There’s a scene in the cancelled-too-soon show Odd Mom Out where the titular character finds herself at an elite omakase tasting menu with a group of Upper East Side couples. The other characters gawk as each seemingly ridiculous dish is placed in front of them nodding with wonder as they breathe in a certain type of air as a dish or indulge in three edamame. Jill Kargman, the actress who plays the outsider, tries to understand the hype — was she missing something? Or do you just “ooohh” and “ahh” because that’s how you act at these types of meals despite the fact that you just don’t get it?
As my family sipped rain water from the mountains in Chile — my sister look at each other was mild confusion as the waiter stared to gage our reactions. He described the water they carefully collected, transported and served at Borago in Santiago, Chile as sweeter and milder than typical water. But as he walked away, my sister and I burst into laughter — it just tasted like water. We immediately feared that this meal, the last of our ten day trip to South America, would end up being one big omakase joke that we wouldn’t get. And as our first course of a 16-course tasting menu arrived, our fears heightened.
It was a stick. A beautiful stick. But a stick nonetheless.
We looked at each other with a skepticism and nervous giggle before taking a bite — and then our eyes widened. It was delicious.
That’s how one of the most memorable meals of my life began and continued for the next four hours. Enjoying every bite, every minute of it, and also laughing at the pure pleasure of it all. Each dish brought new whimsy and wonder, making us question our previous understanding of food.
Stand outs included the deer crudo served inside a spherical crisp that split perfectly in half when you grabbed each side. We also loved the artichoke crisp, served in a way that looked like a tree, and the beeswax duck, which was carried around by the chef like a his precious baby.
Following the incredible meal, the chef took us on a tour of the kitchen and a visit to the outside bbq pit where they were cutting off pieces of lamb for the 13th course. But the real treat was checking out the test kitchen, which felt more like a science lab than a restaurant. It was exactly the type of place I’d seen featured on shows like Chef’s Table, with words scribbled across walls, dozens of plates set up to present each dish with finesse and tons of molecular gastronomy tricks and tips to help them get dishes like the pumpkin “cheese” just right (mold is kind of amazing).
The entire experience from start to finish was memorable and wonderful with a parting gift of a printed menu to take home to immortalize the tasting menu. Through, I’d be remiss not to mention one source of frustration that came when the bill arrived. We had been asked what starter drink we wanted from a limited list of four options — each selecting one as a fun way to begin. We were charged approximate $50 USD for these drinks without our knowledge or consent. I’d never experienced that kind of bill manipulation, which just felt kind of slimy after we spent hundreds on a tasting menu and additional money on wine throughout the meal. And unlike when a waiter asks you if you want still or sparkling for the table and then charges you for Pellegrino, you at least know when the fancy glass bottle arrives that, whoops, I’m about to be charged and you can send it back. That wasn’t the case with this, and it just left a weird taste in my mouth. So word to the wise, be prepared to either reject the drinks (which also feels not fun), or understand there’s an additional charge for something you may or may not want.
I hate to end on that note, but it was how we left the meal, which was kind of similar to how our experience began, which I forgot to note up top. There was some drama with our reservation time. I had booked our meal at Borago about three months before the trip, putting down my credit card number that would’ve been charged 50% for a no show. As soon as our flight landed in Santiago, Chile the morning of our reservation, I connected to WiFi to find an email that said our 8pm reservation had been changed to 10:15pm. What? I called immediately. They had said there was some mistake in the system, but they could honor our original time. Then they sent another email saying our reservation was at 10pm. Huh? My mom called back. They said I had agreed to 10pm. Not true. Ultimately, the we just said we were coming at 8pm, and they agreed to honor our original reservation. Considering our meal lasted over four hours, we were so grateful that we started at 8pm. I couldn’t imagine leaving there at 2 in the morning.
So my complaints seem to lie with management, which, as someone who now works in front of house at a restaurant, is a huge part of the experience. If management fails, it undermines all of the hard work of the servers and kitchen staff. The service and food were outstanding, but when it came to reservations and billing, there were some easily correctable problems.
When all is said and done, I highly recommend Borago if you have a single night in Santiago, just know these few little tidbits ahead of time, and prepare to have a fantastic time.
Av San Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer 5970
Vitacura, Región Metropolitana, Chile