by Cristobal Chavez Bravo
SANTIAGO, June 21 (Xinhua) -- Santiago's award-winning Chinese restaurant, Lung Fung, is so sumptuously decorated that it is in high demand not just as an eatery, but also as a movie set.
In fact, one of the first things customers see as they walk in is a giant replica of an Oscar statuette, a reminder that Chile's first Oscar-winning film, the 2017 drama "Una mujer fantastica" (literally "A Fantastic Woman"), was partly shot amid its lavish red, black and gold interiors.
"Years ago, only kings had the privilege of being served delicacies, but today our restaurant makes that possible for everyone," said Yuet Wong Chan, owner of the restaurant.
Everything was imported from China, including the richly decorated ceiling. Hand-painted lanterns and dangling silk tassels hang over the dining tables. Mirrors and lacquered folding screens line the walls. Elaborately carved pailous with golden dragons welcome diners at the entrance.
The restaurant has been frequently chosen by TV and movie directors as they look for an exotic and memorable film location. In the past year, Lung Fung has been contracted no less than eight times for commercial shoots, soap operas, movies and other productions.
For three days, Chilean movie director Sebastian Lelio and his crew shot scenes for "A Fantastic Woman" at Lung Fung, The restaurant gained popularity as the movie won the Best Foreign Language Film award at the 90th Academy Awards in 2017.
"When the movie won, many people wanted to come and eat at the restaurant," Yuet said with a big grin. Business has picked up between 50 and 70 percent since, he added.
Hollywood aside, Lung Fung is renowned for its traditional Chinese fare and more than 150 different dishes.
Yuet, in his seventies, was born in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. He came to Santiago in 1969 and, along with a friend, set up a restaurant shortly afterwards.
"When I arrived, I didn't know any Spanish, but slowly I learned," said Yuet, adding he liked living in Chile because it is "very tranquil and the people are kind."
That initial venture operated for 13 years. In 1982 Yuet decided to strike out on his own and opened Lung Fung, which is located near the capital's Municipal Theater.
Between 1986 and 1991, Lung Fung won six prizes at culinary competitions, two in Chile and the others in Brazil, Spain, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, respectively.
Over the years, Lung Fung has attracted a range of international personalities, including Argentine singer Roberto Sanchez-Ocampo (better known by his artistic name "Sandro de America"), Mexico's late comedian and TV personality Roberto Gomez Bolanos (also known as "Chespirito"), and Eduardo Frei, who was Chilean president between 1964 and 1970.
Today, Yuet and his Chilean wife Luisa Pinto, whom he met when he was still running the first restaurant, continue to offer customers a place where they can dine like royalty.
Although China and Chile are so geographically distant, Lung Fung, with its palatial-style decoration, has brought Chileans closer to traditional Chinese culture.