A steep climb up from Puerto Montt’s teeming waterfront finds a simple brown house jutting from the cliffside, home to Chile Picante (Spicy Chile). Open for just a year, this innovative and off-the-beaten track gourmet lair is reason enough to make a stop in the city.
In this predominantly residential neighborhood on the outer belt of an industrial port town, most would not expect to find a culinary haven with bargain basement prices. And yet here it is, open six days a week for lunch and dinner, providing gourmet interpretations of classic Chilean dishes. Their three-course price-fixed menu is available for a laughable US$10 (CLP 5,000).
“People arrive here because they’ve heard of us by word of mouth,” Francisco Sanchez owner of Chile Picante told This is Chile.
“People think about gourmet food as something distant,” Sanchez said. “I wanted to try to bring gourmet food closer to people.”
Sanchez’s hope of democratizing gourmet cuisine is two-pronged; he uses local ingredients and dishes that people in the area are familiar with, and his prices are unbeatable.
Each day Sanchez lets diners choose between three appetizers, three main courses and three desserts. The menu fluctuates dramatically depending on what products are freshest in local markets.
Sanchez dabbles with creative presentation of classic dishes, like the utterly beautiful Arrollado de Malaya pictured above, inspired by a favorite Chilean countryside dish.
The area’s pitched streets may inspire fear in car-parkers, but diners who make it to Chile Picante get a much deserved pay off: radiant views of the bay, Volcán Osorno, and a backdrop of dark Andean peaks.
“I hope to grow, but I want to do so without abandoning this: gourmet food, good presentation and fresh ingredients,” Sanchez assured.
With a smile he added: “Nothing is fried here, you’re not going to find French fries. This is healthy food.”
By Gwynne Hogan