I hadn’t particularly meant for this trip to feature quite so much fine dining, but when I accidentally stumbled upon Restaurant Tim Raue in Berlin, the game of trying to explore some of his fellow members of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants was afoot.
After the sublime Attica, the bar was set pretty high for the next contender, but having had such a wonderful time in Santiago leading up to it, I was optimistic that Borago (currently number 27 on the list) would crown my final evening in the city with something suitably spectacular. And I was right!
To start with the name, Borago means borage – the flowering herb – but apparently Boragó (with the accent on the ó) means something more dynamic: a call to arms to celebrate lesser ingredients. “Up the feckin’ borage, ya bams”, if you will.
Chef Rodolfo Guzmán certainly seems a fairly forthright chap from what I read before arriving and one not afraid to provoke the diner rather than always please the palate. I didn’t know quite what to make of this.
Chef Rodolfo was on the premises the evening I dined, supervising operations, tending to the lamb barbecue – of which more later – and paying visits to all the tables to highlight particular elements and ingredients. He was entirely charming throughout.
There was a fair parade of front of house and kitchen staff who visited the table throughout dinner. Front of house peeps introduced themselves by name: there were at least two Paulos, a Nico and a Sandra. They were all absolutely spot on in their chat, advice, enthusiasm and delivery.
There were options for either a six or 16 course menu, so I opted for the six. Did I fuck – I had the 16, of course. These came with juice or wine pairings. I’ll spare you the expletives and trust you to draw the correct conclusion.
First up we had their take on a chilenito, with apple and keffir arranged in a little disc. This was a nicely bright opener.
Next we had a two part dish featuring a cracker topped with shaved hazelnuts, picoroco and péwen, wedged into the top of a barnacle shell which contained an amazing chilled soup called pulmay. It was an incredible dish with huge fun derived by drinking from the barnacle shell like a cup.
We then had freshly baked marraqueta bread with keffir butter. The bread was outstanding.
We then moved to a highly artistic presentation of flowers and morels. The flowers were painted onto the bowl in a Van Gogh style and the morels were cooked in a seaweed parcel. The sauce from the mushrooms was added to the bowl at the table, then you were invited to break into the parcel and add the mushroom to the dish, mix with the roasted flowers and eat. This sounds complex and perhaps over-engineered but it all looked and tasted wonderful. The mushrooms in particular had a huge concentration of flavour from the way they’d been prepared.
We then had two seafood dishes with abalone and sea snail. Both were served in their shells, both sliced after light cooking. The abalone was topped with almond tofu ice cream and beach flowers, the snail by a fennel puree and sea stars. They displayed excellent cooking and were outstandingly good.
We then moved to a highly conceptual dish of “layers”. This featured rock vegetables and shard of “rock” ranging from light to dark. It’s a hard dish to explain – hopefully you get some sense from the photo – but it was one of those things you took time to savour each layer, each different mouthful as you changed terrains and depths and flavours.
We then had a river shrimp cake with shrimp tail, bright rock greenery and a spicy broth of kolof. This was another triumph of flavour and textural balance, with the wine match – an unfiltered chardonnay – working particularly well.
Next it was conger eel cooked al rescoldo – in the embers – served with rose petals and a traditional conger broth. It was elegant and quite splendid.
Chef Rodolfo then appeared at my table with a duck that they rear on their own farm that had been aged in beeswax and koji. This was served in the next course which was another riotously artistic presentation. The plate had been painted with a bramble miso with pieces of duck topped with leaves of red plum. The lightly grilled duck was outstanding and the plating just wonderful.
We then returned to morels with a jolly little dish of a morel on stick with a sauce of ileuque vinegar and some candied nalca-chicken in the side. This was fun and flavourful.
Chef was back to explain how the main course lamb had been cooked in an inverse position, initially very low and slow, but then finally in the intense heat of the fire in their front yard to crisp the skin. This was accompanied with a millefeuille of Patagonian tiny wild apples, which was amazingly fresh and crisp. The lamb skin was an absolute delight and the meat rich and so beautifully soft.
That was the end of the savoury elements, although the next course, called the black sheep of the family, was a good transition to the sweets. The dish was a little black sheep with a toasted marshmallow head, a body of black-shelled sheep’s milk cheesecake, apple puree and sheep’s milk snow. This was right up there with the Amaru goat’s cheesecake as my favourite dessert of the trip.
Having said that, both of the main desserts were excellent, too. First we had an ice brulee – a thin sheet of ice in lieu of torched sugar crust – with bitter plants from the Atacama dessert. This was complex, interesting and deeply satisfying.
Much sweeter was an ice cream sandwich topped with rose petals. It was stunning.
A final little bite appeared which was a fun dish called cold glacier. It had chocolate at its heart but also a dry ice of some sort so when you popped it in your mouth you were like a cold-smoke-breathing dragon. Such fun!
I was left to reflect on an outstanding meal and magical experience. Much as with Attica, this was a transformative evening of staggeringly good food, strong narratives about the connection between the food, the land and its people, and just a glorious performance of what can be done with food and drink delivered to the highest level of culinary achievement. Boragó fully deserves its place in the world’s top 50 and given the level of vibrancy and dynamism about the place, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it climbing the list.
I ate: 16 course menu
I drank: rain water, Opihr gin & tonic, paired wines
I wore: Hawaiian wear
Total bill: 130,900 pesos
Address: Nueva Costanera 3467, Vitacura, Santiago