Post Modern in Puerto Varas: Donde el Gordito

by Liz Caskey on June 9, 2009

 

Donde_El_GorditoPuerto Varas may very well be the “Portland” of Chile. It’s lush. It rains a lot. The town is steeped in Chile’s Germanic history yet laid back and modern. It has a stunning natural setting on the shores of the azure Llanquihue Lake with vistas of the conical Osorno Volcano. It’s a hip town that has gone green, as in organic vegetables and environmentally conscious peeps. And recently, it has joined the rankings of a serious foodie town. For only having a permanent population of 15,000, there are a lot of great joints, gourmet restaurants, artisan breweries, cheese, and sausage makers to delight residents and visiting foodies. You know exactly what I will be doing when not off trekking up a volcano or fly fishing: exploring the food.

On my last pass through Puerto Varas in March, I lunched at a favorite local picada, Donde el Gordito. Inside the old municipal market, this narrow, petit eatery seats no more 25 diners. The place reminds me of my great aunt’s living room: elegant yet slightly weathered wooden chairs, dainty curtains, ornate hand-painted plates. Foreign bills and coins, left as tips by tourists, are pegged to the wall.

The owner “Gordito”, affectionately meaning “chubby” in Chilean speak,  welcomes you with a warm look in the eye. He invites you into his restaurant, which feels more like his home. It’s really cozy. Tables are tight so you may rub elbows with your neighbors. No worries, everybody is here for the same thing: honest food and good vibes.

 Donde_El_Gordito_02When Gordito asks if you would like a pisco sour, please, do not even think about it. It’s a no brainer. As he shakes up these potent lemony cocktails, his wife will take your order. The menu at first glance has a dizzying amount of options. Just stick to the seafood–or steak. Although everything on the menu is incredibly fresh, Gordito’s brother, Alejandro, is the fish monger next door and reels in ethereal sea bass, hake, sea urchins, salmon, clams, and oysters every morning. 

Standouts are the towering gut bomb bistec a lo pobre, seared steak on top of a mountain of french fries, caramelized onions with a fried egg; the paila marina, a sort of Chilean bouillabaisse; a creamy chupe, casserole with crab or abalones; trout from the lake; for the adventureous, a plate of intense sea urchin tongues; and their most decadent creation, the grilled corvina, sea bass, with a crab sauce. Just a crab sauce? I don’t think so. Made with copious butter and cream and flambeed with a shot of cognac, the half a pound of fresh crab (per serving) is stirred in with a only a little salt to enhance flavor. When this hit the table, I had a flashback to old school recipes from the 1950s. Then it hit me, wow, it’s totally post modern!  

 

Portions are gigantic and prices are ridiculously reasonable. However, what makes this place is Gordito and his wife. They truly make you feel like long lost family. By the time you leave, hugs, kisses, and phone numbers will be exchanged. Maybe some foreign coins given for the wall. That’s my kind of dining.

Reservations recommended at lunch or with a big group.

Donde_El_Gordito_02San Bernardo 560

Puerto Varas, Chile

(65) 233-425

{ 1 comment }

Felipe Núñez June 12, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Muchas veces he ido a este restaurant con pasajeros, amigos y familiares. Y digo esto ya que como guía de trekking, generalmente ofrecemos alternativas de locales a nuestros huéspedes, sabiendo ellos que pueden confiar en las alternativas que les damos.

Sin embargo el tiempo ha traído grandes sorpresas a nuestra zona, no solamente para los turistas sino que fundamentalmente para nosotros. Es de esta manera que se han abierto una buena cantidad de locales gastronómicos, propiedad de algunos nuevos vecinos y tambièn de aquellos antiguos habitantes que ven en la comida casera, en las antiguas recetas alemanas, en la introducción de nuevos elementos, una forma nueva de ganrse la vida y han apostado por ello.

Una detenida visita y un atento recorrido por el sector que bordea el lago Llanquihue nos deparará reales sorpresas. La cocina varía, abriéndose a nuevos sabores, olores y colores. Se sale de la ruta tradicional o se la mejora, o se la renueva, etc.

Total, lo que falta no es imaginación

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