I’ve had the pleasure of eating a lot of delicious food around the world this year, but this place struck me as so special because of uniqueness of the food, celebration of heritage, and the fact that if this restaurant were somewhere like LA or NY, the chef could charge 3x as much and be the toast of the town for innovation.
A badass female chef took us through Peumayan Ancestral Food menu on lovely Sunday. The restaurant concept takes indigenous ingredients and cooking methods from groups like the Mapuche, Rapa Nui, and other indigenous groups in South America and builds a multi-course tasting meal with all those elements, with bonuses.
Normally, I loath the concept of elevating “ethnic food.” For an Asian person, that often comes with the baggage and implication that waters down food and plates it in a fancy way to make it more palatable to White people, when 1) the food is good as it is 2) high-end Asian cuisine already exists that isn’t geared toward White audiences.
On the flip side of those politics, why can’t “ethnic food” be just as finely enjoyed as French Food and Italian food, with the same pomp and ritual? Especially when food with seasoning just tastes better? (Haha.)
I don’t think that latter stance was fully clarified for me until going to Peumayan.
An explanatory comma first, traveling to Santiago was my first time truly traveling in Latin America. My stereotypes about Chile mostly came whatever content I absorbed on the internet through time talking about how the southern cone of Latin America is so “European.” Luckily my friend Maria from Santiago complicated those notions and told me the history of her country. Still, I knew so little about complexity of the indigenous history in Chile, and how the Mapuche were the one indigenous group to successfully resist the Spanish conquest.
Peumayan takes the richness of that history and creates a high-end dining experience celebrating the ingredients and cooking of pre-Colombian food, and does so exceptionally well. I’m mad that the dining and food culture locally and globally doesn’t seem to have that on the radar at all.
Most of my travels through Chile and Latin America weeks later all have the same sad undercurrent as the indigenous culture as among the least celebrated heritages in these countries. Although there are exceptions, especially in Peru and I’m assuming Boliva and Paraguay, the present-day living culture, and food culture in particular case of Chile, it isn’t something that seems to pique curiosity, let alone as a part of the rich heritage of the country to cherish and value.
I hope Peumayan and what the chefs are trying to do here gets a lot more famous. A tasting menu for food this quality would easily be triple the price in LA or NY. I put this at the top of the list for a restaurant recommendation in Santiago.
Exceptional flavors from sweet to savory that I’ve never quite experienced. Everything tasted so earthy yet refined.
The above is the bread platter and amuse bouche for the first round.
Desert, with a lot of flavors of local Chilean wine.
More about the food.
More about Peumayan:
- Providencia Constitución 136 Santiago, Providencia, Región Metropolitana, Chile
- ~$50-70 USD tasting menu plus drinks