October 2007, page 82
To See and Be Seen
There’s no question that most of the time, when we set out to dine, the two key criteria are the quality of the food and level of service. Who wants to intentionally head somewhere with bad food, or where they know that the waitstaff are either incompetent or filled with self-important attitude? Okay, there are a few of you who thrive on the abuse or the ability to say, “I had a really terrible meal at Restaurant X…”. But not too many of you.
Some days, however, it’s all about the place. You just want to be surrounded by a fabulous setting, or a romantic air, or maybe just beautiful people. Sure, you still want tasty food and a waiter who remembers what you ordered and is polite about it, but what you’re really after is to see and be seen in just the right spot.
For sheer old world elegance it’s probably impossible to beat the L’Orangerie in the Alvear Palace Hotel, Av. Alvear 1891, 4808-2100 ext.1643, one of the city’s most famous spots for breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea – with soaring ceilings, arched windows overlooking an immaculately tended garden, and white gloved staff who attend to your every need.
Across town, in Belgrano, in a beautifully restored old palazzo, is the magnificent Maat, Sucre 2168, 4896-1818, officially a private club, but as long as they’re not full up with members, easily the most elegant dining spot in the city. Surrounded by rich fabrics, draperies, crystal, and a hushed setting, you can indulge in excellent food, far-reaching conversation, and secret business deals…
At the opposite extreme, there are moments when you want to find yourself in a locale that’s modern, chic, and, well, simply striking. Now, it’s not for everyone, but for some, being seated in the glowing white and gold of El Bistro, at the Hotel Faena + Universe, Martha Salotti 445, in Puerto Madero Este, 4010-9200, is an over the top trip to fantasy-land. Unicorn heads mounted on the walls peer down at you as you dine on sophisticated “international” cuisine.
Once again racing across town to Belgrano, you can’t do much better than to impress yourself with the massive modern industrial spot that is Sucre, Sucre 676, 4782-9082. Here, you’ll find yourself getting whiplash as you try to decide between settling your gaze on the massive concrete wine cellar in the center of the room, the colorful three-story high bottle stocked bar, or the huge open kitchen, gleaming with stainless steel and copper.
For shear romance, right down to a crackling log fire, cozy, warm, inviting… it’s pretty hard to top the ambiance at Desde el Alma, corner of Honduras and Godoy Cruz in Palermo, 4831-5812. Often recommended as the most romantic restaurant in the city, they’ve maintained that status in the face of the hype.
Also out in Palermo, the casually elegant room or garden at Thymus, Lerma 525 at the corner of Malabia, 4772-1936 is an ideal night out spot for a date. It might even be the best spot for a first date – it combines cozy little romantic touches with just enough relaxed modernism to take the pressure off. Service is friendly but never intrusive, and the food can be a true delight.
On a beautiful sunny day, there’s little better than to find yourself on a lovely outdoor patio, dining on great food and surrounded by the rich and famous. You almost expect Robin Leach to pop out from behind a nearby bush at Primafila, on the upper level of the Buenos Aires Design Center at Pueyrredón and Libertador, 4804-0055. Just relax, sit back on one of the lounge chairs, and raise a glass to toast your neighbors.
For those who just love dining al fresco, wend your way out to Palermo and settle in at a garden table at Cabernet, Jorge L. Borges 1757, 4831-3071, where you can sample through exceptional creative fusion cuisine, great wines, and watch the world on the street pass you by.
For complete tranquility, we tend to think some sort of Asian retreat, and out in our Chinatown, or Barrio Chino, is just such a spot – BuddhaBA, Arribeños 2288, 4706-2382, where you can tuck into pan-Asian cuisine, followed by tea service, or maybe just tea and pastries out in the calming atmosphere of the zen garden. You might not even need that massage you have scheduled for later in the day.
On the quiet corner of Charcas and Godoy Cruz in Palermo sits Almanza, 4771-2285. From the outside you might think it’s just a neighborhood coffee shop, but enter inside and find yourself in a soft white and chocolate brown room, surrounded by casually artsy photographs, and piles of culinary tomes. Elegant? No. But relaxing and calming like visiting your grandmother’s kitchen – only with far better food.
In October 2006, I started writing for this Spanish language magazine, covering their English language section for travellers. I wrote for them for about two years. The copy editor, apparently not fluent in English, used to put each paragraph in its own text box on a two column page, in what often seemed to be random order, making the thread of the column difficult to follow. I’ve restored the paragraphs to their original order.