Borago: The most underrated restaurant in Latin America
Confused, happy, surprised, amazed and happy again. These are just a few of my emotions I had during and after my meal at Borago in Santiago. I had flown from Lima to Santiago for a gourmet weekend and Borago was the reason I chose Santiago.
Having been open for 13 years Borago is not a new restaurant despite the fact that it is just in the last few years that the people outside Latin America have come to know Borago. The focus of the restaurant is to display and preserve indigenous Chilean ingredients and combined with modern techniques it is safe to say that Borago is the flagship of Chilean cusine with Rodolfo Guzman as the ship’s captain. He has the tricky job of distilling the flavors of a country more than 4000km long into one menu with the huge variations that it contains while at the still time preserving traditions of the native Mapuche people. The menu is therefore naturally called Endemica.
As with most other top restaurant the evening starts with a nice glass of champagne to accompany the series of snacks. With the first snack I realized that I was completely screwed once again. I knew very few of the ingredients so writing about it subsequently is not exactly easy, so if I am not factually correct about the different ingredients, I am sorry.
Chienito of murtillas
A small “sandwich” with berries as the main ingredients as well as tart strawberries. The textures and flavors were amazing. The first foodie orgasm of the evening. Not the last of course.
Next up was a filled “Chilean rose” (copihue) with raw shrimps. The rose was much crispier than I ever thought possible and the shrimps were sweet and delicious as they were supposed to be.
Piroco, Pewen and Chilean hazelnuts. I do like a bit theatrics every once in a while and the serving of the next snack did just that. On top of a rock was a small piece of “bread” with shaved hazelnuts and inside the rock was hazelnut milk that you were supposed to drink after finishing the dish. With this the deliciousness that I had encountered on the first dish continued.
Of course they had a small independent bread serving. The hero of the dish was however not the bread but the butter. This was made of kefir as Rodolfo use to have this with his grandmother growing up. The acidity was amazing and it was basically just a small starter for the next dish.
Visually this was not the most impressive dish but I absolutely loved it. It was a strange marriage between rich umami from cep mushrooms and powerful acidity from kefir whey. To underline the umami was “stale” bread. It was an amazing dish both in terms of flavor and creativity. I absolutely loved this dish.
The next dish certainly didn’t lack creativity but it wasn’t a favorite of mine. Flowers served with an almond tofu ice cream. The ice cream was of course salty at it should be at this part of the meal the flavor was a bit to tart for my taste.
3 dishes in one. The different color “rocks” covered different vegetables of the sea from beachasparagues to the spinach and finally the luche. I nice dish but it didn’t blow me away.
With this dish I was blown away again. A sea urchin cake served with an incredible rich broth of kolof which despite its flavor had no fermentation. I loved the combination from the sweet uni, the umami rich broth and the crispy leaves. Of course the presentation was amazing.
With the first main I was to try a fish that I came to love, the conger eel which is another “fish” which can grow up to more than 2 meters. With this dish I was lucky enough to get the best part of it. The cheeks cooked “al rescaldo” and served with white roses and a delicious cadillo de congrio sauce. The fish was sweet and flavorful and the sauce was rich and delicious.
I was now to try a couple of the signature dishes. First off a grilled duck aged in beeswax served with red plum leaves. Brushed with miso the duck. A beautiful dish and the flavors were spot on.
The last main was an extremely “simple dish”. A piece of lamb that had been roasted on a cross over embers for more than 6 hours. This style of cooking is traditional in Patagonia but of course at Borago they have made small modifications for optimal results. The results were amazing. It was the juiciest and delicious piece of lamb that I have ever had and with an ingredient this good there is no reason to overcomplicate things so it was simply served with Patagonian “apples” on a dried leaf. I absolutely loved it. The lamb was juicy, the skin was crispy and salty and the “apples” very refreshing.
In my opinion the innovation in savory dishes is usually much greater than in desserts where most of the innovation goes into textures. I therefore often feel that the desserts are sub-par to the savory dishes at fine dining restaurants. The first dessert at Borago would prove me wrong which is no real surprise as Rodolfo started as a pastry chef. The dessert was called “the black sheep of the family” and already with that it showed great humor which was emphasized by being shaped like a lam which is only appropriate when the main ingredient is sheep’s milk. The dish was salty, it was sweet, it was spicy, it was burned and it was f….. delicious. Needless to say I loved it.
The next dish was yet again to prove that desserts can be equally delicious to the savory dishes. A “crème brulee” made with bitter plants from the Atacamba and a rose ice cream sandwich. I especially loved the ice cream sandwich with its flaky yet firm textures. It was definitely new for me.
To finish the evening was a small petit four with munia and lots of liquid nitrogen which meant that when eating the egg, you blew a cold “smoke”. Again a dish with great sense of humor and use of technics. A nice touch to end the meal.
The best things in life leaves you speechless. Borago did just that to me and at the same time made me feel surprised, amazed, confused and happy all at the same time. Like other World class restaurants, they are proud only to use ingredients from their own country and seeks to promote these through innovative cooking.
An evening at Borago is a complete experience from the moment that you step into the door. The design room is sleek and beautiful, the chairs are big and comfortable and which together with the waiters wearing sleek black suits gives the luxurious “French feel”, the wine matches the food which is of course very delicious and showed me ingredients I have never had before and unusual combinations that just seemed to work.
Like any other restaurant that seeks to push boundaries and be creative there were a few dishes that weren’t to my linking but that is OK when the top dishes are as good as they are at Borgao. Few restaurants seem to really surprise me the way that Borago did and in my opinion it well deserves a place among the 10 best restaurants in the World. I already look forward to bringing my wife as she will surely be mad at me if I go again without her. It was that good.
Chef: Rodolfo Guzman
Menu price: 170 $ for a tasting menu including wine
Style: Modern Chilean fine dining
Menu: Tasting menu of about 15 dishes
Location: Santiago, Chile
Website and reservation: https://www.borago.cl/