Today, we finally got to check out Mercado Central and La Vega, two large open markets in Chile. Listed by National Geographic as one of the world’s top ten food markets, Mercado Central is known for its huge variety for fresh seafood selection. I think Frommer’s describes the environment of the market best:
“Lively and staffed by pushy fishmongers who quickly and nimbly gut and fillet while you watch, the market displays every kind of fish and shellfish available along the Chilean coast. Depending on your perspective, the barking fishmongers and waitresses who harangue you to choose their zucchini, their sea bass,their restaurant can be entertaining or somewhat annoying. Either way, don’t miss it, especially for the market’s lofty, steel structure that was prefabricated in England and assembled here in 1868.
They weren’t kidding about the pushiness of the wait staff at restaurants scatter throughout the market: the workers will literally ask you repeatedly to get food from their restaurant until you walk far enough away. Because Mercado Central is such a tourist location, the seafood IS expected to be pricey, but the quality is reported to be stellar. People on TripAdvisor had suggested that the restaurants on the outer edges were less expensive than the ones in the center, and some had suggested Tio Willy’s or Donde Agusto as good places to eat, but Tio Willy’s and Donde Agusto looked extremely touristy. Instead, we opted to try a small restaurant on the side called El Muelle 19. It was a tiny restaurant in the corner and definitely not as flashy as Tio Willy’s or Donde Agusto, but seemed to be pretty busy. We ordered ostiones a pil pil (scallops in a garlic butter sauce), machas a la parmesana (razor clams in a parmesan soup), and locos con mayonnaise (locos is abalone in spanish). To be honest (and I think it’s partially because our palates that are more used to Asian seasonings), though the fish was good, the way they prepared all our dishes was…very different…from typical food we eat at home. Especially the locos…the locos was cooked to be very firm and then topped with globs of mayonnaise on top! Much more mayonnaise than we knew to deal with haha. The ostiones and machas were good though–very tender, juicy and flavorful. C concluded Chilean food was not for her 😛
La Vega is also a huge market, known for it’s extremely fresh produce selection. The two markets are across the street from each other, so after we grabbed lunch at Mercado Central, we ventured over to explore La Vega and grab a freshly blended fruit smoothie (for only $2!!). I absolutely loved the ceiling at La Vega 🙂
There was also some people selling merchandise in a small street between La Vega and Mercado Central. What struck me was that many merchants were working out of not stalls or floor displays, but shopping carts! I guess as long as it works 😛
After wandering around the streets for a bit longer, we took the day off and relaxed until it was nightime. Apparently, in Santiago, there is a big display and fireworks launched from a tower around the middle of the Bernando O’Higgins avenue (think the equivalent of Time Square and the streets filling with people) to ring in the new year. Afterwards, people party and dance in the streets until 8am the next morning! J’s mom was super generous to invite us to her great aunt’s house to celebrate, which had an AWESOME view of Santiago’s New Year’s Eve fireworks. Though the streets were definitely not as crowded as Times Square on NYE, there was still a TON of people who came out to see the fireworks and dance afterwards! PS: I apologize for the quality of these next photos, but I didn’t bring my DSLR to NYE for safety reasons…so these will have to suffice 😛
After ringing in the New Year, we were lame and went home to pack and sleep, because tomorrow morning we are flying to La Serena bright and early! 🙂 Happy new year!!