99 Restaurante, named for its number on the block, is a small place with a fairly large plastic enclosed patio for extra seating. Inside the tables are made of thick pieces of wood, nicely spaced and set with small cloth napkins, modern music plays in the background and a large open kitchen dominates the space. They offer a surprise tasting menu of 6 or 9 courses only with wine pairings available (a little over $33 per person for the 9 course tasting). A wine list is available and they will present you with a list of the foods and wines after the meal, if requested. Portion sizes are well scaled. They have been open almost 3 years and the staff spoke excellent English and couldn’t have been more welcoming and friendly. Sitting across from the kitchen provided a fun show between courses, although pacing never lagged.
Each table is set with housemade breads and mushroom butter. The bread is served warm, thinly sliced with a crisp crust and a light doughy interior.
A series of snacks are served before the menu begins. Lamb ham was dehydrated and topped with crispy dehydrated seaweed. The ham was chewy and dominated the seaweed. A fermented grape was topped with paté and sunflower seeds, which were the stronger taste. A mushroom broth was served with a crunchy stick made from local ingredients. It was mild and really crunchy whereas the mushroom broth was a wonderfully strong essence of mushroom. It was outstanding.
The menu started with a smoked fish and watercress dish. The fish had been smoked for 22 hours and was presented in a green soup made from some kind of leaves. The wine pairing here matched particularly nicely. Looking into the dish was a dark round that was a vegetable and the fish, which was smoky and salty was the pink chunk. The smaller round disks were sweet fruit like apple. Leaves topped the dish that added a crisp texture. The flavors were distinct and strong but blended nicely. My only problem with the course was the spoon provided was too big for the bowl.
Pickled onion was served in an onion broth and topped with a super thin crispy coated onion ring. The exterior of the onion was pickled and then filled with sweet onion mixture accented with a tad of cilantro. Again the various flavors blended well and worked with the wine pairing. It was an excellent offering.
Chochas with seaweed and cauliflower included fresh clams cut into spiral shapes. They were sweet and tender with a more delicate chew than many clams. The cauliflower was a mild purée at the bottom of the dish. It was quite tasty.
Sea bass was served with grilled and confit vegetables. It was very good. The fish was a fine flake with a mildly strong taste that cut well with the onions and other vegetables. The fish are from small fishing trips and delivered every couple days weighing in at about 2 kilos.
The sea sandwich was made of calamari and the bun was a brioche bread colored with squid ink. Sweet potato strings, red pepper and fruit topped with seafood along with a tasty sauce. It was incredible, very savory and full of flavor. It also worked well with the wine pairing.
Corn pie with beef tongue included corn in many forms – pastel de choclo (a sweet corn paste mixed with corn, milk and lard), paper of corn, grilled corn, popcorn and a corn in sauce. The beef tongue had been cooked in a water bath for 50 hours and was very tender. All the corn products were full of corn flavor but I particularly liked the thin crisp chip. It was almost chewy.
The pan con palta is a traditional Chilean tradition – spreading avocado on bread and topping with sugar. This course was a take on that tradition with a faux avocado of sugar filled with chocolate ice cream and avocado mousse served on great little rounds of toast. There was a clear gel on the plate that added a bit of tartness. It was a crisp, creamy and good dessert.
Violet, pomegranate and yogurt was a semifreddo. It was smooth, fruity and a nice amount of sweetness.
Raspberry and meringue was lots of layers and textures with a satisfying sweetness. The meringue added a fun crunchy chewiness to the rosemary accented raspberry interior. Another good one.
Final treats were a cilantro flavored macaroon and beet toffee. The macaroons really tasted of cilantro and had a nice chewiness. The toffee was sweet, chewy and outstanding.
We ended with a glass of housemade pisco made with herbs specified by the chef. It was a perfect ending to a wonderful evening.