Barros Luco was so fond of a hot beef and cheese sandwich that he ordered it on every visit. That sandwich is still on the menu, singled out so that tourists can’t miss it.
But I’ve overdosed on cheese in cafes and pizzerias in Buenos Aires, and I want something else.
The waiter says filete al cilantro is very good, and I choose that instead. The filete (steak) is marinated for 12 hours with cilantro, spices and olive oil. Then it is grilled and served with chopped cilantro on top and a rich brown sauce.
The meat is chewy and delicious. And I love the side dish, pastel de chuchoca. More like a creamy soufflé than a cake (pastel), it has a warm, savory corn taste because it is made with chuchoca, cooked corn that has been dried and ground.
Pebre, that ubiquitous Chilean tomato salsa, is on the table, along with tender little yellow rolls (sopaipillas) made with squash.
The waiter suggests that I go downstairs to see the private dining area next to the wine cave. The design is modern and minimalist, but the charm of Confiteria Torres is its age and history. Opened in 1879, it became a gathering spot for high society, intellectuals, artists, politicos, musicians and writers , including Chile’s illustrious poet, Pablo Neruda.
The confiteria moved from its original location in the early 20th century. As the neighborhood declined, business fell off, and in 2002, it was closed. Then a new owner took over and refurbished the premises.
Today the confiteria is a mix of old and new. The rococo pink façade is antique. The old oak bar remains. And the menu offers traditional Chilean dishes. Filete al cilantro is one of them.
It is a charming dish of light, eggy, yellow cakes studded with almonds and placed in clear syrup along with a mound of whipped cream.
The perfect finish is a bracing café cortado—strong coffee foamy with milk, and a nice change from Nescafe, which has long been the coffee of choice in Chile.
Confiteria Torres, Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins 1570, Santiago, Chile. (This broad street is also known as the Alameda.) Tel: (56-2) 688-0751. Open Monday through Saturday "all day," according to the restaurant’s card.