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Eating My Way Through Buenos Aires


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#1 ajgnet

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 07:48 PM

I'm living in Buenos Aires until mid-October where I'm (hopefully) improving my Spanish, learning more about the culture and, most importantly, discovering some culinary secrets on this side of the equator. I'm certainly no professional writer (I studied computer science, if you believe that) nor am I culinary expert. I'm sort of a scatterbrain; but, like everyone else here, I love food and pretty much everything about it.

A little about me: I spent the last 5 years of my life living in NYC where I had all sorts of cool food during which I probably should have been studying. I've been to over 400 documented restaurants in these past 5 years (I keep a notebook) ranging from Masa (along with a good friend of mine tupac17616 who actually inspired me to write this with his trip to italy) to scoops of gelato at Il Laboratorio, and many places inbetween. My experience with food in NY has been wide-ranging; but, I have no preference for haute cuisine ... just for delicious food (in fact, I'm really turned off by pretense and the way it negatively affects my experience). My favorite restaurants in NY currently are L'Atelier and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, two places I really miss. I love the way a meal can bring together a group of totally different people to satisfy a common desire, even if they don't speak the same language or share many of the same interests. I love the feeling of spending a day in the kitchen and watching friends and family (usually) enjoying my attempt at creativity. At the risk of sounding cheesy, food is a very special glue that brings people together and, in the case of living in a foreign country, tells a lot about the culture.

So, before I came down here I made a brief list of restaurants I wanted to experience while here, most of which came from various sources (personal recommendations, newspaper articles, guide books, etc ...). I always write down something after I experience a restaurant because it helps me to better relive the experience in the future and to, sometimes, better illuminate exactly what I liked. And, as an aspiring chef, these notes have been really helpful in the kitchen.

Before coming down here, I realized that there was not too much activity on Buenos Aires restaurants in cuisine in general, only a few threads here and there. So, I decided that it might be helpful to post some of my experiences here so that, hopefully, future foodies can make more informed decisions!

So here's my list so far. If you have any experience at these places please share. Likewise, if you have a must-visit place that is not on this list, please share that too! All and any input is requested!

Cabaña Las Lilas, Sucre, El Gaucho, Oviedo, Le Mistral, Tomo Uno, Duhau Restaurante & Vinoteca, La Bourgogne, Rosa Negra, Le Sud, Restó, Yuki, Anciens Combattant, Bengal, Italpast, Sinclair, Don Carlos, La Dorita, Casa Cruz, Olsen, Guido’s Bar, La Generosa, Morena, La Cabrera, Enfundá La Mandolina, Desde el Alma, La Escondida, Puratierra, Maizales, Las Cholas, Osaka, Azzurra 222, El Diamiante, Te Mataré Ramirez, Cala Bistró, De La Ostia, Cluny, Bar Uriarte, Spirit Deli & Oyster Bar, Little Rose, Rodizio, Dada, Guerrin, Tuñin, Morelia

Stay tuned!

Edited by ajgnet, 23 August 2007 - 05:38 PM.


#2 Peter Green

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 08:01 PM

This should be fun! I've some friends that spent two years in BA, too, and they dined enthusiastically while they were down there.

Do talk about the wines, too. My friends rave about the Malbecs in particular they had down there, and we've been seeing the Argentines bringing their bottles to more and more of the international events. Terrazas de los Andes is going to be out at the WGF in Bangkok this year - I think they'll be featured at Douglas Rodriguez' dinners - and they've got a history with Moet & Chandon. Tell us more about the Mendoza region and what can be had!

#3 ajgnet

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 05:16 AM

I decided to start with a small, relatively unknown restaurant:

Cabaña Las Lilas
Alicia Moreau de Justo 516, Puerto Madero

you may have heard of it. R.W. Apple, Jr. listed it in his famous article, Meals Worth the Price of a Plane Ticket. It was also featured in my Lonely Planet, Frommer's, and just about every other anything that was ever written about the city. In a nutshell, this might be the most famous parilla in Buenos Aires and, ironically, I'm not sure why.

I arrived with two other guests at 9:30pm, without a reserve, and was told there would be a 20 minute wait. No problem, we grabbed a table by the bar, had a caiparinha, and waited to be seated. Really nice drinks those caiparinhas. The restaurant was packed and the longer we waited, the more people continued to pour in. We were told we could be seated immediately in a smoking section, or could wait another 20 minutes for non-smoking ... we decided to take the smoking, normally something I would not do, because it seemed like no one was actually smoking at the time.

As I walked to the table, the decor was trying to convince me that I had been transported to a wooden cattle ranch somewhere in the country; but, the large port-side windows and views of modern high rises quickly brought me back to reality. The room had what seemed to be a lot of wood: exposed beams, wooden tables, paneling ... but something just didn't sit right. It was as if everything had been made of plastic. My visions of eating at an Argentine steering ranch were quickly shut down by the loud english of tourists who, likely, had read many of the same recommendations as I had. Something about the place screamed inauthenticity, making me feel as if I had entered Disneyworld, a world of make believe. But I was ready to make believe, for a night, because it's about the food.

The meal started off with the cover food: plates of chipa, Argentine cheese bread, sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella, mushrooms, zucchini and olive oil, stewed red peppers, and chicken with olives. The waitress asked us if this was our first time eating here, which it was, and she proceeded to explain how "we do things here," starting with a varietal plate of appetizers to whet the palate. All the finger bites were tastey, particularly the chewy texture of the chipa which required no butter, but nothing really jumped out at me except the excessive amount of oil on everything.

First course was a mixed vegetable salad for the sake of eating vegetables. Nothing special there.

As a main, I ordered the Ojo de Bife (Rib Eye) and asked for it jugoso (rare). I was very excited when my grass-fed beef arrived which, unlike most corn-fed beef in the states, is supposed to have a leaner texture and rounder flavor. The steak pushed on the upper limits of rare, more like medium rare, but close enough. And it was a pretty good steak. Definitely the best steak I'd had so far in Buenos Aires but, after all, I'd only been here for a few days. Which makes me wonder if most food writers have really had the time to sample all these steak houses before declaring Cabaña Las Lilas as having the best steak in the country -- a pretty bold assumption, if you ask me.

Dessert was a panqueque de dulce de leche con helado de crema, pretty standard, nothing special.

The bill came, it was around $25 / person -- incredible by New York standards; but objectively way over-priced for what I'd just eaten.

Overall, this was a good restaurant; but definitely nothing special. I think there are other places with better steaks for slightly less money.

#4 ajgnet

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 04:19 PM

Morelia
Báez 260, Las Cañitas

This place had a really nice pizza. It was the first slice I’d eaten since arriving here and it could compete against NY thin crust slices any-day (similar to Otto). A little pricey for a pizzeria; but then again, it’s more of a sit-down restaurant that happens to have good pizzas. Unlike traditional pizzerias, Morelia adds an Argentine twist by barbecuing its pies, making the crust crunchy and slightly smokey. The dough is lightly brushed with olive oil, grilled, and flipped at which point the cheese and other toppings are added. The flipping of the crust makes sure that both sides are really crispy and don't become soggy ... really nice. I ordered a margarita pie, a vegetable pie, and a chanterelle, caramelizad onions and white cheese pie (no tomato sauce). I always feel like I have to get a margarita pie just to have some basis for comparison between pizzerias ... while this pie was really nice texturally, it was way too cheesy for me and had very little sauce. I would definitely stay away from the plain pie next time. The vegetable pie was packed high with brocolli, onions, peppers, mushrooms, and roasted tomatoes and, surprisingly, the super thin crust was able to support all this weight. My favorite pie, of the three, was the chanterelle and white cheese ... really nicely balanced between the saltiness of the cheese and the sweetness of the onions.

Edited by ajgnet, 23 August 2007 - 04:23 PM.


#5 gagit

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 05:11 PM

I'm living in Buenos Aires until mid-October where I'm (hopefully) improving my Spanish, learning more about the culture and, most importantly, discovering some culinary secrets on this side of the equator.  I'm certainly no professional writer (I studied computer science, if you believe that) nor am I culinary expert.  I'm sort of a scatterbrain; but, like everyone else here, I love food and pretty much everything about it. 

A little about me: I spent the last 5 years of my life living in NYC where I had all sorts of cool food during which I probably should have been studying.  I've been to over 400 documented restaurants in these past 5 years (I keep a notebook) ranging from Masa (along with a good friend of mine tupac17616 who actually inspired me to write this with his trip to italy) to scoops of gelato at Il Laboratorio, and many places inbetween.  My experience with food in NY has been wide-ranging; but, I have no preference for haute cuisine ... just for delicious food (in fact, I'm really turned off by pretense and the way it negatively affects my experience).  My favorite restaurants in NY currently are L'Atelier and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, two places I really miss.  I love the way a meal can bring together a group of totally different people to satisfy a common desire, even if they don't speak the same language or share many of the same interests.  I love the feeling of spending a day in the kitchen and watching friends and family (usually) enjoying my attempt at creativity.  At the risk of sounding cheesy, food is a very special glue that brings people together and, in the case of living in a foreign country, tells a lot about the culture.

So, before I came down here I made a brief list of restaurants I wanted to experience while here, most of which came from various sources (personal recommendations, newspaper articles, guide books, etc ...).  I always write down something after I experience a restaurant because it helps me to better relive the experience in the future and to, sometimes, better illuminate exactly what I liked.  And, as an aspiring chef, these notes have been really helpful in the kitchen.

Before coming down here, I realized that there was not too much activity on Buenos Aires restaurants in cuisine in general, only a few threads here and there.  So, I decided that it might be helpful to post some of my experiences here so that, hopefully, future foodies can make more informed decisions!

So here's my list so far.  If you have any experience at these places please share.  Likewise, if you have a must-visit place that is not on this list, please share that too!  All and any input is requested!

- Cabaña Las Lilas
- Sucre
- El Gaucho
- Oviedo
- Le Mistral
- Tomo Uno
- Duhau Restaurante & Vinoteca
- La Bourgogne
- Rosa Negra
- Le Sud
- Restó
- Yuki
- Anciens Combattant
- Bengal
- Italpast
- Sinclair
- Don Carlos
- La Dorita
- Casa Cruz
- Olsen
- Guido’s Bar
- La Generosa
- Morena
- La Cabrera
- Enfundá La Mandolina
- Desde el Alma
- La Escondida
- Puratierra
- Maizales
- Las Cholas
- Osaka
- Azzurra 222
- El Diamiante
- Te Mataré Ramirez
- Cala Bistró
- De La Ostia
- Cluny
- Bar Uriarte
- Spirit Deli & Oyster Bar
- Little Rose
- Rodizio
- Dada
- Guerrin
- Tuñin
- Morelia

Stay tuned!

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I will comment later on these restaurants but Janagada is a must must see my review on www.gagit.net, also empananda heaven is El Sanjuanino enjoy

#6 ajgnet

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 05:19 PM

It just occurred to me that I can upload photos to better share my experiences here. And, since I pretty much always bring my camera to dinner with me, I have lots of food porn to share! Plus, maybe my photos will compensate for my poor writing (but hey, maybe by the end of this I'll be a little better!)

Sucre
676 Sucre, Belgrano

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Eating at Sucre felt like eating in a renovated factory -- lots of metal, concrete, sparsely placed tables and furniture -- fortunately, this was countered by the warm fireplace, comfortable chairs, dim lighting, and backlit liquors at the bar. The wait staff was dressed in black and intimidatingly attractive, might I add. While Fernando Trocca's restaurant was really swanky, it also served good food to match.

To start, I got the Huevo de campo a baja temperatura y jamón Serrano brioche de naranja, espárragos y crema de queso manchego (country egg cooked at a low temperature, serrano ham and an orange brioche, asparagus with manchego).

My main consisted of Ravioles de conejo estofado con canela en rama salsa de conejo, olivas negras tipo calamata y salvia fresca (rabbit ravioli stuffed with cinnamon and black duck sauce, calmata olives). The ravioli was way overcooked ... sort of soggy, too.

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My friends ordered ensalada tibia de codorniz y verdes amargos jengibre dulce, avellanas, calabaza y vinagreta de salsa de soja y panceta (warm salad of bitter quail and green sweet ginger, hazelnuts, pumpkin and of soybean vinagrette with panceta), followed by Confit de pato
manzana asada con especias, emulsión de papa y jugo de pato (duck confit, spiced apple, Pope emulsion and duck jus). Another friend ordered speghetti with lamb, the description for which does not seem to be available on Sucre's website.

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For dessert, we split creme de “Dulce de leche” con espuma de maní, mantecol desgranado y teja de café torrado (dulce de leche cream with peanut foam, mantecol pastry and wafer of torrado coffee), as well as frozen honeycomb. The highlight of me was the frozen honeycomb which I hadn't tried before ... it was really light, fluffy, and well, cold at first ... but after a few bites, it quickly condensed into a chewy ball of crunchy honey ... the texture was really playful.

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One of the advantages of eating with a group of friends is getting to try a variety of different meals. I think I ordered pretty well with my lamb ravioli, it seemed to be the best of the group. The dishes used a lot of foam, which I was sort of expecting, by dint of the chef's penchant for modern. None of the appetizers were particularly special; but all were good. This seemed like a good place to take an out of town visitor; but ultimately, it was more trend than cuisine.

Edited by ajgnet, 23 August 2007 - 09:06 PM.


#7 ajgnet

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 07:51 PM

Do talk about the wines, too.

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Hi Peter! I still haven't really gotten into wines so my feedback would, for the most part, be haphazard. I'll definitely be on the lookout, especially when I talk about a weekend trip I took up to Mendoza 3 weeks ago ... but I'd rather not focus this too much on wine, frankly, because I'm not convinced I know enough about what I'd be discussing.

#8 ajgnet

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 08:51 PM

Stopped by Casa Cruz on a Thursday night around 11pm ... seemed like things were just getting started. I'm pretty convinced porteños (literally "port people," the locals of buenos aires) have eating jet-lag. Every meal seems to be about 4-5 hours later than it would normally be in NY. Lunch around 3-4pm, dinner around 10-11pm. Most nightlife doesn't get started until 2am ... how these people get to work the next day is beyond me!

Casa Cruz
Uriarte 1658, Palermo

On the outside, this restaurant seemed more like a nightclub -- the restaurant's name was indistinguishable, there was a security guard standing outside with his arms folded, and I had to duck through a thick velvet curtain to get into the restaurant. The first thing that struck me was the warmth of the restaurant -- lots of red woods, dimmed lightings, and exotic floral arrangements which surrounded the semi-circular bar in front. It was very comfortable and warm. Despite our 11pm reservation, there was a bit of a wait, so we had ourselves some more caipirinhas (de frutilla, de frescas, strawberry) to change it up a little ... the drinks were spot-on and the 30 minute wait flew by. We were then escorted to our table. On the way to the table, I'm pretty sure 50% of the tables I passed were speaking english which, I have learned, is pretty common in these chic "in" places ... definitely not a local joint.

The bread was particularly good as the pan de campo (country bread) was served hot. The amuse was a parma ham roll with mint custard which pretty much sums up chef Germán Martitegui style: traditional argentine cuisine with a modern twist.

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For starters, I had a pumpkin vegetable salad ... hey, I wanted something light. Unlike many other restaurants, this menu had a lot of fish options. My main course consisted of trout over smashed potatoes. My trout was well-cooked and the vegetable accompaniments worked nicely ... this dish seemed pretty standard.

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My friends ordered Rock Oysters and Langoustines for appeitizers, the latter of which stole the show for the evening. There's a really fine line when serving shrimp between raw and overcooked and these langoustines were perfect. The butter saffron sauce was delicious and aromatic.

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For mains, my friends ordered grilled sea bass and grilled octopus, both of which did not strike me as particularly noteworthy.

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For dessert, we split a peach torte with honey ice cream, honey.

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Casa Cruz combined atmosphere with food quality in a way that I would definitely recommend. It had more hits in terms of flavor than Sucre, albeit the food wasn't so inventive. The decor made this place incredibly sexy yet comfortable, perfect for a date. So far, this was the coolest restaurant I'd been to in BA ... my favorite so far.

#9 johnnyd

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Posted 24 August 2007 - 07:25 AM

ajgnet, this is outstanding. We are very lucky to have you post your reports of BA eateries. Terrific pictures and great descriptions.

Frozen Honeycomb?! That's a first for me.

I'm sure I speak for us all in saying I'm eager for more. :smile:
"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II
Portland Food Map.com

#10 Jake

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Posted 24 August 2007 - 09:21 AM

ajgnet, this is just great! I can't wait to see more installments.

Barbara Laidlaw aka "Jake"

Good friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies.


#11 tupac17616

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 04:03 PM

I still haven't really gotten into wines so my feedback would, for the most part, be haphazard.  I'll definitely be on the lookout, especially when I talk about a weekend trip I took up to Mendoza 3 weeks ago ... but I'd rather not focus this too much on wine, frankly, because I'm not convinced I know enough about what I'd be discussing.

I happen to know a guy who had the same mindset as he began a food-and-wine-centric trip to Italy this summer. These days, he doesn't really care who questions whether or not he knows enough about wine to discuss it, as he discovered countless wines he now enjoys immensely.
My point is, I'm probably not alone in thinking that we'd all love to hear about your wine experiences in Buenos Aires, regardless of how few and far between they may be.
One's perspective in trying something for the first time is often infinitely more refreshing than one who fancies himself a connoisseur. Don't forget that, amigo.

#12 Peter Green

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 08:25 AM

I still haven't really gotten into wines so my feedback would, for the most part, be haphazard.  I'll definitely be on the lookout, especially when I talk about a weekend trip I took up to Mendoza 3 weeks ago ... but I'd rather not focus this too much on wine, frankly, because I'm not convinced I know enough about what I'd be discussing.

I happen to know a guy who had the same mindset as he began a food-and-wine-centric trip to Italy this summer. These days, he doesn't really care who questions whether or not he knows enough about wine to discuss it, as he discovered countless wines he now enjoys immensely.
My point is, I'm probably not alone in thinking that we'd all love to hear about your wine experiences in Buenos Aires, regardless of how few and far between they may be.
One's perspective in trying something for the first time is often infinitely more refreshing than one who fancies himself a connoisseur. Don't forget that, amigo.

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"Happen to know", Tupac?

I roundly second this! If you like it, it goes well with what you eat, and it stays down, then we want to hear!

We'll take any discussion on spirits, too!

Dipsophilia Forever!

Peter

Edited by Peter Green, 26 August 2007 - 08:26 AM.


#13 ajgnet

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 03:34 PM

So it's not technically in Buenos Aires; but, at the request of a few people, I'm going post some of my experiences from Mendoza ... the wine country of Argentina. Plus, this fits in nicely with the existing chronology of this thread. I flew to Mendoza about 4 weeks ago, where among sampling some really delicious Argentine wines, I had the most succulent, juicy, and delicious steak of my life.

The first place we visited was:

Azafrán
Sarmiento 765, Mendoza

The restaurant itself is located inside the Park Hyatt Mendoza. I'm generally pretty turned off by hotel restaurants, and I was hesitant to go here at first even despite reading very positive feedback; but, the fact that this is a hotel restaurant makes no difference with food quality or authenticity. In addition, the restaurant boasts a 300 bottle cellar, making it a nice starting point for our first night in wine country. The space is very open and is shared, somewhat, with the lobby of the hotel. While the restaurant is segmented off to the side, lobby noise does travel to the table. Despite the wooden tables, checkered floors, bowls of fruit and dried vegetables that decorate the restaurant, it still feels like eating in the lobby of a hotel. But, that doesn't really matter once the food hits the table.

The bread is served hot and is baked on the property. We started with a simple greens salad (gotta eat any sort of vegetable when it's available down here) and empanadas asadas. The empanadas were piping hot (I nearly burnt my tongue); but, once they cooled, were light and delightfully not greasy.

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We decided to pair our main courses (everyone ordered meat) with a Saint Felicien 2005 Malbec from Catena Zapata vineyards, as per the recommendation of the sommelier. The wine was really dark and reminded me of fresh blueberries with a little bit of vanilla. It was a really nice start introduction to Argentine wines.

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Now, for the main courses. My friends ordered the lamb (medium), goat stew, and angus rib eye (medium-rare). I didn't try the goat stew (I really wasn't in the mood for goat) but I did try the lamb and rib eye. Both were a little over-cooked for my tastes ... personally, I like my meat rare, edging on the side of raw. None of the steaks were marinated and or any nonsense like that. The ribeye especially, had a really round flavor that made me very envious ... that is, until, I had a bite of my steak.

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I ordered the bife de lomo (also ribeye ... not sure why this was labeled differently on the menu) rare and, frankly, it was the most tender, flavorful, juicy steak I have ever eaten. It topped my experiences at Peter Luger, Striphouse, and BLT Steak -- ok fine, BLT Steak shouldn't be in that list. But you get the idea. Wow. I was silent for most of the meal after that steak came, mostly because I was so engaged in the incredible flavors; but, partly because I was hoping no one would ask for a taste! I guess that's another benefit of going out with a table of girls -- you get to try everyone else's food but rarely will one of them ask for a taste of yours!
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All in all, this restaurant is very highly recommended and, despite having only gone to two restaurants in Mendoza, I would return to Azafrán anytime in hopes of getting another bife de lomo quite like the one I had experienced.

Our second day in Mendoza was our first day of truly sampling Mendoza wines. We visited four different vineyards.

Alta Vista Winery
Alzaga 3972, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza

Our first stop was Alta Vista, where we tried several varieties from 2005, one of which that stood out particularly was a light and crisp 2005 Rosé which had hints of grapefruit. This wine was incredibly light which went well at 9am in pretty cold weather.

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Catena Zapata
Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza

Our next stop was Catena Zapata, the vineyard that, coincidentally, produced the 2005 Saint Felicien we'd had the night before at Azafrán. I was really tempted to bring a bottle of this back with me to BA; but, I was afraid it would break. The Catena Zapata winery was definitely the most visually impressive -- the main entrance was reminiscent of a Mayan temple with a spectacular view of the Andes.

Ruca Malen
Ruta Nacional Nro 7 km 1059. Agrelo. Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza

We had a 5-course paired lunch at Ruca Malen which was the highlight of the day.

The first course was a Yauquén Chardonnay-Semillón 2006 (70% Chardonnay, 30% Semillón). We were told it was the youngest wine the winery produces. It was indeed young; but also fruity and fresh with no oak aging. Very easy to drink. This was paired with bruschetta that had thin slices of eggplant, ricotta cheese and lemon zest on top. This particular pairing highlighted the freshness of this wine which went nicely with the acidity from the ricotta and the citrous flavor from he lemon zest.

Next up was the Yaquén Malbec - Cabernet Sauvignon 2006lend of 50% from each grape. This also belongs to the youngest line the winery produces. 50% of the wine was in contact with oak. It was a red wine with violet-like hues. It had a complex nose and a soft and light mouth with strong fruity notes. This was paired with a small tartelette made of grilled onions, pumpkin, and cheese. The wine highlighted the sweet notes of the onions and pumpkin.

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The third course started with a Ruca Malen Merlot 2004 which was, indeed, 100% Merlot.
It was aged for 12 months in oak barrels (80% aged in French barrels, 20% in American). It was then aged for 12 months more in the bottle before release. It was a red wine with violet hues. The aroma was reminiscent of cherries, strawberries, and plums with some vanilla and chocolate notes. For eating, we had lentil ragout with creme fraîche ... the cream was reminiscent of the malolactic fermentation and the earthy flavors that accompany the tannins of the malbec.

Just before our meat course, we got to try a bit of the Ruca Malen Malbec 2004 (85% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot). This is Ruca Malen's middle-line commercial brand, aged for 12 months in oak barrels. And again, 12 months more of bottle aging before release. It was a red with some violet hues. The aroma is reminiscent of red fruits like cherries, strawberries, and plums. Again, with some vanilla and chocolate notes.

For our fourth course, we had a Kinien Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 which was 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec. This one was aged 15 months in new oak barrels, and a final 15 months in the bottle before release. It had a rich ruby red color with spicy scents and a delicate pepper touch mixed among plums, berries, and cherries. A little smoky with vanilla and chocolate character. This was paired with roast beef tenderloin, black pepper butter, olive oil and roasted peppers. This pairing seemed pretty self-explanatory! Mmm.

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For dessert, our fifth course, we had Quinoa bread, roasted apple cake with hesperidina and caramel sauce. No dessert wine today.

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After being stuffed, we still had one more vineyard to check out. Save the best for last, I suppose:

Achával Ferrer Winery
Calle Cobos 2601, Pedriel (5509), Mendoza

Here, my favorite wine of the day, was the Achavel Ferrer Quimera 2002. It was a Malbec blend that really tasted like blackberries. Very dark coloring, very smooth.

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Somehow, despite all the eating and drinking, we had a little room left at the end of the day and decided to try an Italian restaurant known for making all pastas in house:

Francesco
Chile 1268, Mendoza

What an aesthetically beautiful restaurant. Rather than eating in a large room, the restaurant was segmented off into smaller rooms which, combined with the natural woods, large shuttered windows, and comfortable living-room chairs, almost felt like eating in a nice country house. There was a bit of coldness, though, from the white walls and marble floor ... but nothing too bad, just enough to remind you that this was indeed a restaurant. The lighting was also very bright -- no candlelight here!

I started this meal at the hands of our waiter who recommended the empanada special of the day. This was a mistake. The dish was less like empanada, and more like an egg white omelet with tomato sauce as can be seen in the picture. Then again, what was I doing ordering an empanada in an Italian-esque restaurant? But still, as my friend says, a menu should not be a minefield and there should be no such thing as ordering wrong. My main was the pasta special of the day: Cappelletti san martino y Oreccheitte. This was a little better; but, still nothing spectacular. The pasta albeit fresh, was way over cooked. The tomato sauce, which I'd previously experienced with my essence of empanada, was a little bland ... undersalted, I think.

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Dessert was pretty standard and consisted of dulce de leche and vanilla ice cream. I wanted something sweet.

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All in all, pretty mediocre ... we should have gone back to Azafrán!

Mendoza was a fantastic weekend trip and, to anyone spending more than 2 weeks in Buenos Aires, would be a nice getaway.

Edited by ajgnet, 29 August 2007 - 03:35 PM.


#14 tupac17616

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 10:41 PM

Azafrán
Sarmiento 765, Mendoza
[...] I ordered the bife de lomo (also ribeye ... not sure why this was labeled differently on the menu) rare and, frankly, it was the most tender, flavorful, juicy steak I have ever eaten.  It topped my experiences at Peter Luger, Striphouse, and BLT Steak [...]

I thought lomo meant loin. But this cut was a ribeye, not tenderloin, eh? Sounds delicious, whatever it was. I didn't know you'd been to Luger and Striphouse, either. While both places are pretty good (I can't speak for the steaks at BLT, but I did have some phenomenal lamb chops there), they don't really live up to expectations, and the atmosphere in both places kind of has me looking around the room for the nearest window to jump out of. Sounds like this place in Mendoza was better, even if it was in a hotel. :cool:

We had a 5-course paired lunch at Ruca Malen which was the highlight of the day.

Damn, I'm impressed. Did you take notes on this meal or is your wine palate just that good? :biggrin:

for dessert, our fifth course, we had Quinoa bread, roasted apple cake with hesperidina and caramel sauce

Have you had any hesperidina to drink yet? If so, how it is?

After being stuffed, we still had one more vineyard to check out.

Always room for one more vineyard. I like that kind of dedication, my friend.

[..] But still, as my friend says, a menu should not be a minefield and there should be no such thing as ordering wrong. 

Amen. Even worse when one of those mines is planted by a waiter making a recommendation.

My main was the pasta special of the day: Cappelletti san martino y Oreccheitte.

Wait, wait. Cappelletti and orecchiete? Perche?

Edited by tupac17616, 29 August 2007 - 11:23 PM.


#15 ajgnet

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Posted 31 August 2007 - 03:14 PM

Hey -- how did you do the multiple quote response like that? I can't figure it out. I had notes, haha -- my palate and memory are not quite that good. Yes, you are right -- lomo is sirloin, thanks for pointing out the typo ... unfortunately, I can't go back and change that now. Ojo de bife is ribeye. Not sure why my pasta was so diverse ... maybe they were testing out the pasta machines? Whatever it was ... no good!

Edited by ajgnet, 31 August 2007 - 03:15 PM.


#16 ajgnet

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Posted 31 August 2007 - 03:56 PM

After a relaxing weekend in Mendoza, I woke up bright and early Monday morning for my 8am spanish classes. I think I'm getting better -- I had a conversation with my taxi driver about the history of slavery in the US. I don't think I could have done that a few weeks ago. It's funny with taxi drivers ... if I say I'm from the US, I'm usually taken on the long tour of the city; but, if I say I'm from New York it's like a whole other country! I'm instantly flooded with tons of questions and, so far, have never had trouble with a taxi driver after saying this. Buenos Aires definitely has New York envy ... me too, for that matter.

That Monday, we decided to go to a rather funky restaurant: Te Mataré Ramirez (I will kill you, ramirez):

Te Mataré Ramirez
Paraguay 4062, Palermo

The restaurant describes itself to be sexy. What is not clear, however, is how literal this description is. The walls are filled with naked people, kamasutra, really graphic stuff. The titles of dishes are incredibly pornograhic with names like "he slipped two fingers slowly, looking me in the eyes" and "your body tense as the string of a bow, announces the coming pleasure." Needless to say, this was an over 18 restaurant. IDs are checked at the door. While the decor and atmosphere was certainly interesting and provocative the food was, frankly, terrible.

The restaurant is incredibly dark with spot lighting on the nude figures that plaster the walls. Everything is red. Very red. At the front end of the restaurant is a mini stage for a Jazz band that plays several nights of the week. We were fortunate enough to be eating while they were playing. They were quite good.

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The menu was somewhat difficult to read (they only have spanish menus) due to the metaphors and puns. I'd recommend either checking out the English translation on the website before going, or going with someone who's native. While we were reading the menus, hot Chipa bread was brought out. After Cabaña Las Lilas, I learned to really appreciate this stuff.

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We skipped appetizers and went straight for main courses. I think we had too much bread.

Tu Carne, Luminaria De Fuego, Agrava Mi Placer
Gigot de cordero patagónico confitado en su jugo, salteado de porotos pallares y panceta ahumada, cremosa pasta de ciruela y queso crema de hierbas, y braseado de hinojos

Your Meat, Lit by Fire, Gives Me Pleasure
Slices of patagonian lamb confit a jus, smoked panceta, creamy plum paste, cheese cream braised with fennel


Mi Boca Que Implora Bajo Tu Cielo Femenino
Rols de trucha patagónica rellenos con espinaca y champgnones, sobre provocadora crema de hierbas, acompañada de croute de almendras en corazón de alcaucil y papa horneada

My Mouth Implores Under Your Feminine Sky
Rolls of patagonian trout stuffed with spinach and mushrooms, provocative herb cream, accompanied by croute of almonds in heart of palm and pope


Me Deleito En Todas Las Partes De Tu Cuerpo
Priápico solomillo de cerdo en coulis de naranja, acompañado de strudel de choclo y verdeo y, cítrica fideuà de puerro y uvas pasas al azafrán

I Delight In All the Parts of your Body
Pig "sirloin"in orange coulis, accompanied by strudel of corn, greens, and, "cítrica fideuà de puerro" and grapes with saffron
(I'm not sure how to translate cítrica fideuà de puerro, but it's like leeks.)

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I got to try everyone's main, and was extremely disappointed with everything. My dish, the Patagonian lamb, was cold and dry. Someone decided it would be a good idea to throw a slab of mayonnaise on top of the lamb. Not sure what was going on. The trout was really off -- the fish was not fresh. It was incredibly fishy, also served cold. The "best" of the three dishes was the pork but, even that, was dry and cold. I decided to cut my losses, stop eating, skip dessert, and ask for another round of the chipa bread. If I weren't with my friends, I would have sent my dish back. This marks the worst meal I have had so far in Buenos Aires.

Despite what your guide book says about Te Mataré Ramirez, skip it!

#17 bergerka

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Posted 31 August 2007 - 07:18 PM

I am going to Buenos Aires for a week in December, this is absolutely GREAT, thank you!

K
Basil endive parmesan shrimp live
Lobster hamster worchester muenster
Caviar radicchio snow pea scampi
Roquefort meat squirt blue beef red alert
Pork hocs side flank cantaloupe sheep shanks
Provolone flatbread goat's head soup
Gruyere cheese angelhair please
And a vichyssoise and a cabbage and a crawfish claws.
--"Johnny Saucep'n," by Moxy Früvous

#18 saltshaker

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Posted 01 September 2007 - 05:11 AM

Rather than comment on any of the individual restaurants, I'll just note that I've done it at length on a good number of them on my blog, which started out pretty much like you're doing this - notes about places I eat at - it's turned into practically a fulltime job these days! (www.saltshaker.net)

You can see a couple threads below this a long back and forth discussion on Las Cabana Las Lilas - it's a spot that definitely has its supporters and its naysayers...! I'll second the recommendation for Jangada, it's a must for trying a very different side of BA cuisine than is available elsewhere in town.
SaltShaker - Casting a little flavor (and a few aspersions) on the world of food, drink, and life

Casa SaltShaker - Restaurant de Puertas Cerradas

Spanish-English-Spanish Food & Wine Dictionary - a must for any traveler!

#19 ajgnet

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Posted 03 September 2007 - 12:28 PM

Rather than comment on any of the individual restaurants, I'll just note that I've done it at length on a good number of them on my blog, which started out pretty much like you're doing this - notes about places I eat at - it's turned into practically a fulltime job these days! (www.saltshaker.net)

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Yes, and I highly recommend visiting Saltshaker's Blog. It's been really helpful in recommending restaurants around town. As far as I'm concerned, Saltshaker is pretty much the authority when it comes to BA eats!

You can see a couple threads below this a long back and forth discussion on Las Cabana Las Lilas - it's a spot that definitely has its supporters and its naysayers...! I'll second the recommendation for Jangada, it's a must for trying a very different side of BA cuisine than is available elsewhere in town.

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Thanks! I'll be sure to add this to the list! Also, the Finca La Linda Tempranillo 2006 was really nice. But that's like 10 posts ahead!

#20 ajgnet

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Posted 03 September 2007 - 01:46 PM

My friends from New York who were interning in BA for the summer were leaving the following Thursday. In anticipation of a few final days of splurging, we decided to take it easy this Saturday night and attempted to find a really well-priced (aka CHEAP) restaurant nearby. When it comes to steaks, I had always been under the impression that cheap and incredible are mutually exclusive so, naturally, I was a little weary. But I trusted my friend's recommendation and kept my mouth shut. This was a very good move on my part. We ended up eating at El Trapiche which was, as far as I'm concerned, vastly superior to Cabaña Las Lilas both in terms of food, atmosphere, service, and price.


El Trapiche
Paraguay 5099, Palermo

The restaurant sits on the corner of Humboldt and Paraguay. If you can't find the restaurant by the blatant neon signs outside, just look for the giant crowd of smokers and diners waiting for tables. I arrived at 10:30pm without a reservation with one of my friends to find out that we were the first of our party of five ... this ended up being good since there was an hour wait. An hour wait at 10:30pm ... what is this, Stanton Social? There wasn't much room to wait around inside since it was extremely crowded; but it was also really cold outside, so we just sort of stood around by the door like everyone else who didn't have thick winter coats. No matter where we stood, we were always in the way of people walking in and out ... we got a lot of the "hey idiots don't stand here" faces ... but there was no where else to stand! So the lesson here is, either make a reservation (though you will probably still have to wait) or dress appropriately to stand outside.

The dining room is gigantic, the ceilings tall, the echos abundant. It's a loud restaurant and, despite its enormous size, every single table was full and diners waiting for tables were squeezing between chairs finding places to stand. One side of the restaurant carried an impressively large (and moderately priced) selection of Argentine wines. While it could have been because of the general volume of the restaurant, I heard no english which made me feel like, perhaps, I'd be getting a more authentic steak experience.

We were seated at 11:30pm and were promptly brought a basket of warm country bread rolls and menus. After three baskets of bread, we decided to skip appetizers and head straight for mains. At the advice of the waiter, and of my stomach, I decided to go with the Bife de Lomo. Judging from what was on pretty much every other table in the restaurant, this seemed like the way to go. Sure was. The sizzling steak came right off the grill and right onto my plate, still sizzling in front of my eyes. The steak was served with confidence: no frills, no sides, no garnishing ... just 100% rare grass-fed sirloin. Cooked perfectly, incredibly juicy, it was almost as if someone had injected water into the steak itself -- there wasn't a single dry bite.

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As I was devouring this steak, as any other normal person would do, I kept thinking about dessert. But primarily, my attention kept being distracted by this white mountain being brought to my surrounding tables. Finally when dessert time came, I was sure to ask what everyone else was eating and and enjoying, from what it seemed like. It was the helado con frambuesas y moras (ice cream with raspberries and blackberries). It sounds standard, and I guess it ultimately was; but, there was something about the sweet and colorful raspberry and blackberry syrups running down the sides of white ice cream that was really appetizing.

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The bill came, and our jaws dropped. In a good way. We ended up forking out around $10USD / person including drinks, cover charge, main courses, and dessert. But despite the price, this is the kind of steak Cabaña Las Lilas should have been serving. How did this compare to my steak in Mendoza at Azafrán? Pretty close ... I'd give a few extra points to Azafrán because it was just slightly more juicy while remaining incredibly lean. Overall, this place is a winner and I would highly recommend it. As of now, this place is at the top of my BA steak list.

Edited by ajgnet, 03 September 2007 - 07:19 PM.


#21 ajgnet

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Posted 04 September 2007 - 02:35 PM

After Saturday’s dinner at El Trapiche, we decided to meet at Olsen:

Olsen
Gorriti 5870, Palermo

Our guidebooks, as well as just about every other piece of Buenos Aires literature, had suggested visiting Olsen for Sunday Brunch. Sunday Brunch doesn’t seem to be much of a BA thing as, from what I can tell, it’s usually only the major hotel chains that have european/american breakfasts. So, this idea sort of intrigued me. Even more, Olsen purportedly puts a Norwegian twist on everything. While the minimalist decor and trend-following clientele was certainly a sight, the food was not up to match.

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We got out of our taxi to the entrance of the restaurant, a tall wooden fence with embossed lettering that spelled Olsen (note the “Scandinavian” O in the image). After being briefly embarrassed that I could not find the entrance, I noticed an intercom system which I assumed was the first step to admittance. So I pressed it; I was right. I was asked if I had a reservation; I did not. I was put on hold for a minute without notice until the hostess began to walk to the entrance. She informed us that reservations were necessary and that the restaurant was very busy, especially since this was Sunday brunch. There was an awkward pause after this where we weren’t sure if she was telling us we had to come back, or if we should just make reservations in the future. After about 20 seconds of stares, we were told that we were lucky and could be seated. Nice!

We entered the gates and walked through the fairly large courtyard en route to the restaurant. While it was a bit chilly to want to sit outside, this seemed like a nice place to have a drink or afternoon coffee during warmer weather. The facade of the restaurant was entirely of glass which let in an enormous amount of natural light. As is typical with Scandinavian architecture, the differentiation between inside and outside was very loosely defined. It was drizzling outside and, although inside, at times I felt like I should have been getting wet! The restaurant consisted mostly of natural woods and concrete. In the middle of the restaurant sits a cast-iron pot-belly fireplace that was burning. This seemed to be the best table in the restaurant so, if you’re with a party of two, I’d recommend requesting it.

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After settling down, we were promptly shown the specialty drinks menu with specialized vodka section. Some of the drink concoctions looked really nice, especially the ones involving champagne. Olsen also boasts an extensive collection of frozen vodkas; but, it was a little early for us to start with that. Our menus came in the form of placements and I opted for for the $39 option (13 U$D) which essentially included a drink, a plate of appetizers, a main course, dessert, and coffee.

We placed our orders and were brought a selection of house-made bagels stacked vertically on a ring. I regret not having taken a picture of this as it was the highlight of the meal. There were 3 flavors of bagels: white, whole wheat, and rye. To accompany the bagels came fresh strawberry and grape jam. I asked for butter, which was brought just after I was told that “Olsen doesn’t use butter in its dishes.” These bagels were thin with a texture very similar to that of Auntie Anne’s original pretzels, and they were served warm. A little butter and salt, and I was very happy. The meal was pretty much downhill from here.

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My plate of assorted appetizers came which included 5 canapés. I asked the waiter for a brief description of what each one was and I was told, “cucumber, cheese, meat, another kind of meat, and fish.” When I asked what kinds of meats, cheeses, and fish, the waiter had already run off to another table. The canapés seemed to be: manchego cheese with brown pear, cucumber and fish roe, roast beef with green pepper, mayonnaise, and grape jam, tuna with mayonnaise, and shrimp salad. Aside from the tuna, which I don’t believe is a fish abundant in Scandinavia, none of these canapés seemed particularly The bread was hard, dry, and cold, as was the plate. It was clear that this plate had been sitting in the refrigerator awaiting service. I sampled a bite of each and had no need to finish which for me, is not a good sign.

Next came the main course where I ordered a ham and cheese omelet, crushed potatoes, and grilled vegetables. Not sure where the Scandinavian influence was for this dish, nor any other dishes on the menu for that matter. Everything was really oily (maybe that’s why they had no use for butter) and over salted. Just when I thought there might not be mayonnaise, it was brought out by the waiter with apologies moments after setting down the plate. Was that what made this dish Scandinavian?

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Dessert consisted of a fruit trifle with spongecake. This definitely the best out of the three courses (excluding the house bread); but there was way too much spongecake sucking up any last drops of moisture. I found myself dipping bites of the trifle into the strawberry jam left on the table from the bread. The tangy flavors of the berries where overwhelmed by the abundance of whipped cream and sponge.

The check came, and Sunday brunch came to $15 / person. I’d recommend saving Olsen for a warm sunny day when you can stop by for afternoon coffee while shopping in the area, or on a nice evening for drinks. But I would certainly not make Olsen a destination spot, even for Sunday brunch.

Edited by ajgnet, 04 September 2007 - 02:40 PM.


#22 tupac17616

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Posted 04 September 2007 - 03:02 PM

[..]. I sampled a bite of each and had no need to finish which for me, is not a good sign. [...]

Ah, yes. Cutting your losses. Never fun to have to do that.

#23 ajgnet

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Posted 05 September 2007 - 04:56 PM

Mott
El Salvador 4685, Palermo Soho

After brunch at Olsen, we walked over to Palermo Soho to walk around and do some shopping. We quickly became hungry and stopped off at Mott, a fairly reputable café restaurant for something to eat.

Most of Palermo Soho’s cafes are cozy with big couches and dim lighting. Mott, on the other hand, is clean and modern with tall ceilings, concrete floors, and lots of natural light. However, while this converted factory is certainly modern, it’s also very comfortable: the tables are natural wood, the chairs and bar stools are made of wicker, there’s a fireplace in the back, and there are still two black leather couches by the door. Mott seems to be a very good mix of modern and comfortable. And due to its central location, a great place to stop by for an afternoon snack or cup of coffee while shopping; but for full meals, I think there are better options.

We arrived at an off-hour, around 6pm — a little late for an afternoon snack and way too early for dinner. Since we were having a pretty intense conversation, we decided to camp out at Mott and do dinner in reverse. We were told dinner service begins at 8pm; but, coffee and desserts were available now. So we decided to start with dessert and work our way to dinner once service began. I started off with a slice of the torta del día (cake of the day) which was a chocolate cake with a layer of dulce de leche in the center. The cake was extremely dry, likely made the day before. It was also very cold. My guess is it was refrigerated which would explain the dryness. I munched on this and my coffee for 2 hours until dinner service began.

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As an appetizer, I ordered the ensalada de los mariscos (seafood salad) which was disappointing. I was excited to have mussels since this was to be my first time in over a month (shellfish is not very popular here). Unfortunately, any taste of seafood was overpowered by the giant cubes of raw red onion. The only way this was somewhat enjoyable was to pick out the mussels one at a time and drain off the onion juice. The mussels were also not fresh. This dish was a no go.

Next up was salmon tartar: raw salmon served over couscous. The presentation was very tight — each cube of salmon managed not to extend over its cylindrical couscous base. The salmon was light and fresh, but the couscous was a little dry for this combination. There was a mayonnaise-based sauce on top of the salmon which I scooped off — I’m rarely a fan of mayonnaise. This was a much better than the seafood salad; but ultimately, nothing special.

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The funniest part of the meal, though not so funny for Mott, came after we’d finished our mains. The waitress, unaware that we’d already eaten dessert, offered us a pre-dessert aperitif from the bar. We were pretty excited about this. Until we tasted it. Still unsure of what exactly it was, there was a distinct taste of both rubber and soap. The aftertaste of this was so strong, that it began to upset my stomach. The other 3 people I was with had similar reactions. We glanced over at the bar to see if there were any chuckles … either the bartender was really good at acting, or this was for real.

We called over the waitress to see what was going on; but she couldn’t seem to understand why we didn’t like this drink. Anyhow, one thing led to another, and a bet developed into who would finish two glasses of this “aperitif.” The stakes kept rising and rising, no one wanted to do it! At one point, finishing two glasses was worth 20 U$D — we were all willing to pay to watch one or two of us consume a free drink that was supposed to be delicious. Finally, two of my friends (absolutely not I) accepted the challange and drank two glasses each. Both were sick after. While this doesn’t speak well for the restaurant, it was a lot of fun!

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So, for a cup of coffee and an afternoon snack, Mott is a great place to stop by. But for dinner, there are definitely better places in the area. And, if a pre-dessert aperitif is offered … you have been warned.

#24 ajgnet

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Posted 06 September 2007 - 08:40 AM

Sorrento Del Puerto
Av. Alicia Moreau de Justo 430

Monday, July 23, 2007

Craving some fish after many dinners of carne, I met up with some friends for a 10:30pm dinner at Sorrento Del Puerto, a restaurant most noted for its selection of fresh seafood. With two stories, this riverside restaurant in modern Puerto Modern is big. The decor is modern and the windows on both floors very large allowing for attractive views of the water. We arrived without a reservation and our party of 6 was promptly seated on the second floor by the window. On the way to the table, I couldn’t help but notice that restaurant looked rather empty, partly because it was (there was only one other couple dining on the second floor with us), but also because half of the lights were turned off, likely in an effort to conserve electricity. The waiter seated us, handed us food and wine menus, cracked a few jokes about my headband asking if I was Japanese (to which I pretended to laugh), and we were off.

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I decided to skip an appetizer, since I was very satisfied with the warm bread rolls and my Caipirinha de frutilla (strawberry). The prices looked pretty reasonable, with most entrees hovering around 30 pesos ($10 U$D). The exception to this was the fresh grilled fish page, which of course is what I wanted to order, where dishes ranged from 45 -120pesos (15 - 40 U$D). I opted for the grilled trout (70pesos, 23 U$D). I was explained that there were no accompaniments and that I should consider ordering a side dish. I took the waiter’s advice and got a side of pumpkin purée. The fish arrived very hot and moist, as if it had been taken immediately off the grill and put onto my plate — it hadn’t been sitting around, at all. This no-frills dish came exactly as described: grilled trout. The presentation was confident, as if nobody could complain because the fish was indeed very fresh and tasty. It was tasty, too, gently flaking apart with each pull of my fork. The pumpkin purée was also no frills: boiled pumpkin, puréed. Unlike the fish, though, the natural taste of pumpkin was little bland to stand on its own.

If I were in BA for only one night, I would likely stick with steak. However this is not the case, and so Sorrento Del Puerto was a pleasant alternative, as the fish was fresh and well-prepared.

#25 ajgnet

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Posted 12 September 2007 - 09:28 PM

Piola
Libertad 1078, Recoleta

Many medialunas and a full stomach after my first lunch at Café Tortoni, I stopped by Piola for a second lunch with some friends around 3pm. Piola was recommended by one of our guidebooks for having some top-notch semi-thin non-parilla pizza. And as a New Yorker, a considerably strong craving for pizza comes once about, oh, every afternoon or so. Although being part of an international chain of pizza restaurants originating in Italy, I can assure you this is no California Pizza Kitchen. Piola Buenos Aires has a fairly strong following and, as their website claims, “revolutionized the Buenos Aires food scene.” But while the menu is incredibly diverse with nearly 100 varieties of pizza, ultimately, I found the pizzas to be simply average.

The restaurant is incredibly long, narrow, and dark, as the main windows are at the front by the entrance. While the walls are dark, the tables and artwork are incredibly colorful which bright solids: red, yellow, and orange. The lack of light reminded me of being in a club after hours with painted black walls, house lights that don’t seem to illuminate much, and strange but glaring artwork. It was empty when we arrived off-hours, in contrast to what we’d read about long waits; so, we were lucky in this respect. The very friendly hostess sat us down, handed us our menus, and proceeded to explain how things work at Piola — where sharing multiple pies was encouraged for variety.

Ultimately between the 3 of us, we chose 3 small pies: Regina Margarita - Salsa de tomate, muzzarella de búfala y albahaca (tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, basil), Istambul - Tomates secos, muzzarella de búfala, rúcula (dried tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and arugula), Vegetale - Salsa de tomate, muzzarella, berenjena, morrones, brócoli, zucchini, hongos (tomato sauce, mozerella cheese, eggplant, sweet red pepper, broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms). I’m always a fan of the traditional margarita pizza — no frills, just good cheese, fresh marinara sauce, and well-cooked crust and I’m very happy. The marinara slice is also a great common denominator for comparison between restaurants; otherwise, it’s like comparing zucchini to mushrooms … literally.

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The pizzas arrived to the table very hot, fresh out of the oven. They sure smelled fantastic. My biggest problem for both the margarita and the vegetale pies was the mozzarella cheese which I thought was excessively salty. From my food shopping here, I’ve found decent mozzarella hard to come by and maybe this is an availability problem. My second problem was the lack of sufficient sauce — two of the three pies that had marinara sauce didn’t seem to have very much. And of the sauce that was there, the flavor was somewhat bland, likely to please the Argentina palate. I wanted to taste some garlic! There was certainly none in this sauce.

The crust, on the other hand, was very nice — right on that fine between a little burnt and too white. Ironically, I thought the best pie of the three was the Istambul, a pie I never would have even looked at on the menu if it weren’t for my friend. This pie, perhaps, was the highlight since it lacked both cheese and sauce. Though, it could be argued, these staple ingredients for pizza!

I would certainly stop by Piola if in Recoleta with a group of people — the diversity of the menu is a crowd pleaser and, due to the number of large tables, it seems like the restaurant is set up to handle them. But if I had one night in BA solely for pizza, I would probably pick somewhere else.

#26 tupac17616

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Posted 13 September 2007 - 12:38 AM

[...] after my first lunch at Café Tortoni, I stopped by Piola for a second lunch [...]

That's my boy!

BTW, if the pizza in the foreground is the margherita, to me that is way too much cheese. But it's too bad the cheese's excess salt didn't at least make up for the sauce's lack of it. Sounds like the crust was good, though. By far the most important part of pizza, in my book.
(Take all these comments with a grain of salt. I thought the Piola in NYC was pretty mediocre, so maybe I'm a little biased. I still remember them cracking black pepper on my pizza. Black pepper...)

#27 ajgnet

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Posted 13 September 2007 - 08:21 AM

BTW, if the pizza in the foreground is the margherita...

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haha! it's hilarious that there is any kind of doubt, considering the other pizzas are green and rainbow colored. definitely -- the cheese-sauce ratio was waaaay off.

#28 ajgnet

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 02:33 PM

La Caballeriza
Alicia Moreau de Justo 580

I discovered this upscale parilla by chance while waiting for a table at the restaurant next door, Cabaña Las Lilas. I decided to take a little trip next door to glance at the menu -- no harm in looking, I say. On my approach to the menu, I briefly laughed at the flock of people hovering around the doors to the restaurant waiting for a table, sticking together to stay warm. The menu looked enticingly carnivorous with most of the entrees being different cuts of meat. I knew I’d be taking a trip back here at some point to do more than window shopping.

We arrived around 10:30pm on a Wednesday night to find that this weeknight was no exception to me becoming part of the crowd of people I once laughed hovering outside and waiting for a table. The wait, we were told, would be nearly an hour. For a brief moment my friends considered walking down the strip of Puerto Madero restaurants to find another place. Never a good idea with a group of people, in my book, to start thinking about a new restaurant when the wait is only an hour -- by the time you figure out where you want to go there’re only twenty minutes left anyway. We walked around for a little, thinking of another place to go, and by the time we reached a consensus, it’d already been fourty minutes. So, we headed back to the restaurant and decided to wait it out. It was possible to wait inside, we discovered, so long as we ordered a drink at the bar. Great excuse for a Capiairinas. The time started to pass much faster once inside with our Brazilian national cocktails until we were seated around midnight.

The restaurant, like every other restaurant in Puerto Madero, had that new restaurant smell. Or, a surprising lack of smell, that is. Everything was impeccably clean, well-lit and, it was clear that on my departure from this restaurant, I would not be smelling like a grilled sirloin. The warm space was impressively large; but low ceilings and wooden tables with gaucho artifacts broke up the space into more approachable areas. The interior was very similar to Cabaña Las Lilas; but something, hard to pinpoint exactly what, just seemed more genuine. Perhaps it was because the restaurant wasn’t trying to trick me into thinking I was eating on cattle farm ... as in, there were no lassos hanging from the ceiling. And, while all were completely packed, everyone appeared to be speaking spanish. Nice.

When the waitress came over to introduce herself, she didn’t proceed to explain how things were done in the restaurant, nor did she bring over plates of “traditional” appetizers to feast on as one would imagine being done somewhere in Argentina-land, Epcot Center. She pointed out the meat section of the menu, took our drink orders, and left the decision process up to us. And a tough decision we faced -- why can't we try all the cuts? We decided to split two simple vegetable salads to start, and I opted with the bife de lomo, juicy, for a main course.

There was nothing particularly memorable about the salads except that one of them used canned corn, which is never good. The aluminum flavor was masked by the strength of the vinaigrette; but the telling chewy texture and dull yellow gradient said everything. To be fair, it’s pretty common for Argentine restaurants to use canned corn in salads, even relatively nice places. Vegetables just aren’t taken very seriously. But still, there's no excuse -- it tastes terrible.

Then came the good stuff. The bife de lomo was served a la carte, just a great cut of meat on a fresh white plate. A really nice smell, one of the firsts of the evening, came my way as the plate was set in front of me: the smokiness of the parilla. They honored my request for rare, which I appreciated, as my plate soon filled with nature’s natural sauce. While a little leaner than I would have hoped for bife de lomo, it was incredibly succulent, tender, and earthy -- more thumbs up for grass-fed cows.

None of the desserts on the menu looked particularly interesting in this steak-centric restaurant; but, I wanted something sweet. So, I asked for vanilla ice cream with dulce de leche and fresh rasberries on the side. I was brought a mountain of ice cream (4 scoops), a second bowl of dulce de leche, and a third bowl of raspberries in syrup. Very kind, my waitress was. My bowl of DDL likely had twice the caloric intake of my appetizer and main course combined. While it was satisfying and was more than I had asked for, I ultimately could have taken a trip to Freddo or Persico for more variety of flavor.

At first being disappointed by the salad, I was immediately cheered up by the tender steak, kind service, and abundance of porteños eating beside me until 2am. The steak was certainly the highlight of the night, which is what one would hope for, as this is a parilla. I would recommend this place as an alternative to Cabaña Las Lilas, both for quality of service, authenticity, quality of food, and price. Just don’t set your expectations sky high for food other than steak.

#29 saltshaker

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Posted 16 September 2007 - 05:53 AM

Yeah, I'd agree that Piola is just sort of average pizza. They are an international chain after all, and certainly not representative of local Argentine pizza. While certainly of better quality than something like Pizza Hut, for me, going to Piola is sort of the equivalent here - they've imported their menu, style, etc., from another country to try to "show the locals" how it's done...

El Trapiche is a great choice for an inexpensive parrilla, one of our favorites and regular spots to dine out when in that neighborhood.
SaltShaker - Casting a little flavor (and a few aspersions) on the world of food, drink, and life

Casa SaltShaker - Restaurant de Puertas Cerradas

Spanish-English-Spanish Food & Wine Dictionary - a must for any traveler!

#30 ajgnet

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Posted 16 September 2007 - 09:11 AM

By the way, I bought my copy of SaltShaker, Spanish - English - Spanish Food & Wine Dictionary, by Dan Pearlman (Saltshaker). I made the mistake of not getting it before I came down here; but I finally got a copy, thanks Dan!

The book is an absolute must for anyone traveling to a Spanish-speaking country who has an interest in food. Frankly, it's the only one of its kind that I've seen -- try to get it before traveling, it'll save you a hassle. The book not only contains essential food translations; but, it also has useful verbs like tasquear (to go on a bar crawl).

http://www.lulu.com/content/987508

Edited by ajgnet, 16 September 2007 - 09:12 AM.