After reading the Chowhounds post few weeks back, I finally made it to Café Valparaiso in Berkeley for Chilean cuisine with 3 other friends last Saturday around 8:30 p.m.
The wine selection was diminutive (2 reds, 2 whites plus house wine), but had some interesting selection of other beverages (such as Chilean beer called Cristal which is a very light beer). The menu consisted of Chilean and Peruvian dishes mainly. We ordered 2 different kind of Chilean empanadas (cheese & corn, and cheese & seafood), a dish with chorizo and French fries as another appetizer, 3 entrees (Pastel de Choclo, Lomo Saltado and Carne Mechada), plus plantains with black beans as a side dish. I was looking forward to trying Chupe, which is another Chilean dish, but they did not have it that day. Carne Mechada was tender but not too memorable. Meat in Lomo Saltado was rather tough & chewy, which was disappointing. I was surprised to see a big slice of Pastel de Choclo served on a plate (looking like a slice of lasagna) instead of being served in a small individual casserole dish (baking dish). I thought the flavor of the dish itself was authentic enough, but not clearly the best one I ever had.
The service was quite attentive. A bottle of wine (Casillero de Diablo by Concha Y Toro from Chile), a pitcher of sangria (very interesting version to say the least), a bottle of Peruvian beer, 3 appetizers, 3 entrees, one side dish, plus tax and 20% tips came about $34/person.
Overall, I was not too impressed with the food itself, but I am willing to go back and try other dishes (and will bring own wine next time), even though it may be more of a sentimental reason to do so after living in Santiago for one semester . Thinking back, I really didnt care for Chilean food when I first arrived there, but then eventually grew on me.
I still need to try the Destino version of Pastel de Choclo that Melanie mentioned one of these days and will post the comparison when I do.