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.
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.
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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.
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.