– “Excuse me, where in Chile exactly are these from? I lived in Santiago for 5 months and I never ran into them.”
– “Habla epañol?”
– “Si. Weón, biben Santiago pero nunca bi etos sándwiche’. S’benden en la ciudad o en Valpo o el Norte…?
– “Todos partes, carita.”
– “Bacán. Que lo mejor?
– “Con carne y todo po….bife, carita.
– “Dos, porfa”
I met an old friend yesterday for lunch to catch up on life and we decided to finally check out what all the Financial District hype about this place, Chacarero, was really about. We talked about boyfriends, studies, jobs and our future in the 20 minute long line that seems characteristic of the place (no one getting into the line seemed surprised at the length of it). The Chilean register guy who greeted us at the front talked me through what to get in that Chilean twang only comprehendible by those who have lived (and drank) in the country – apparently I overlooked this amazing sandwich while living in Santiago. Boy do I wish I hadn’t…
I did recognize the ingredients though: Delicious, thin Chilean pan amasado (kneaded white bread), crisp on the outside with a doughy, biscuit-like texture on the inside. Hearty but tender and lean strips of churrasco steak with not an ounce of excess fat. Palta, palta, palta, the protagonist of every Chilean dish: avocado. Creamy, smooth, slightly minerally in flavor. Brought me back to Santiago, stumbling home from a party at dawn, cracking open one of these (10 for a dollar) gems, popping out the seed with the twist of a steak-knife and spreading the flesh on a layer of bread with a dollop of tube-mayo and black pepper sprinkled over the top. Pan con palta was breakfast-lunch-dinner-latenightmunchy for me for 5 months. The flavor of the avocado spread in this sandwich was heightened to spicy perfection by a layer of green-chili aji spread on top of it and the two of these flavors together melted beautifully with the smokey char of the steak. A layer of mild, slightly spicypanquehue cheese dotted with red pepper flakes melted over the steamy-hot steak, while a round of juicy fresh tomato added a wonderful freshness and moisture to the sandwich. The most pleasant surprise of an ingredient, however, was the crispy strings of green bean running perpendicular to the steak strips. They were cooked and blanched perfectly and provided a wonderful, leafy-green flavor and a great snap-crunch to an otherwise dense sandwich. The textures and flavors of this thing went together beautifully; unique, complex mouthfuls with each bite.