Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Santiago Dining - Donde Augusto

Back in 2008, my father traveled solo all over the world including Chile. It remains one of his most favorite countries to this day, mostly because of how delicious Chilean food is. And you cannot visit Chile without a stop in Santiago's Mercado Central where you'll find the famous marisqueria (shellfish restaurant), Donde Augusto.

We landed in Santiago International Airport (SCL) on Sunday afternoon and made our way to the W Hotel in the Las Condes district of Santiago, checking in around 4:30PM.

We decided not to try to do too much the first night since we'd be in Santiago for 5 nights, so we decided to just have a light dinner in the neighborhood (actually, downstairs in the same building as the hotel) and spent the evening in our room letting me run wild in the spacious W bedroom til I passed out for the night.

After waking up late and dropping off our dirty laundry (mostly my father's believe it or not) at a nearby shop, we hopped the metro at Tobalaba Station and took Line 1 to Downtown Santiago where all the action is. Subways are only 670 Chilean pesos (or about $1.40 USD) each way. But note to parents with strollers: there aren't many elevators at all. Hope you dads out there can handle carrying us up/down lots of stairs.

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After checking out a few of the unimpressive Santiago sights (Palacio de La Moneda and Plaza de Armas), we finally made it to Mercado Central where the wet floors and the smell of fish welcomed us.

My father went around the sides to take photos of the fish and mariscos, while my mother and I waited for him in the central hallway leading to Donde Augusto.

My mother is used to having men with strange accents approach her, but my father wasn't ready for the aggressive waiters swarming him like he was a hot NYU girl at a Columbia frat party. But since he had been to Donde Augusto before, he knew to expect the hard sales pitch even though he fully intended to have lunch there.

The menu is a bit overwhelming if you're not familiar with Chilean seafood but since the restaurant caters to gringos American tourists, they had translations in English in the menu. Super touristy. I honestly was expecting laminated menus with photos of the food in them, but my father said we had to eat there for a massive late lunch and that we'd skip dinner.

We started with a plate of Chilean erizos (sea urchins mixed with parsley, onion, lemon juice and a little oil) for an appetizer. My father was about to just dump all the onions and parsley into the bowl and spoon up the sea urchins like he was eating Campbell's soup, but my mother suggested we ask the waiter.

Apparently, you take a few sea urchins at  a time and put them on a new plate where you mix in a little of the other ingredients. Glad we asked.

For our main course, we all shared a mixed shellfish platter (mussels, calamari, shrimp and abalone) and a chupe with centolla (stew with Chilean king crab).

Now some parents are pretty cautious with feeding their babies new foods, but thankfully, not my parents. I was going nuts eating all this delicious seafood, including my favorite - centolla chupe!

You might expect the chupe to have only a tiny bit of crab meat, but the bowl was full of chunks of meat and only a little stew. And 1 bowl could feed 2 normal people (though  my parents eat like the adults on Honey Boo Boo). And also (I have to say it, because I'm half J---ish), the centolla chupe was a much better value (11,000 CLP or $23 USD) than getting the actual steamed centolla (49,000-100,000 CLP or $104-212 USD!!!!).

Including a large bottle of overpriced water, the bill came out to 42,900 CLP + 10% tip (just under $100 USD total). Now, that's super super expensive for a lunch for just 2.5 people, but given it was the only money we spent all day, so my father found a way to justify eating at the incredibly overpriced tourist trap. Plus, we were renting out our NYC apartment this week, so we had a little extra income for this trip.

As for me, I can now check the box on Donde Augusto and start to enjoy the real Chile (ViƱa del Mar, Andes Mountains and Pablo Neruda).

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