Buenos Aires for Visitors
My contribution to the Restaurants section of this issue was the writeup of half a dozen restaurants. Most of the section is, as the editor puts it, accumulated, and stays the same from issue to issue, so there were about twenty new reviews in this edition. There is soon to be an online site updated far more regularly…
La Boca – Argentinian (traditional)
Brandsen 854, esq. del Valle Iberlucea, La Boca (4362-2433). 10, 29, 86 bus. Open noon-3pm, 8pm-midnight, Mon-Sat. Main Courses AR$4-8. No credit cards.
Five “P”s – “picadas, pizza, pasta, pescado, parrilla?” is the question with which Don Carlos himself greets every table. Your only option is to choose any or all of the categories – “todo” or “all” is not only the best bet for a rolicking dining experience, but it will bring a big smile to Carlito’s eyes. From that moment on you are in the hands of him and his cook, as high quality homestyle Italian and Argentine food flies out of the kitchen and lands on your table faster than you can finish it off. The parade of small dishes – from pristinely fresh homemade mozzarella to faina to whatever cut of meat comes smoking off the grill – continues until you beg for it to stop, at which point a sixth P – postres will be offered, along with coffee. Sigh and say yes. Your bill gets figured out, more or less based on mutual memory, at some point later on.
Almagro, Once & Villa Crespo – Russian
Bülnes 873, entre Humahuaca y Guardia Vieja, Almagro (4866-2300) – Subte D, Medrano/19, 24, 128, 151 bus. Open 7pm-1am Tue-Sun.. Main Courses AR$5-10. No credit cards.
Try opening a small, dozen-seat restaurant on the site of the neighborhood’s favorite pizza and hamburger joint, and offering home-style Russian dishes. You quickly compromise with your neighbors and offer pizza and burgers to the takeout and delivery crowd, and reserve your tables for those who want to try your bushenina, vareniki, pelmeni, stroganof, and the quite possibly the city’s best ensalada rusa, all accompanied by shots of ice cold vodka with lemon and salt. With so few seats a reservation is a necessity, especially as most nights you can count on nearly every seat being taken up by a Russian expat looking for a taste of home. The half dozen young blond, blue-eyed, and impossibly thin staff members seem barely out of their teens, but churn out a steady stream of tasty and authentic fare worthy of the 16th Century Cossack leader they’ve named themselves after.
Belgrano & Colegiales – French
Sucre 2168 entre Cuba y Arcos, Belgrano (4896-1818) – Subte D, Juramento/44, 63, 133, 151, 152 bus. Open noon-3pm, 8pm-midnight Mon-Sat.. Main Courses AR$25-35. Credit AmEx, DC, MC, V.
If you’re not the sort who’s used to “dining at the club” with your cohorts, Maat may make you feel like Ferris Bueller putting one over on the maitre d’. You know you deserve to be pampered and served in one of their semi-private dining rooms or garden, but just exactly how did they know? Start with a cocktail at the well-stocked bar and then move on to dine on some of the most intensely flavoured, classic French cuisine currently being offered in the city. When you retire to the library to sip on an after dinner drink and peruse the collection of art and food tomes, you’ll just know you should be admitted to this club – and keep that in mind, because down the line, Maat intends to become exactly that, a members-only club. Get there while it’s open to the public, or be ready to sign on the dotted line.
Belgrano & Colegiales – Italian
Plaza 1411, esq. Zarraga, Colegiales (4556-1463). Subte B, Tronador/21, 76, 87, 93, 127, 140 bus. Open 8pm-midnight Mon; noon-3pm, 8pm-midnight Tue-Sat; noon-3pm Sun.. Main Courses AR$8-12. No credit cards.
Let your eyes drift past the fading facade and the paint peeling off the walls and rest on the two flour covered work tables just inside the main entrance. Two pasta cooks shuttle back and forth from kitchen to those tables, rolling out, cutting, and hand forming every order of pasta al momento. An array of homemade antipasto lines the dilapidated bar. There’s no menu, and don’t ask the your waitress to recite all 29 items the kitchen offers – take the recommendations off the daily signboard out front, or whatever she recommends as the best of the day. Dig into some of the freshest and best made traditional Italian antipasti and pasta casera in the city, or if you must, sample basic local fare like milanesas. The tables are packed with locals, so expect some heads turning when you walk in the door, and don’t be surprised if more than one dining neighbor questions your origins.
Belgrano & Colegiales – South-east Asian
Arribeños 2288, esq. Blanco Encalda, Belgrano (4706-2302). Subte D, Juramento/15, 29, 60, 64, 118. Open noon-3:30pm, 8pm-midnight Tue-Sun. Main Courses AR$10-15. No credit cards.
Not so much fusion as pan-Asian cuisine, with creative and beautifully presented dishes from all over southern and eastern Asia. Look for inspired twists on classics like Vietnamese springrolls filled with the innards of a pressed Vietnamese sandwich – paté, roast pork, and hot peppers; or a Cantonese sweet and sour chicken made with tomato and litchis. Tranquility is the order of the day, and service is quiet and unobtrusive, leaving you to soak in the ambiance, and nibble away at some of the finest Asian food in the city. The setting is beautiful – allow yourself to be tempted to take a pot of tea and some pastries after your meal in the adjacent tea garden. Then wander on upstairs to the constantly changing array of art in the well curated gallery. You may just not want to leave.
Belgrano & Colegiales – Vegan
Dorrego 1588 entre T. Alvarez y Córdoba, Colegiales (4778-1889) – Subte B, Dorrego or D, Carranza/Bus 19, 21, 39, 151, 168. Open 8pm-midnight Thur (reservations only).. Set menu AR$30. No credit cards.
Vegetarian cooking is already considered offbeat in the beef capital of the planet, so imagine trying to open a raw food vegan venue. Underground and off the radar is clearly your best bet, and so Chef Diego Castro and his wife Lola launched their home-based, one night a week restaurant (“restaurant a puertas cerradas”), serving up a degustation menu for those who want to remind their bodies that something other than charred meat exists. Creative, innovative, and tasty, each plate is served up with not only a description, but passion and true style. Sure you may walk out of their beautifully appointed home and garden feeling cleansed and healthier already, but your tastebuds will be awake and cheering loudly as well. There’s clearly a demand for Diego’s “cooking” style, and you can count on every seat in the house to be occupied throughout the evening, with folks waiting in the wings for their moment to sit and dine.
In mid-2006, I started writing for Time Out Buenos Aires. With changes in their way of conducting business, I decided to part company with them after my last article and set of reviews in mid-2009.