Bistronomy was not a word with which I was overly familiar so when I read that Santiago’s 99 was at the forefront of whatever the thing was, I felt I should investigate.
Disappointingly it seems to simply be another word for casual fine dining which seems a perfectly acceptable and clear term without crashing gastronomy into a bistro.
I’d booked to dine at the bar as had grown to be my standard practice in Australia. This proved a slightly mixed choice as while it gave a good insight into kitchen at work, the team didn’t look particularly at ease with the arrangement.
At times there was sense of them waiting for a reaction. I’m not prone to overly flourishing reactions (well, I am – but I only felt myself go properly once during this meal and there was a noticeable positive movement from all the watching chefs) so it was a little bit of a strange set-up.
Anyhoo, at lunchtime they offered six dishes from which you could pick a starter, main and dessert or just have the lot. It the smallest surprise ever recorded, I opted for the latter.
The friendly waiter chappy recommended a rosé wine to kick things off then a red to follow. I was happy with that. Both proved very good with the red outstanding.
Things opened with house sourdough and cultured mushroom butter. It was really good.
The first dish proper was announced in fast-paced Spanish which I shamefully couldn’t catch. My detective skills suggested it was a salad of charred avocado, shaved celery and candied walnuts. It was a nice fresh start to proceedings.
Things moved on to a dinky take on the classic chacarero sandwich with lomito-style pork topped with tomato, green beans and house mayo. This came with house-made crisps on the side. The burger bun was outstanding and the dish was a light and playful take on a Chilean classic.
The standout dish of the day was a potato salad with pickled onions and an egg yolk. I was invited to break the yolk and mix things around as the best way to approach things. It reminded me of the outstanding dish in this style I had on my first visit to Timberyard. This was every bit as splendid and more.
The next dish was described to me as cow meat stomach, but I’m going to stick my neck out and say it was beef belly rather than anything towards the tripe end of the market. This was served with an odd array of vegetable foams and purees, and some slow-cooked carrots. It was a good dish, but the textures of the vegetable elements didn’t make a huge amount of sense to me. Still, the flavours were strong.
We moved on to two desserts. Firstly there was a flan topped with peach sorbet, and an orange blossom coulis. This was good pretty fair.
To finish there was a layered chocolate pudding with white, milk, dark and bitter chocolate topped with a wafer and some passionfruit ice cream. It was a strong finish.
I rounded things out with my first espresso of my time in town. It was pretty good although very brightly citrusy.
So overall, 99 served me a very good lunch. There were some real highlights but the odd head-scratching moment. If I were to return I’d aim to visit for dinner as perhaps the evening service is where things come together with a little more assurance and coherence.
Blythe scores 99
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
3.5/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 16/20
I ate: bread and mushroom butter, 6 course tasting menu
I drank: Garage Wine rose blend, hoise red wine, water, espresso
I wore: action footwear
Total bill: 28,700 pesos
Address: Andres de Fuenzalida 99, Providencia, Santiago