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Saved: February 12th 2013
In the Center of Mercado Central
Seafood of every shape, color, and size are located here. And it smeels like it too!
Just about every decent sized city in Central and South America has a Mercado Central. It might be called different names, some might be pretty shabby, and some might even be worse. But one common thread is that local food, local people, and loco tourists will be there. We are no different. We are headed there today, after a 2 hour tour bus ride.
In Santiago, the Mercado is a landmark. It has a most unusual selection of fish and seafood. Samples are allowed. And walking the fish aisles is so popular it was made into a setting for local television. There are way too many touts, or barkers as we know them back in the U.S. The fishmongers are dicing and slicing, almost human vegematics. And we will find more than fish here, since they also sell meat, vegetables, herbs (legal ones) and fruit.
They say Mercado reminds most tourists of a British railway station. It was actually fabricated in London and brought over piece meal to Chile in 1872 for the National Exposition. Small food stalls and restaurants dot the perimeter of the Mercado. A rather amateurish crew of street musicians also perform for our benefit. The
We had a great soup here, thought the cauela is the national dish. And we met Augusto and his son.
food reviews are mixed, so we will use a little caution here. The pungent odor of exotic fish permeates the nasal passages. But it is mostly chaotic, lively and vocal here.
The lunch hour special is the conger eel, made into caldillo de congrio. Ceviche is another popular item, although my stomach says to start slowly, rather than dive in one day one. Since it is open every day of the year, I am sure we will be back. Not only do they open at 6am, they stay open late to treat hangovers with the famous Chilean cure, caldillo de mariscos, a tomato based shellfish soup.
We decided to eat at the famous Donde Augusto in the exact center of the Mercado. We met Augusto himself, and his son. We were seated in Manuel's area, as these guys are very territorial, probably due to commissions. We ordered the famous conger eel soup after a beer or two. We enjoyed the firm, dense fish, though it is called an eel. We then had a very medicore paiea, with soggy rice. But the bread and the beer were more than enough to keep us filled and happy.
We expected to see greater variety of fish and seafood. We did not see any lobster or abalone. Salmon was rather common. And we saw the ultra ugly and iodine stinky sea squirt, made famous by Andrew Zimmern on Bizarre Foods of the Travel Channel. We did not dare try it after a nice lunch. And we had to pay to use the toilet.
Fortunately, we do not have a kitchen in our hotel room. I certainly don't need razor clams or whole salmon in my room. But guess what comes after eating here? The famous Chilean late afternoon siesta! I have somehow garnered a suite with two bathrooms, sitting area, two flat screen TVs, and a 23 year old bikini clad maid. But she does not speak English so I sent her over to Mike´s room.
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