Peumayen; Restaurant Review

A dip into the food that was consumed by the first inhabitants of Chile. The restaurant focuses solely on ancestral cuisine that depends on techniques, preparation and ingredients that were established hundreds of years ago by Chilean tribes. Pairing this ideology with a modern kitchen and up-to-date twist, and you have the restaurant; Peumayen.

When making your reservation you have a choice of dining inside, upstairs or outside on the patio. A quick scan of the pictures online, I chose the patio as it looked the most intriguing. Our uber took us to the door, and we were greeted by the most cheerful and excitable waitress (who turned out to be part Mapuche) I have ever met – it was very infectious.

The patio was adorned with beautiful local wall hangings, succulents, indigenous statues, grey stone, dark wood and discreet tribal patterning. Additionally, there was faint tribal drumming music being played throughout the restaurant and patio which added to the primal and mystical air.

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There is a normal menu, or the ‘Menu Origins’ which is a 22 bite tasting menu (which of course we did). You have a choice of tasting menu, either Ground, Sea, Mix or Vegetarian. Tom chose the Sea tasting menu, and I chose the Vegetarian (solely based on the fact that the Meat and Mix had some pretty questionable meat on it). We decided to pair our food with a bottle of Lagar de Bezana Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva from the Cachapoal Valley and a tasting board of Chilean pisco.

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First course

Our first 8 bites were in the form of a bread board called La Panera. The boards contents went from Southern Chile on the left, working its way up the country with each bite, ending in a bread from a tribe in Northern Chile.

Milcao

Starting from the South (left), we had Milcao: from Chiloe Island, made from grated raw potatoes which are oxidised for 24 hours before being mixed with mashed potatoes and lard. This bite was edible with rather a strange texture.

Second is Catuto (also named Multrun) from the Mapuche culture made with peeled, cooked wheat drizzled on top with ulmo honey. I ended up giving mine to Tom as the sweetness was too much for me.

Third we had two Millokin balls which are little dumplings that are made out of chopped beans – one was green and the other was white. The consistency made me imagine that these balls had been pre-chewed but out of the flavours – these were my close favourite as they tasted faintly garlicky.

Fourth was Chopon: Chiloe dough made from mashed potatoes and chuno flour which can be either cooked on charcoal or fried. This was another close favourite as anything potato-y and fried is a-ok in my book.

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Fifth we had Po’e a sweet bread made from Rapa Nui made with Puka puka bananas, flour, pumpkin and sugar cooked in banana leaves in an oven or cooking pit. We were advised to eat this one last as it was very sweet. Personally, I can’t think of anything worse than banana bread.

For the sixth piece on the bread board was a hot salsa called Cacho de Cabra from the region of Trapi which we were to dip the next bread in. This salsa was made from aji peppers (absolutely delicious with the perfect amount of spice) and the name literally translates as Goats Horn due to the shape of the chilli pepper.

The accompaniment of the Cacho de Cabra was called Q’alatant’a which comes from the Aymara culture and is a flat bread made on hot stones. (q’ala = stone, tant’a = hot). The combination of spicy salsa and lovely crisp flatbread made this bite my favourite. I even requested that the hot sauce stay on the table for the remaining courses.

Lastly, was the Muquna (which is also from the Aymara culture) made from akaipi – a flour made out of quinoa and steamed – which is then stuffed with goats cheese and Azapa olives and served on top of a huacatay leaf (a type of mint from the North). Normally I am a big fan of goats cheese, but this one had a slightly unpleasant tanginess for me.

Tom’s Sea Menu

Starter

     – Cold cut of rose meat with garlic and parsley sauce, sweetbreads and crunchy corn.

  • Tongue pate on a bread base, pickles, pine nuts, honey and smoked cauliflower
  • Rabbit causeo with pickles, fried yuca and chuno potato with vinegar
  • Seaweed salad with smoked fish and smoked mussels dressing
  • Beef belly with raw tomato sauce with garlic

Main

  • Cylinder made of potato dough stuffed with crab and fish sauce
  • Creamy whear with potatoes and cilantro, fried fish with sea chimichurri
  • Conger with beetroot sauce and crispy potato

Dessert

  • Chocolate and huacatay cake with rocoto marmalade and papayas
  • Coconut pannacotta with a base of pumpkin seeds and caramelized pineapple
  • Sweet chochoca stuffed with seaweed jam
  • Chañar toffee
  • Cheri and chupilca ice cream

 

My Vegetarian Menu

Starter

  • Italian squash stuffed with pesqui maja, a garlic and parsley sauce and crunchy corn
  • Mushroom pate on a bread base, pickles, ground pine nuts, honey and smoked cauliflower
  • Goats cheese causeo with beans, fried yuca and chuno potato with vinegar
  • Seaweed salad
  • Eggplants with raw tomato sauce with garlic

 

Main

  • Cylinder made of potato dough stuffed with chopped mushroom toadstool sauce
  • Lentil and quinoa croquettes with dry chimichurri
  • Roasted pumpkin with fried eggplant and crispy potato with mushroom sauce and chocolate

 

Dessert

  • Chocolate and huacatay cake with rocoto marmalade and papayas
  • Coconut pannacotta with a base of pumpkin seeds and caramelised pineapple
  • Sweet chochoca stuffed with seaweed jam
  • Chañar toffee
  • Cheri and chupilca ice cream

 

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The taste of every bite on the menu was like nothing I have ever tasted before. And the textures were all new too. I’m going to be honest here, I considered myself to be enough of a foodie to cope with this experimental menu. Written out as above, it doesn’t seem too different from some ‘western’ food, but all the ingredients had been prepared in a way that my tongue was not used to!

Throw out everything you know about gourmet food and what it should taste like – and you’re halfway to knowing what it tasted like. One that stood out most to me, I think it was my final savoury bite before the dessert board, was the potato in a chocolate and mushroom sauce – it was bitter but sweet at the same time but definitely strange. I won’t be coating my potatoes at home in chocolate any time soon.

Tom’s highlights of the evening was the chañar toffee, which he described as familiar yet in another sense unfamiliar. Also the seaweed salad, he said, that had the strangest texture as it was very chewy but at the same time, not remotely ‘squishy’ with almost a prickly coarseness.

I think you have to be very adventurous to come to this restaurant, food palette wise. That being said, being able to see into the past of a country through food was a phenomenal experience, that I would definitely do again.

 

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