A local in the town of Pucón offhandedly gave me some of the best advice I received during my three-week journey around Chile when she found out I was traveling to the remote island of Chiloé: “If you like oysters, go to a town called Caulín. Best oysters in the country.”
My eyes nearly popped out of my head. I grew up eating oysters on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, and I’ve taken nearly every opportunity possible to sample oysters from other parts of the world. Saying that I love oysters is akin to saying that Babe Ruth was a rather good baseball player. I could conceivably be convinced to give up my first-born child for a plate of delicious, freshly shucked raw oysters.
My friend Rachel and I met up in the port city of Puerto Montt in order to make our way south to Chiloé together. I promptly informed her that we were going to Caulín in search of these oysters as soon as we arrived in the island. Of course, I made this proclamation without knowing whether Rachel liked oysters or not. Also, Rachel was the sole driver of our rental car, so the fate of my date with some mollusks in this remote town lay entirely in her hands. Thankfully, she is almost as fond of oysters as I am.
As soon as the ferry from the mainland hit the island, Rachel and I hit the pavement of the Pan-American Highway, heading south in our rental Kia that vaguely resembled a toaster. Caulín was only about 12 kilometers from the ferry dock in the town of Chacao. Within minutes we saw a sign advertising “Ostras Caulín Restaurante” – Caulín Oyster Restaurant. The sign pointed us down a gravel road headed east, so off our Kia went onto the gravel. We rocked, rolled, dodged potholes and sheep, and threw up impressive amounts of dust. The road spit us out along the water, and at one point the road was so close to the water that they were nearly one and the same. Our toaster-on-wheels carried us on, though.
A small cluster of buildings appeared, many of which were constructed in the typical Chilote architectural style featuring shapely wooden shingles. This was Caulín.
The humble-looking Ostras Caulín Restaurante was on the water, smack in the middle of the town. We sat at one of just a handful of tables with wooden chairs and dark pink tablecloths. Large, lace-graced windows afforded a perfect view of the calm water just outside. Chamber music played softly over the sound system, and miniature replicas of Chilote-style wooden churches, for which the entire island of Chiloé is known, hung from the ceiling.
The menu offered plates of 15 raw oysters apiece, with a choice of small-, medium-, and large-sized oysters. Our waitress recommended the smallest size, so we took her word for it and ordered a plate of small oysters with a half-bottle of sauvignon blanc.
These little mollusks were simply divine. They had obviously been lurking out in the water just hours before they were plucked, shucked, and brought to our table. They were plump, had a pop full of fresh flavor, and weren’t overly briny. Within ten minutes of our arrival, we had polished off the first platter and ordered a second. Our waitress gave us a knowing smile and a nod as we eagerly requested platter number two. We blissfully slurped our way through the second set of oysters as we looked out onto the still, gray water across the street and momentarily contemplated ordering even more oysters for dessert.
As Rachel and I settled into our respective food comas, we made plans to come back for another meal on our way back to mainland Chile a few days later. I’m not an official oyster expert (merely a self-proclaimed expert), nor did I sample oyster all over Chile. But Ostras Caulín Restaurante serves up some of the best oysters I’ve ever had, and the bumpy side trip to find it was entirely worthwhile.
About The Author: Carla Rountree is a civil engineer, opera singer, and avid traveler based in Washington, D.C. She blogs about travel at www.theinconsistentnomad.com.