Christened by UNESCO as a world-heritage site, Valparaiso is an odd little paradise with many faces to match its many offerings. El Plan, the city center, and the old port neighborhood of Barrio El Puerto waver between dilapidated and cracked streets to beautifully checkered plazas and pedestrian walkways. The more spartan financial district boasts upper-end cafes and carefully crafted port vistas, a far cry from the plethora of bars and eateries that grace the colorful hills and older districts of Valparaiso.
Photo by Mauro Tapia (click for more photos)
But wherever you may be, fish empanadas and fresh seafood are not far here. Outdoor murals and colorful building schemes notwithstanding, Valparaiso is a must-eat as much as a must-see city for its delicious and endless seafood offerings.
Fish empanadas abound alongside churrascos and completos at virtually every small restaurant venue.
But as a daily rule of thumb, local Valparisians often begin their day with la sopa marina, a hodgepodge of shellfish and seafood served in a seaweed, garlic and onion broth. More often than not, one can find little pieces of chicken or chorizo added to the mix. Served at many picadas and typical low budget Valparisian restaurants, non-native seafood lovers might find this local delicacy (running between CP$1,500-2,500, or US$3-5), a challenge.
For the burgeoning higher-end restaurant scene in Valpo, fish appetizers and entrées are numerous and the real specialties on the menu. At Tutti-Qui on Av.Condell, a spacious two-floored restaurant with aspirations for quality Italian cuisine and atmosphere, the oven-baked lasagna and pesto pale in comparison to the fish fillet entrées. For seafood aficionados who hate to have their shrimp fried, the batter cannot hide the delicate freshness of the shrimp in this wonderful appetizer (CP$6,000, or US$11.00).
Restaurant Caruso, a gem among the seafood restaurants in Valparaiso, lays almost obscurely nestled on Av. Cumming on Cerro Carcel, past the prison-turned-park that tops the prominent hill.
Neat and colorful in the interior, with a quaint rustic theme of wooden tables and large wine glasses, Caruso possesses an unassuming atmosphere with a strong penchant for innovative maritime cuisine. Exclusively a seafood restaurant—and a slightly more expensive one at that—Caruso interprets traditional flavors and dishes in a notably experimental fashion.
Preferring a creamy take to a tomato base often found in many fish empanadas, the seafood empanadas at Caruso (CP$4200, or US$7.75) orchestrate a mix of fish into a strong and delicate flavor inside a flaky, croissant-like covering. A soft and similarly flaky crayfish strudel (CP$6600, or US$12.00), with finely shredded cangrejo baked in a creamy sauce inside traditional German strudel, could make one forget they were eating seafood at all with such subtle textures.
Among a long list of chilled white wines, a glass of sauvignon blanc matches particularly well with Caruso’s chupe de mariscos (CP$6,000, or US$11.00), a seafood casserole served hot from the oven in a ceramic baking dish. You may want to garnish it with a little merquen served on the table for spice, but the soft fillings under the slightly crusty exterior is tastefully fishy.
Caruso recently replaced an exotic and tasty corn gelato with a delectable raspberry offering (CP$2,500, or US$4.60). However, no dessert compares to their phenomenal coconut flan (also CP$2,500). Infused with coconut shavings, served on an inconspicuous piecrust, and topped with whip cream sprinkled with poppy seeds, this multi-textured desert will overwhelm your taste buds. The consequent euphoria may make walking after this meal a monumental task.
So fish lover or not, you may just discover the reasons and wonders of a seafood diet in Valparaiso. The fishy aroma of a fresh fish market, like the many in Valparaiso, may seem a little more inviting once you get a taste of Valparaiso.
Restaurant Tutti Qui
Av. Cumming 201
(56 32) 259 4039