Organ Grind: A South American Food Journal Part 7, Sushi and Hot Dogs in Puerto Montt, Chile

If the latter part of the above title makes the hair on the nape of your neck stand up and your taste buds flee in terror to hide behind your uvula, then you have the good sense to find the presence of hot dogs and sushi on the same menu abhorrent. Actually, there’s no objective reason it aught not to work; good ingredients and competent preparation can work wonders in the defying of expectations.

completo

The completo in all its glory

Puerto Montt is a hub town. That’s all the descriptive verve I’m interested in bringing to bear on the subject, and it needs even less. It doesn’t exist to provide cultural diversity, delight to the five senses, or even cheap thrills, unless those thrills be related to the industry of prostitution. Buses and boats are the fuel that keeps Puerto Montt slogging along like an old, scarred grey whale through an oil slick. That being said, Puerto Montt could give a shit what I or anybody else thinks about it, and therein lies its wane charm.

Pukem

Pukem and its young clientele

If Dr. Jekyll and his alter ego had given it a go in the restaurant industry, they might have concocted something of the sort which I found on the menu at Pukem, a newer restaurant owned and run by a young chef.  One side of the list offers sushi: rolls, nigiri, sashimi, and various combinations thereof at very reasonable prices.  The other side offers a grab bag of Chilean culinary classics, such as their take on the hot dog, called the completo, consisting of a sub-rate, diminutive tube of meat in casing that may or may not be made of anything carbon-based, diced tomatoes and avocados, and a thick smear of the blandest mayonnaise known to man.  Save for the mayo and the deplorable quality of the meat it would seem to be an improvement or at least an interesting variation on a classic dog.  The result, though, is frighteningly nondescript to the palate.  It leaves no impression save a dull ache of despair at the knowledge that this be the most popular food item in all of Chile.

Salmon-nigiri

Salmon nigiri

 Being unapologetically snobbish when it comes to sushi, I eschewed sushi rolls and opted instead for nigiri of salmon, which came out well-presented and tasted pretty fresh, if a little over-treated.  Also, they gave me two extra orders on the house, a generosity I can´t quite account for given the  impassive indifference with which I was received, a demeanor shared by the old dishrag of a city outside, an  entity that wears its tears proudly and performs its function well.

Pukem
82 Egaña
Puerto Montt
Los Lagos
Chile

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About the author

Matt Fink - Fatt Mink

I grew up in San Jose, only 50 minutes away from S.F. My dad, brother and I came up often to visit family and/or to fart around, and whenever the car came over the rise on Hwy. 101 just after Candlestick Park, I could hear an almost audible "Click" in my brain. The blinding, beautifully rolling blanket of diverse urbanity spread out before our speeding automobile, coupled with draughts of the clean, cool air conspired to instill in me a growing discontent with San Jose. Add access to hitherto unknown strata of music, booze and food culture, not to mention pet-deification and testicular-separators, and I couldn't be kept away for long. Even after ten years of residency, the sight of a glistening pair of moose-knuckles swinging down Market St. still makes my heart swell with pride.