Finding somewhere to eat in a foreign city is always a challenge, especially if your Spanish vocabulary does not extend beyond “Hola!” and your new dining companions are accustomed to the epicurean scene in Singapore. I had spent several evenings eating at the excellent Peruvian-Japanese fusion restaurant in my hotel, but was eager to try something new that was somewhere within the bright city lights of Santiago. My friend had compiled a list of popular restaurants to try from Trip Advisor and was keen to go to “Peumayen”, so with complete faith in his judgment and with fingers crossed that we could secure a table in one of Santiago’s most popular restaurants on a Saturday night without a reservation, we set off in search of a new dining experience.
Walking into Peumayen felt like stepping into another world. Peumayen means “dreamed place” in the Mapuche language. The décor was unique with an “earthy” feel – soft muted lighting, wooden floors, dark brown furnishings and the main dining room was divided into smaller areas by wooden framework that resembled the skeletal interior of a house. The restaurant is an invitation to explore Chile’s culinary roots, which is reflected in a menu that combines produce, original techniques and preparation of food from the main pre-Hispanic cultures in Chile, albeit with a contemporary touch.
We were lucky to be given a table in one of the front rooms within the restaurant, so it almost felt that we were having our own private dining experience. Thankfully most of the service staff speak excellent English and are extremely knowledgeable about the menu and wine, so I just needed to sit back, relax and enjoy.
The menu looked simple with a selection of starters, several mains and desserts but the combinations of flavours within each brief description made me stop and ask my friends “What’s Rabalo in Murke with mushrooms?” No idea – let’s try it.
I love food. I love food served on wooden boards. I love exotic, creative, unique and delicious food served on wooden boards. Wooden boards with small portions of food had started to appear on our table and we had only just ordered. After some discussion between ourselves and trying to match up the samples on the board against the menu, we realised that the food in front of us was a free appetiser tasting board and we hadn’t even got to the starter course yet.
The regular tasting plate which offers the complete selection of starters on the menu is amazing value. All my life I’ve avoided eating sweetbreads or lambs tongue but we were all adventurous and prepared to try new things that we hadn’t eaten before. After all, I’m in Chile and I have a bottle of Carmenere on hand to wash it down, just in case!
The tasting board of starters consisted of:
- Salmon in ashes with creamy Quinoa
- Perfumed salad with Eucalyptus
- Octopus in chuno, orange, pineapple, squash and Luche
- Lamb tongue with green chili pebre
- Grilled sweetbreads with lemon marinade over Chilota’s potatoes and spinach
- Rabbit roll stuffed with black olives and pickled walnuts over an onion puree
- Robalo in Murke with mushrooms
It goes without saying that the food was delicious and beautifully presented. I liked everything but I think the rabbit roll was my top choice. Despite eating the appetiser, the selection of starters, a main course, we had come so far (literally!) not to finish with dessert. Why choose one dessert when you could try a bit of everything …
The items on the dessert tasting board were:
- Chapalele (potato and wheat flour dumpling) in chancaca sweet sauce and chamomile ice cream
- Quinoa bombon (chocolate with quinoa inside)
- Fried banana with maracuya jelly and Pica lemon ice cream
- Chilean hazelnut semifreddo with sweet figs
- Pumpkin cheesecake over an Algarrobo crumble
- Chichera Apple with Pinones crispy
- Quinoa with milk and Papayas
- Chuchoca in honey with Murta cream and Chupilca ice cream
Needless to say, I couldn’t tell you what “Pinones” or “Algarrobo crumble” were but every morsel was delicious. I think the standout sample for me was the pumpkin cheesecake but we all thought highly of the fried banana and ice cream as well.
Our culinary adventure to Peumayen was spontaneous and a complete surprise, but totally enjoyable and a memorable part of our trip to Santiago.