Casa Botha, Casablanca, Chile
There’s off the beaten path. There’s way off the beaten path. And then there’s Casa Botha … a resplendent Italian-esque restaurant that puts the gem in hidden gem. Discretely located on a stretch of highway between touristy Santiago and Valparaiso, Chile, Casa Botha is the brainchild of proprietor/Chef David Botha. He tirelessly spent an entire year building his dream restaurant from the ground up using reclaimed materials. Now visitors flock here for some regionally inspired, organic fare.
“I have been cooking since I was 5 years-old,” said Botha. “My Scottish granny taught me how to cook and bake.” Botha may have been bitten by the culinary bug early, but didn’t decide to become a chef until later in life. Botha’s previous claim to fame? “I owned a mining machinery company,” said Botha. “I designed rock moving machinery as well as hoists” -- including the one that was used in the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners in 2010.
Now, though – Botha spends his days coming up with creative menu items that showcase items hand-picked from his garden in Casablanca. It’s the ultimate green-friendly restaurant – in terms of veggies and solar power energy. “I have a passion to use everything that I grow on the farm,” said Botha. “I produce my own eggs, chickens and rabbits. I could not imagine a day with me cooking a few meals. It's a way of life for me.”
A quick check of the guest registry spotlights the diversity of guests who have visited Casa Botha – from India to Indiana. Many guests mention the same thing -- they stumbled across the place merely by accident and couldn’t have been happier.
“It’s a lucky find because Casa Botha is unforgettable,” said guest Mithra Amaran. “And Chef David is a character … he’ll dazzle you with his food and regale you with his stories.”
When you’re dining at Casa Botha … bring plenty of friends and no agenda. Two things to note: 1) Every meal is a leisurely experience and 2) The more, the merrier. You’ll often find Botha pairing wines between courses, giving tours of the grounds or even sitting down and breaking bread (homemade, of course) with patrons. “All the dishes are mine,” said Botha. The Prawns Piri Piri or Lamb Neck Stew are just a couple of his favorites.
“I think what I enjoyed the most was Chef David’s friendly attention to detail,” said Amaran. “He’s chatty and engaging. Everything that arrived at our table -- the gnocchi with blue cheese, the shrimp risotto -- was rich, decadent and made with love.”
If you’re an accidental tourist and want something out of the ordinary, you’ll find this blink-and-you-miss-it bistro to be right up your alley. From the spacious outdoor patio to the endless wine list, there’s a homespun quality that’s prevalent from the minute you walk in the door. Be sure to let Chef David know you’re on your way, though. It’s often a small crew or even a one-man-band operation – and Botha is proud of it. Thus, reservations are highly encouraged – especially for big parties. Like any good host, he wants to ensure your dining experience is a one-of-a-kind endeavor. And since everything is made from scratch every day – Lord knows you wouldn’t want him to run out of his world famous gnocchi or to-die-for desserts. The restaurant’s unofficial official motto? “We serve simple, honest food in a friendly environment” … and rest assured Chef David single handedly puts the friend in friendly.
Casa Botha: Route 68, Casablanca, Chile | +56 9 7431 2040
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