Varanasi – A Touch of India in the Heart of Santiago
Luis Felipe is one of the most unassuming men you could ever meet. A warm smile and kind eyes greet you from this gentle and yet passionate chef and co-owner of Varanasi; a new India-inspired restaurant in Providencia, Santiago de Chile (Av. Manuel Montt 983).
I had met Luis a few weeks earlier when visiting Café Cultura to see if I could find exceptional coffee in Santiago. He was exploring ways in which he could offer a unique coffee experience for his patrons – a good and worthy pursuit.
As I explored the coffee shop, Luis and I began to speak. For others who are linguistically challenged, you’ll be delighted to know that Luis speaks excellent English. As we compared notes, he shared his vision for his restaurant, a desire to use all organic products and provide a truly unique experience for his customers.
When I told Frank about Luis and his pursuits (remember, Frank’s passion is organic farming), he started seeing obvious possibilities too. There is a growing network of people producing and desiring organic produce, meats and dairy products. So, as soon as Luis confirmed that it would be a good day, Frank and I were off to a delightful morning of being hosted by our new friend.
Arriving at the restaurant, we were greeted by kind staff and a friendly atmosphere. Bright colors met us at every turn, with obvious touches of India wherever the eye lingered.
Right away we were offered some chai tea. I have never been a fan of chai. Some folks rave about it. I can take it or leave it, and usually leave it. I found out later that Frank is the same way, with perhaps more emphasis on “leave it.” But we wanted to be respectful, were certainly grateful and we both like trying new things, so we gave it a shot.
YUM! It wasn’t just me. Frank looked at me and exclaimed, “That’s REALLY good! And I don’t like chai.” Here he is with Luis, chatting over chai.
While they talked about organic produce and opportunities to help each other, I roamed around to explore the rest of the dining area. It’s very comfortable, with outdoor seating, a nice bar, clean tables and a generally orderly layout. It’s the sort of place you can walk into and feel comfortable right away.
After guiding us around again, pointing out special features and what he’s striving to accomplish, Luis had to return to focusing on his preparations for the day. Frank and I then took the opportunity to sit down and enjoy some of his creations. The first item presented was this very tasty class of jugo (juice); a fruit drink of piña, apple and green té, among other things. It was quite refreshing and tasty.
Then came the meal. It was a dressed quinoa salad with lettuce, zucchini and various other veggies and some things I couldn’t identify. A sort of potato cake was perched on top. I’m not averse to trying things I can’t identify, so I jumped right into what turned out to be a perfect light lunch for a delightful day in Santiago.
By the end of lunch we had enjoyed some wonderful conversation, great drinks, pleasant scenery and wonderful food, all for 8.580 pesos (~US$16), total. More importantly, we’d made a new friend in this wonderful country.
One should never be surprised about what you might find in Santiago de Chile. If you look hard enough, you can find just about anything … even India.
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