Restaurant Europeo

“Four Young Santiago Chefs” by Liz Caskey. Eat Wine Blog, Marzo 2016

The food scene in the Chilean capital is sizzling and truly having its moment. The catalysts? A new generation of chefs who have trained abroad, returned to their country and are digging deep roots in Santiago. They have forged restaurant projects focused on Chilean ingredients and indigenous foodstuffs linking foragers, farmers, growers, fisherman, and food artisans to the table. They transform classic recipes with refined European technique. Menus are inspired, and change, by seasonality resulting in hundreds of unique dishes in a year’s time and a reason to return again and again. Each restaurant’s wine list brings small producers, organic wines, and terroir projects from north to south to the table. This uniquely Chilean style of locavore cuisine is not a trend. These trailblazers are inspiring chefs in training along with Chileans “revisiting” their own gastronomic heritage and they are here to stay. Here are four chefs, four food philosophies, and four obligatory, must-eat stops on your next visit to Santiago.

Alvaro Romero: Executive chef of the classic Santiago white tablecloth restaurant, El Europeo, Romero first spent time in Europe and then worked under El Europeo’s founder, Carlos Meyer. After a short move to The Singular Santiago, he “came home” to lead the kitchen at El Europeo, breathing fresh air and new life into its continental fare. His philosophy can be summed up as “highly refined homemade”. Alvaro is passionate about the producer-to-table connection and invests considerable time getting to know his producers: farmers, cheese-makers, even duck breeders in Casablanca. He believes this connection is the greatest gift being a chef has bestowed him: you know where your food comes from. On the menu, his love for stellar ingredients is brought together with purity, flawless technique, and clever flavor combinations. The constantly rotating seasonal menus are little melodies like the duck magret with a delicate almond puree and barely sweet quince sauce and then there are constants like the duck filet tartare. The wine at El Europeo makes an aficionado swoon. Alvaro’s strategy is the better the wine, the less the mark-up so top guns like Emiliana Organico’s G or a small terroir project like Pedro Parra’s Clos des Fous are at almost the same price as retail. Chef says, though, that his secret ingredient is love: “Anyone can learn a technique but love gives you that personal touch”.

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