Miramar: Valpo's favorite seafood, topped with idyllic seaside views

Near the crashing waves, black rocks and hazy Chilean coastline at the sandy fisherman's bay of Quintay, fishermen mend their nets amongst brightly painted boats pulled up high on the sand under the wooden terrace of a quaint, family-run restaurant called Miramar.

Photo by Charlie Mountford
Photo by Charlie Mountford

An hour's drive south of Valparaiso, couples, families and fishermen alike find themselves relaxing at one of the region's favorite seafood eateries, as they gaze from the terrace across the beach and take in the briny scents of the Pacific Ocean.

Photo by Charlie Mountford
Photo by Charlie Mountford

Walk across the small beach and climb the sandy stone steps to find the sun-faded letters of "Miramar" painted on white plaster. Sit on the terrace to watch fishermen bringing their catch, still flapping, into the restaurant, or dine indoors on chillier days.

Some say eating the fresh, lemony Erizos (sea urchins) is like tasting the soul of the sea. One of Miramar's most popular dishes, which range from CP$5,000 to $8,000, the urchins are strong and salty with a peculiar texture and best eaten on bread. With whole lemons left on each table, you can squeeze as much juice on as your heart desires. A true Chilean delicacy, they “are the best I’ve ever had,” a Chilean companion exclaimed.

Photo by Charlie Mountford
Photo by Charlie Mountford

You won’t kiss anyone for days, but the Camarones Pil Pil (prawns with chili and garlic) are a knock out; sizzling in a hot clay bowl, the shrimp is covered in a deliciously potent garlic sauce. Plain rice goes very well with this dish, and the prawns are also available with other sauces, as are most other dishes.

The Manchas con Parmesan (razor clams with parmesan cheese) are sublime, served smothered in the cheese and bubbling in a rustic clay bowl. The Angula Pil Pil (baby eels the size of spaghetti strands) may sound intimidating, but with a light, subtle fish taste similar to calamari, they are delectable.

For the less adventurous diner, the battered Congrio (a white fish) and crispy, sea-salted fries make for a supreme, fresh Chilean option for fish n' chips.

Wash it all down with a chilled bottle of refreshingly light Quintay Sauvignon Blanc, a local Casablanca wine named after the little bay.

The service is a bit relaxed but no one seems to care as the patrons relish the scenery while they wait for their meals.

Photo by Charlie Mountford
Photo by Charlie Mountford

The bay is also great for kids; they can play in full view on the beach as you lunch, so bring towels and a shovel to make sand castles.

There is a larger beach nearby, a great sweep of sand perfect for a walk or swim in the summer after your Miramar lunch. To get there, drive back towards route 68 take a left into Playa Grande, about 1 km north of Quintay bay.

Miramar also serves dinner on Saturdays until 10; time your dining experience to coincide with dusk, when the beach's black rocks are said to turn pink.

In summer the waterside restaurant gets busy, so phone ahead if you can. Miramar is open year-round for lunch (closes at 5 pm).

Miramar Restaurant
Quintay, Chile
Open for lunch, 12 to 5 pm, dinner on Saturdays to 10 pm
Phone: 32-236-2046

Directions:
Driving from Santiago toward Valparaiso and Vina Del Mar on route 68, the turn to Quintay is well marked even about 20 kilometers before reaching Valparaiso.

After turning, continue down the Quintay road for about 20 km until you reach the steep descent to the fishing bay. Parking is available before the descent in an unpaved parking lot, with a few spaces down in the actual bay. Locals will wave you into a spot (pay when you return).

You can also take a 45-minute ride in a shared taxi (colectivo) from behind the bus terminal in Valparaiso (around CP$2,000), or try Transporte Quintay (Phone 236-2669).

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