Lili Marleen could be described as the polar opposite of El Rincon de las Canallas, but it’s much more than that. The restaurant is nothing less than a surreal journey through time and space to a passionate tribute to the Kaiser’s Prussia, as dreamt and painstakingly created by owner Hans Dittmann.
Photo by Colette Bernasconi
Dittmann’s German ethnicity shines through in a few of his favorite things: 1920s Prussia, its cuisine, its army, military march music and Pinochet. Paintings and militaristic slogans fill the walls next to pictures of Pinochet and Chilean celebrities, including some left-wing actors. Military marches, like the song “Lili Marleen” about a World War I soldier’s sweetheart, play throughout the house.
The motif is otherworldly and at first can seem rather bizarre. But I started to fall under the Marleen charm as I delved into the tangy sauerkraut, delicate tartar and delicious goulash--all prepared by Mrs. Dittmann herself--and washed them back with a pint of Kuntsmann that their daughter, Gabriela, brought to the table.
Presiding over his Prussian Never-Never Land from behind the bar, Dittmann is keen to share his affection for the Kaiser’s Germany with “anyone who likes real Prussian food, irrespective of their political affiliations.” He says the restaurant never has any problems on dates like September 11th, the anniversary of the 1973 coup when the largest anti-Pinochet demonstrations take place.
The place undeniably feels more historical than political and is not without romance. But if you choose to steer the conversation away from sauerkraut recipes and towards politics, Dittmann will privately let you in on a couple secrets: many of the supposedly “disappeared” of the regime are actually living the high life in Argentina, and his friend Pinochet was one of the greatly misunderstood.
But don’t let the restaurant’s political leanings put you off of the food, because it is excellent. The menu includes German, Hungarian and Polish specialties such as tartar, goulash, hams and sausages. The dishes are reasonably priced, with a meal and beer going for CP$6,000 (US$ 9.00) to CP$9,000. The servings are huge, though, and a half portion of tartar at CP$3,500 filled me up.
After the Hun-sized meals, guests are treated to a nip of Mr. Dittmann’s robust homemade liquors for a bit of courage, before taking the disenchanting trip back out into today's Santiago de Chile.
Julio Prado 759
Telephone (reservation necessary) 341 6213
Metro - Manuel Montt