoction heavy on the herbs and garlic that was just spectacular with the crab. For a main I had corvina with machas in a cream sauce. The corvina was a bit overcooked but the cream sauce was very well prepared. It was just that after stuffing myself with all that crab, I could barely eat half of it. People on one side of me were eating fresh oysters; the table across the way had a plate of the largest mussels I’ve ever seen; and the gentleman on the other side of me had a large bowl containing a variety of steaming shellfish in a broth. Wish I’d seen that before I ordered the corvina. Dinner, with a $10 half bottle of Sauvignon Blanc cost just over $40. Easy to see why it’s so popular.

              2. re: Ruth Lafler

                Do you have more information about the locally made cheeses? I have not seen them around.

                1. re: Ridge

                  Unfortunately, I don't. Everything I know I put in that post, i.e. that there were local cheeses in the craft market in the tent by the lake. I don't even know if the market is there all the time or only on certain days. I was there in September, so presumably if the market and/or the cheese are seasonal, it should still be the season.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    I just got a couple of interesting looking goat cheeses and what I think is goat ham from a little gourmet food shop in town. I will try them on the long trip home on Friday. Maybe I will post about them on the cheese board.

      2. I am in Puerto Varas for a symposium and have had some great meals at Chamaca Inn. I recommend it to foodies since the seafood is impeccably fresh and well prepared. And the people who work there are extremely friendly even if there were some language barriers.

        The first two nights I was on my own and went for dinner. I never left the first page of the menu. The first page of the menu has the cold seafood appetizers. Two cold seafood apps and two pisco sours made a very satisfying dinner.

        First night I got:

        Sea Urchin roe (Uni) with parsley onions and lemon. This was a huge portion. I don't think I have ever seen so much Uni. I was certain I would not be able to finish it. But I did. It was heavenly. My kind of food.

        King crab appetizer. A very generous portion of unadorned impeccably fresh crab. Served with a side of mayo and lemons. I just used lemon and a touch of olive oil that was on the table. Excellent.

        Next night:

        Mixed ceviche appetizer. Has shrimps, salmon and some other fish as well. The base of the ceviche was mostly lemon juice and the flavors of the seafood cams through.

        Fresh Abalone appetizer. This was unusual. The problem with abalone is that it can be tough. This abalone was not at all tough. It was extremely tender. It had a very strong vegetal flavor that reminded me of Lima beans or something. I have never had abalone with that kind of flavor, I am assuming it's related to the diet of the local abalone. I liked it but did not enjoy it as much as the other cold apps.

        Just went back with a bunch of colleagues for lunch. We shared a bunch of stuff:

        Got the Uni and Crab again. Fantastic.

        A hot app with scallops, shrimp and Parmesan, the seafood was very fresh but not my favorite combination.

        Empanadas with shrimp and cheese. These were excellent. Light and not at all heavy.

        Trout with almonds & Trout with garlic and chili sauce. The trout here is really fantastic. Perhaps the best trout I remember eating. The trout with almonds was an amazing combination, better than I was expecting. The garlic and chili version was not spicy and very good as well. Both versions had a good dose of butter (but not too much) that brought out the deliciousness of the fresh fish. We were getting quite full but I found it very hard to stop eating the trout because it was so good.

        "Conger" with chili garlic sauce. We assumed when ordering this that it was eel but it tasted more like Ling cod. It was very good but the trout was the star of the meal.

        When we were leaving, the server who I thought may have been the owner hugged us and kissed us each on the cheek.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Ridge

          I saw conger in the fish market and I agree that what they call conger is a fish and not an eel.

          If you get out into the countryside and see the sparkling clear, ice cold rivers and lakes you'll understand why the trout is so amazing. I hope you get to the Petrohue rapids! Oh, and I'm super jealous -- that part of Chile is so gorgeous I'd go back in a heartbeat if it weren't so darn far away!