Viva Chile

Specialties: Owner Carlos Mena presents Viva Chile's pastel de choclo, left, a corn-crusted meat pie, and a platter of empanadas.
Specialties: Owner Carlos Mena presents Viva Chile's pastel de choclo, left, a corn-crusted meat pie, and a platter of empanadas. Miami Herald Staff

For years, going to a Latin restaurant in Broward meant Cuban or Mexican fare. Now that our population has diversified, we’re discovering dishes like Salvadoran pupusas (corn griddle cakes), Argentine asado (grilled beef) and Colombian ajiaco santafereño (chicken and potato stew). You can add pastel de choclo, Chile’s most famous dish, to the list. The country’s cuisine is represented by a small, charming Davie nook called Viva Chile, the only Chilean restaurant we know of in Broward. It’s drawing customers from Palm Beach County for homey dishes like machas a la Parmesana (pink clams with Parmesan cheese), cazuella de pollo (chicken stew) or congrio (cusk eel or kingklip).

Fragrant, flavorful Chilean cuisine melds the influences of native Amerindians with that of Spanish, German, Italian and other European immigrants. Arabs also brought their spices and herbs to this 2,700-mile-long country wedged between the Andes and the Pacific. Carlos Mena, a former hotel waiter and accountant from the seaside town of Vina de Mar, opened the 40-seat restaurant in 2008 with his wife, Maria Isabel Klagges, who is from Temuca in southern Chile. Mena generally works the front while Klagges and Chilean cook Jessica Olivia are in the kitchen.

Ambience: The red, white and blue flag of Chile is draped across one wall in the storefront restaurant decorated with mementos and pictures of the owners and customers. One TV is tuned to Spanish programming, and on Saturday night there’s live music.

What Worked

  • A basket of warm, house-made rolls, great with pebre, a tomato-based condiment, thicker than salsa, that adds a zip to just about anything

    Hot dogs on house-made rolls, served with tomatoes, avocado and house-made mayo
  • Empanadas filled with ground beef, chicken or cheese
  • Chilean locos – abalone-like mollusks (they’re snails, not bivalves) harvested from Chile’s cold Pacific waters from December to April and served with potato salad, shredded romaine and sliced tomatoes
  • Cool & refreshing palta rellena langostino – shrimp and chopped potatoes coated with creamy mayo and plated with avocado, lettuce and tomatoes
  • Pastel de choclo – sweet corn crust layered with shredded chicken and ground beef with onions
  • Decadent pechuga de pollo a lo pobre “poor man’s chicken” – grilled and topped with onions, fried eggs and delicious fries
  • Moist and flavorful grilled corvina
  • Juicy, thinly sliced churrasco
  • Torta de mil hojas “thousand-layer cake” – six inches high and layered with dulce de leche
  • A wonderful cake with layers of meringue and lucumo