Santiago’s first high-end restaurant opened only 20 years ago, under the direction of Chef Carlos Meyer. Named El Suizo, it drew on the various gastronomic influences of Germany, Italy and France that converge on Switzerland, where Meyer studied. After ten years he closed up shop, bringing a similar approach with him to his second restaurant: Europeo. To this day he continues to turn out some of Santiago’s finest foods, prepared in the classic styles of Europe’s great kitchens.
“Carlos Meyer is a name that has been known for 20 years in Santiago’s gastronomic circles,” says Europeo manager, José Riffo, without exaggeration. Year after year, Chef Meyer and the restaurant where he cooks daily rank among the best in Santiago. Chefs at Santiago’s other top restaurants cite him as the key predecessor and standard-bearer for the city’s fine dining.
Over the course of his 20 years in two of Santiago’s most renowned kitchens, Meyer has remained true to his training in old world traditions. “Europeo isn’t on the vanguard,” says Riffo. “Today there are many trends in Santiago toward modern food, but here we have a classic kitchen.”
That Chef Meyer does not bow to trends or fashion is evident upon opening Europeo’s menu. A full page of starters and two of mains implicitly reject the current global trend toward short, focused menus. The dishes are seasonal with new preparations and ingredients regularly introduced to the kitchen’s repertoire. According to Riffo, the specifics of the dishes may change from year to year, but the style of cooking and presentation has virtually remained the same throughout Europeo’s ten-year history.
A starter of smoked salmon sashimi seems basic at first glance – it´s name draws inspiration from a traditional Japanese preparation, but in reality it has more to do with Scandinavia, the thick rectangles of silky, smoked fish laid out over a brilliant white horseradish cream.
Mains hew even more closely to the great culinary traditions of Europe. Rich and gamey duck confit in ravioli so fine they barely hold together in a mild, nutty port reduction. Tender, beautifully cooked venison is wrapped in bacon, which imparts a fatty richness otherwise missing from the lean meat. A dessert tasting includes a salty, glazed apricot with rosemary and apricot ice cream among eight other dishes.
The Next Generation
Flavors at Europeo are subtle and traditional rather than explosive or surprising, which suits the subdued luxury of the dining room as much as the chef and his loyal clientele. “We have a style, a focus, a position,” says Riffo. “After 20 years in Santiago, we don’t need to change it.”
Still, Chef Meyer and his team look on the expansion of Santiago’s food world with pride and excitement. Santiago’s increasingly diverse culinary landscape has come to include modern techniques and unusual flavor combinations, an influx of Peruvian cooking and a renewed interest in the possibilities of traditional Chilean foods. Through all of these trends, Meyer has remained true to his expertise in the venerable traditions of the European kitchens where he studied for 20 years.
No longer the only gastronomic game in town, the team at Europeo relishes the competition. “It’s a good thing,” says Riffo. “It speaks to the fact that Chilean audiences are open to new trends.”
“The public has changed,” he continues. “They’ve traveled a lot, seen a lot, tried a lot – and now they’re open to the whole array of possibilities that you see in Santiago today.”
All changes aside, El Mercurio still ranked Meyer as Santiago’s top chef this year. Meyer’s old-world style not only inspired the birth and growth of Santiago’s fine dining scene; it also remains at its forefront, an institution as respected now as ever.
To contact Europeo, or make a booking:
Alonso de Córdova 2417
0056 (0)2 208 3603
This post is also available in Spanish