Skip to the bottom if you want my sushi recs for Santiago centro.
Okay, first of all, reports of my vegetarianism have been overstated. I am not a vegetarian. I often say, “I don’t eat meat,” by which I mean, I do not eat mammals or birds. I draw my foodie line at the ocean’s edge, in the case where (unlike in recent memory), the ocean stays where it belongs, you know, in the ocean. I suppose I could eat river fish, too, but you know? It kind of tastes like mud.
Anyway, fish. Here in Chile, we’ve got it. With an enviable coastline and cool waters, there’s a plentitude of fish to eat, as well as a few varieties of seafood that I bet you didn’t even think were edible. I give to you the piure (the red sea squirt) and the picoroco (the giant barnacle). Except I don’t give them to you because a) I don’t have them and b) how would I get them to you?
So with all this coastline sushi seems like a logical idea, what with all the fish. Now I don’t know the ins and outs of what fish can and cannot be eaten raw, but the only thing that seems to show up in sushi these days in most places in Chile is that crabstick thing, shrimp, salmon (oh! salmon, in all its various thinly-sliced forms) and eel. Some of the sushi we get is fair, big balls of rice with a sliver of something in the middle (sold at convenience stores and the like), and some of what we get is made by people who actually know a thing or two about sushi, including one of my favorites, which is Korean-owned, and you can spy on what the giant groups that get together on Friday (or is it Saturday?) nights get to eat, and if you talk to the waiter, they might bring you some, or you can even order it ahead of time. This is the food that’s not on the menu, that the owner makes special for his regalones (favorite customers).
But sushi. We have it. In spades. Since I arrived in 2004, sushi has taken the capital by storm. You can see it in the malls, at indie restaurants, at Peruvian-Japanese restaurants, at the Korean stores on Antonia Lopez de Bello and even at my local minimarket, which is called “Spin,” though I’ve never seen anyone spinning there, and in Spanish, that comes out sounding like “speen,” which just reminds me of a ball-peen hammer.
My favorites for sushi below Plaza Italia (which marks me as a center-dweller, a Plaza Italia pa’bajo ingrate who wouldn’t know good food if it bit me. Except a) that’s not true and b) I don’t eat picorocos, so I think I’m safe from getting bitten. These are probably in no particular order, though they might be.
Japón (Japanese-owned, open since 1978) Baron Pierre de Coubertin 39 (ex Marcoleta) near Baquedano, also has tasty soup. Tatami seating is available, though it’s kind of modern tatami, with a place for your feet.
Duri (Korean-owned, lots of specialty noodle and seared fish dishes Calle Agustinas 984. Happy hour discounts.
Kintaro (Japanese-owned), Monjitas 460 (Bellas Artes) Tasty sushi, also has rice bowls including one with fried seaweed that is pretty great. They give you little warmed washcloths to wipe your hands before you eat. Nice touch.
De Los Reyes (Peruvian-owned, Agustinas 984, has the most heavily-discounted sushi prices in the evening, not much ambience, but fits the characteristics bbb (bueno, bonito y barato, good, attractive and cheap).
Platipus (No idea who owns this place, but the sushi is pretty creative. It’s beside La Casa Roja hostel in Barrio Brasil)
Baires (Chilean-owned, big giant place with lots of nibbles, but sushi is surprisingly good. Attracts a slightly more upscale crowd, has craft beers, etc.)
Got any other sushi restos you really want me to know about below Plaza Italia? Don’t even talk to me about that one place on Moneda in the arcade/galería that shall remain nameless. If you think that’s good sushi, you are not my friend. Or at least not my food advisor.
For my pizza pics, dig around the archives (ugh, I just moved, and I don’t know where anything is), or read what I have to say on NileGuides here.