If you’re looking for some decent Japanese and Chinese food all in one place, Bellas Artes’ San Hao Hwa is the spot for you. The inexplicably large, family-owned restaurant has been in business since 1976 and combines familiar Chilean-style Chinese dishes with a full sushi bar.
Photo by Beth Costigan
The décor alone makes it worth a visit. The high ceilings are composed of numerous white tiles, all featuring a carved dragon design. There are two large non-smoking dining rooms, one of which includes a live, caged parakeet (make sure you go by the restrooms to check out the bird’s mini-paradise), a smoking section, the sushi bar and a regular bar with a variety of imported beers.
Additional decorations include obvious Chinese restaurant staples such as the lucky waving cat and bamboo, as well as unique trinkets like a case of ceramic geisha statues and a functioning fountain next to the pet bird.
Owner Cí, spoke very little Spanish and was translated by her 6-year-old daughter. She explained that San Hao Hwa, which means “Prosperity,” has been passed down through generations, from her Chinese grandmother who originally opened the place.
The Chinese food selection is extensive and less greasy than the average Chinese food served here in South America, with lots of typical comida China dishes such as chapsui, fried rice and plentiful meat servings with various sauces.
As for the sushi, the server recommended the palta roll (CP$3,600/ US$6.36) which, of course, had a heavy dose of cream cheese as well as avocado and salmon.
The fish was fresh and the wasabi was carefully crafted in the shape of a plant leaf. Compared to other local Japanese restaurants, the sushi was definitely subpar. There was an excess of hardened rice surrounding the otherwise delicate fish and the roll was far from uniformly put together.
Despite the unextraordinary food, the wait staff was attentive and the atmosphere felt classy for the low prices. Sushi ranges from CP$2,800 (US$4.95) to CP$26,250 (US$46.50) for a 6-person meal and the Chinese entrée menu ranges between CP$2,000 to CP$8,000.
The Friday-night crowd was diverse, steady and strong, filling nearly all of the tables in the various rooms. Businessmen chatted and spilled soy sauce as they ate steaming beef and rice and families munched on stir-fried veggies next to well-dressed hipster duos eating sashimi.
The kind staff, quick service and excessive Asian decorations make San Hao Hwa a fun place to eat on a night out. The food won’t be incredible, but it won’t be horrendous either. So don’t rule it out if you’re craving some chai mein and are in the neighborhood.
San Hao Hwa
Metro Bellas Artes
Lunch 11:30am – 4pm
Dinner 7am – 12am