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Everything posted by saltshaker

  1. As a chef here in BA, I would say that we don't have that much in the way of limitations on ingredients and such anymore - some things are bit too expensive to be worthwhile, but there are plenty of local substitutions for most things. Right after the crash, yes it was difficult for chefs here, but now, it's just not that hard to find stuff if you know where to look and which providers to call. At the time Bob wrote the post above, Mumbai and Katmandu were probably the best of the Indian restaurants here, but truthfully, they were and are mediocre at best, from anyone's perspective who knows Indian food. There's a new spot, Tandoor, that's just recently opened, quite good; there's a spot that's a little over a year old, more of a "Brick Lane Curry House" - i.e., British pub with homestyle Indian food, called Bangalore, also quite good. And for Indian vegetarian, there's Tulasi, which is a small lunch counter sort of spot, but really excellent.
  2. Coca leaves, powdered coca leaves, and even coca extract are used in Peruvian cooking throughout the "Altiplano", or Andes area. What makes it unusual for Arcurio is that he's doing it in Lima, on the central coast, where it's not a common ingredient in the cuisine. No, the active ingredient has not been extracted (unless he's using some special preparation) - fresh and simply air dried coca leaves are used in the cooking. But, keep in mind, one ounce of cocaine requires a massive amount of the leaves - about the quantity that fits in a large commercial garbage sack - a few leaves have next to no effect, but they do provide an interesting herbal flavor.
  3. Orangeman, Would the little pizza place you mentioned in Cuzco have been Chez Maggy?
  4. Campobravo is a pretty basic parrilla in Las Cañitas - a bit trendy, decent steaks, nothing special. I wouldn't count on it being open on New Year's Eve, though one never knows. The vast majority of restaurants here are simply closed for the night. Those that are open, other than neighborhood diner type places are likely to be fixed price menus for a fairly high cost, and by advance reservation only - so have your hotel concierge do some work on getting you something, otherwise you're likely to have very little in the way of options for eating next Sunday night! Getting to Las Cañitas isn't difficult by cab - probably a 15-20 minute cab ride from your hotel, depending on traffic (it's not, by the way, a barrio, just a neighborhood a couple of blocks by a couple of blocks in the north part of barrio Palermo, that has relatively recently become a hot spot for new restaurants, as it started gentrification). Have your hotel call a cab for you, and the restaurant (if open) call one for you to return - safer anyway for most cab trips. In terms of us - we're only open Friday and Saturday nights in general, and we only seat 12 people, so there's not much in the way of trampling going on - in fact, we were pretty much booked up before the article for the holidays, so though we had lots of calls and e-mails for this week and next, I simply turned most of them away. January got nicely filled up though as noted in my previous post! The article is reproduced on our site.
  5. It does remind me why I got out of the New York restaurant business... It's really been unbelievable - both in sheer numbers (I've accepted around 120 reservations so far over the next three months and turned down probably 60+); but also in having to deal with that New York (or NY Times reading) customer - you know, the "I'm going to be there tomorrow with 17 people, four children, I expect separate menus for them, two people need gluten free, one has a nut allergy, there are two strict vegans, and personally I won't touch red meat, and am deathly allergic to shellfish, though I love foie gras. Oh yes, and no tripe because we simply don't like it. There are a couple of women on a diet in the group, so if you could just do individual tasting menus for each person it would work far better for us. We want a table by the window, but no smoking, and would you please make sure there's a mariachi band to play Happy Birthday to my great Aunt who's 75 - and you'll have to supply a decorated cake. The sixty pesos a person is a bit above our budget, please let me know what discount you're giving us for our courtesy in helping you be successful. Oh, you do know who I am, yes? If you don't accommodate us, I can assure you, no one else from New York will ever set foot in your establishment." Of course, I'm only guessing at the last sentence or two as I've hung up before that point...
  6. Kind of came at us out of the blue - I mean, I got a call from the writer to fact check some things, but I thought it was going to be an article about the puertas cerradas trend, sort of an exploration of the whys and wherefores, etc. and that we'd be one of a list of places. Truly didn't expect to be the only restaurant featured! E-mail and phone calls haven't stopped since Saturday night! But, of course, the Times will publish a new article next Sunday and all the foodies will move on to the next recommendation... Besides, they're just following on the Canadian and Argentine press...
  7. Roz, The one thing you're going to find is that alot of our restaurants are simply closed on New Year's Eve. The fancier places, the hotel restaurants, those sort of things will be open, but many neighborhood, more casual, and more... umm... authentic for lack of a better word, places will be closed for the evening - actually, many close from xmas on into January. I'd venture to guess off that list you laid out that Don Julio and 1880 will be open, but perhaps not. Also many places will have a set seating time for the evening along with some sort of festivity. In terms of local celebration - alot of locals leave town around xmas time and are gone for good portions of January - it's the big vacation and business closing time. Strangely, it's also the height of tourist season - but you'll find yourself running into more tourists than locals... well maybe not quite, but the ratio definitely is noticeably different! Your best bet is probably to contact your hotel, give them a list of a few places you might like to try, and see if they can arrange it for you in advance. SE - Serendipity might be the most expensive place to have dessert in NYC, don't know if I'd put it as the best! But then, I'm not a big dessert person anyway.
  8. Nothing says this guy has any taste...or, that he even dined anywhere besides whatever places he was sent to cover - most journalists from magazines like Departures are given an assignment of what to review, they're not left to their own devices to randomly sample all over the place. I just got a call yesterday afternoon from a couple from New York who travel all over the world eating at the top restaurants in the world. Las Lilas was top of their list and they headed there on their first evening in town. They called me to ask if I could recommend a place where the steak was edible, since the ones they were presented with at Las Lilas weren't, and they hated the "Disney-esque" imitation of a steakhouse ambiance. Haven't we beaten this one enough? Anyone's welcome to go to Las Lilas all they want, and to believe their publicity releases all they want. If one day you feel like having a really good steak, maybe it'd be worth trying somewhere else.
  9. In general, people don't make reservations anywhere particularly far in advance, but I'd agree that for New Year's Eve, I would go for an advance notice - as Jenny said, they might not even be open, or, they might be having one set seating time with some sort of midnight celebration, and 9 might not be an option.
  10. Nope, dinner only, 7 days a week, and they don't open until 9 p.m. - by the way, you can look up the hours and such on www.guiaoleo.com.ar for most major restaurants in the city.
  11. My guess is that these "reliable sources" are probably being guided by some sort of tourism promoting agency, by Las Lilas itself, or more likely, simply following the herd because of the reputation. I know more than one article that's been written about Buenos Aires and it's "scene", dining and otherwise, by writers who haven't even been here, or have only been for a weekend or so. It's one of the problems with "journalism" these days, even of the travel variety - most papers, magazines, even t.v. networks, etc., no longer have the finances to keep "our man in Buenos Aires" or "Havana", or wherever that they used to, and they rely on things like press releases and/or very quick visits that have pre-planned agendas. That's why the few who do, like, say CNN, dominate the international coverage. Even locally here it's a tough thing - the major (and U.S. owned) English language paper's food & wine writer has a lifetime contract, has been with the paper I think since Buenos Aires was founded, often just repeats reviews he's already written in the past - he's even published reviews stating upfront that he's never visited a particular place, but is relying on "the chef's word"... recently he published a review of a place that closed over ten years ago...
  12. Interestingly, a friend of mine is in visiting this week and offered to take me out to dinner at Las Lilas, as he'd ready the RW Apple piece as well. I told him my thoughts, and we popped onto Guia Oleo, the local restaurant review site (www.guiaoleo.com.ar). I'd never looked up how Las Lilas was placed (the ratings, like a Zagat's guide, are based on consumer votes) - it came in 20 out of 30 points on food... 133rd position out of 311 parrillas reviewed! Anyway, we're off to Don Julio tonight... La Cabrera was full... such is life.
  13. True indeed! And you're right, "dead cow" would have been a far better turn of phrase.
  14. RW was a brilliant writer, but I wouldn't have taken his recommendation for a place to eat if you'd paid me... well, if you'd paid me I guess I'd at least have tried it. Your statement, despite the fact that it just extends this now well beaten dead horse, makes me curious why you think a place having a "reputation in the United States" makes it true? We're all well aware of its reputation, but hype and reality are very different things. We'll just hope that you'll see the world of parrillas differently after trying some of our recommendations next time you're here.
  15. Then we'll pencil it in lightly until you tell us you're on your way!
  16. I have to admit, I don't find it insulting or offensive, but, I do think that it's a very skewed view of the culture here. It would sort of be like telling visitors that the only places you recommend to eat in New York are Masa, Ducasse, Per Se, Daniel, and Le Bernardin because that's where they'll get a true New York experience. Truthfully, what they'll get is an experience that isn't really New York specific, but is about those particular restaurants, which could just as easily be in other high end tourist destinations. While I understand your point, I always approached (when I was in NYC) and approach (here in BA) from the viewpoint that most people are coming here to experience the local culture and something more "authentic" - like El Obrero, Don Julio, El Trapiche, or other similar places. If all someone wants is to come here so that they can eat steaks cheaper than in New York but at a place that visually could be back in New York, they ought to take into account the cost of the plane fare and hotel rate when looking at whether they're eating a cheaper steak... What's special about Buenos Aires is being able to go to a real old-line parrilla, with grill smoke and waiters who've been there for a zillion years, surrounded by locals, drinking decent but not fancified "international style" wines - or something along those lines - and get away with a full three course dinner for 35 pesos a person. (Just as in New York I would have taken folks to places like the 2nd Avenue Deli, or a hole-in-the-wall in the west village, or a Chelsea club-resto..., or, back a few years ago to Windows on the World - for the view, at least) RR - for the places we've been talking about: Don Julio: http://www.guiaoleo.com.ar/detail.php?ID=802 El Obrero: http://www.guiaoleo.com.ar/detail.php?ID=410 El Trapiche: http://www.guiaoleo.com.ar/detail.php?ID=418 1880: http://www.guiaoleo.com.ar/detail.php?ID=1059 Actually, you'll be able to find most restaurants of note here on guiaoleo.com.ar or on restaurants.com.ar - and, of course, many of them on my own site!
  17. I'll second the Don Julio recommendation, had forgotten about that - plus a great wine selection. Also, I don't think I mentioned above, El Trapiche, which I like quite a bit.
  18. Rossini's Quatre Mediants (figs, almonds, raisins, and hazelnuts) and Quatre Hors d'Oeuvres (radish, anchovy, pickles, butter)... now there's good eatin' classical music for you. And, in a completely other vein... Squeeze's "Black Coffee"...
  19. That's an interesting perspective. My take on the same situation is that, in general here, it's not the foreigners with extra money who are "pushing up" the prices, but the people who live here who see that folks in 1st world countries have more than they do and get greedy for it - they push (or pull?) the prices up by demanding more - some of them get it (from those pesky foreigners), some of them don't, and when it reaches the point where they're demanding too much, we get another collapse.
  20. From the "expat" perspective - they're definitely not as cheap as they were after the economic collapse - the economy has done a fair amount of recovery in a lot of sectors, especially in restaurant prices. Even in the year and a half I've been living here, I'd say restaurant prices have gone up around 35%. That said, by U.S./Euro standards, it's still a bargain, but not what it was, and it's still climbing. In terms of by local standards... hard to say. The official "average" wage for a day here in BsAs is 35 pesos, with probably 10+ hours of work put in to earn that. But that takes into account a huge range of population, from poverty level to the top levels, of just citizens. A middle class salary probably runs at about 3000 pesos a month, or only about 100 a day. That makes eating out pretty tough, especially if you want "good" food. On the other hand, there's such a range of restaurants depending on where you live and what you want - from places that sell basic sandwiches for a peso and a half, or 50 cents, on up to top restaurants that run over a hundred pesos a person for dinner, coming in around $35-40 for a meal. There's also, based on the cyclical history of economic collapses here, a regular fear, I think, amongst a lot of locals, that it's only a matter of a few more years before the next one. So there's a certain level of socking money away, preferably in dollars or euros, either in cash or in banks out of the country, as a precaution - so even among those with some bucks, they often will avoid eating out anywhere "nicer" other than for a special occasion. Salaries have definitely not gone up as fast as prices have, which is a real problem... and, like past cycles, one of the main contributions to the collapses... so look for it around 2008/9...
  21. Well, I know Alex from Terroir is in NYC at the moment, so maybe he's not checking his e-mail as regularly as normal. Don't know why the others didn't respond, not like them. On the other hand, you're right in your guess - 3 months in advance here is like a futuristic dream. One local friend once told me that anything more than 3 days in advance is something no one here would ever do - and he's not far off. I'm slowly getting used to that. Keep in mind that high prices on wines in the states don't necessarily mean high prices here - same with low prices sometimes. It's all about marketing. You can get perfectly good, quality wine here, for easily in the 10-20 peso range in a store, and not much higher in a restaurant. You can spend more, but it's not always worth it - sometimes yes, sometimes no. And here and there, especially for "international style" wines that were really made for the export market, they actually cost more here than in the U.S. - whether it's true or not, I've been told that they get sold to the exporter who then resells them back to here at a markup!
  22. El Obrero is about the steak, not the wine. You won't find anything particularly special on it, most of the wines are under 25 pesos a bottle - solid, basic local wine. It's an old-style neighborhood steakhouse - we're talking battered wooden chairs, tables, and floors, walls that have so much smoke on them you can't tell what they're made of... you get the picture.
  23. If you want just a basic introduction to Argentine wine - a one-shot, 2-3 hour class that covers the regions, grapes, and basic info, try Buenos Vinos who offer a weekly English language class on Thursdays. I believe that our own Gaucho, here, offers tastings in English at his store, Terroir as well.
  24. Not at all, in fact, I'd guess that other than maybe on a Friday or Saturday night, many of us tend to eat bigger lunches than dinners. I know a lot of folk who make lunch their main meal, right down to three courses including steak, bottle of wine; and just have a light dinner late in the evening, maybe just a salad, or some takeout Chinese food... Plan on, however, that there's a certain level of "siesta" culture - many restaurants close up around 3 and then reopen later for dinner, just as many other businesses close up from about 1:30 to 4:00...
  25. It happened twice to personal friends of mine, specifically mestizo (i.e., mixed Indian/Spanish) friends, who are often treated as second class citizens in Buenos Aires, unfortunately, and both times at the San Telmo location. The two things that made it worse were, first, that the door guard is also mestizo, so is discriminating against his own community, and then, the owner is a friend of a friend of mine, and I passed on my thoughts afterwards (semi-politely, and I'm sure my friend ensured that they were even more polite than I managed) and the owner's response was apparently a shrug and some sort of justification based on "the way those people usually are." SD - matambre in the case of a cut of meat is a flank steak, more or less. Then, of course, there's the matambre that's the wonderful rolled up flank steak around vegetables, herbs, and eggs... Cuts of beef are different here than in the States, they just simply cut the cow up differently. A good basic example is here: Cortes de Carne
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