New Kid on the Block: Aramburu Bis

Bis Menu

Spinoffs aren’t always the best idea. I mean, how many people actually watched “Joey“? See what I mean? But when matters are handled by a master, the results can be much more successful.

Enter Aramburu Bis, the hip, laid-back little sister of molecular powerhouse Aramburu. Opened recently, Bis is a more informal presentation of what makes Aramburu one of BA’s greatest restaurants: spectacular food, an excellent wine list, and attention to detail that makes even the most subtle element stand out.

Located on the corner of Humberto Primo and Salta (just steps from Aramburu), this bistro has a friendly neighborhood feel and a very unpretentious vibe. It’s the perfect blend of high/low – sophisticated dishes are served at communal tables, and the space is light, with vintage touches that make you feel like you’re hanging out in an almacén de barrio. A mix of vecinos, locals, and tourists make up the clientele, an inviting mix.

The menu is brief but changes frequently in accordance with what’s in season and what’s market-fresh. The wine list is curated by Agustina de Alba, whose accolades precede her (and rightly so). Twice named the best Sommelier of Argentina, she’s just 26 years old and quite the luminary. Expect more greatness from her down the line.

What’s special about Bis is that it offers solid riffs on Aramburu’s impeccable cuisine at a more friendly price-point, without sacrificing quality or creativity. I don’t know about you, but a 12-course tasting menu with wine pairings isn’t something I’m able to swing on a regular basis. At Bis I can chow down on a huevo a baja temperatura or some fantastic seafood, but won’t need to break the bank in the process.

Everything we ate was just fantastic, from start to finish. Portions were abundant, perfect for sharing at our communal table and left us full, fat, and happy.

The beef tartare was perfection – a faithful version of what you can find across the street at Aramburu with the mustard sorbet, but with a twist of crispy shoestring potatoes that results in a more unbuttoned approach. The rabbit stew, served in a steel sauce pot, was a welcome remedy to the first whiffs of brisk fall air blowing outside. The prawns wrapped in a crisp dough (one of my favorite courses from Aramburu) are served in a piping-hot cast iron dish table-side, complete with a fresh seafood broth poured over it all to finish.

Bis rabbit stew

As for mains, the cochinillo (suckling pig) was my wildest dream come true. Slow-cooked for 24 hours, it falls apart when you go to attack it, but the skin is so crispy and crackly that it provides a great contrast. The barley and mushroom risotto provided a strong complement but still allowed the pork to be the star (duh).Bis suckling pig

The corvina (drum fish) served up with a cauliflower puree and fennel was heaven on earth: light, fresh, and flavorful. Plated beautifully, it was a reminder of who’s behind the whole operation.

Bis corvina

I’m not usually one to crave red meat (so sue me) but the ojo de bife was straight up sensual. Crispy on the outside, juicy and bloody on the inside, served up with a bright pumpkin puree, onion, and chimichurri.

If you’ve still got room (and even if you don’t), dessert is a must. Gonzalo’s arroz con leche has reached reviews of mythical proportions, but once again – it’s well deserved. First off, who doesn’t love eating comfort food out of a little jar? That means no one can shove their spoons in and steal a taste, which is great for fatties like myself. I’m pretty easy to please and have always liked this dessert, but those who tend to be harder to convince have changed their minds once they dig into this beauty. A classic nostalgic dish prepared and served with a twist, it’s the ideal way to end a meal.

Even though I knew I’d be a fan of Bis before I walked through the door, I was so pleased that my expectations were confirmed and then surpassed. It’s a place you’ll want to visit again and again, whether it’s bringing friends visiting from out of town or just because you’re not in the mood to cook on a Friday night. You’re guaranteed to feel like you’re an amigo de la casa as soon as you sit down, which makes the food more delicious and the wine taste better.

Maybe it’s because I’m a younger sister myself, but I wouldn’t mind a little sibling rivalry here. I guess I’ll just have to visit Aramburu and Bis on several occasions to see which one is in the lead…

Bis table

Aramburu Bis
Humberto Primo 1207, esq. Salta – Constitución
Mon – Sat 12:30pm-11:30pm
4304-5697
Reservations recommended
Park at the garage next to Aramburu or better yet, take a taxi

 

Back to Basics: Retro Comeback in Microcentro

Food trends are cyclical, and Buenos Aires is a perfect microcosm of (nearly) every fad and movement under the sun. Riding the current wave of nostalgia that’s making the rounds, we’re heading back to childhood summer barbecue classics: hot dogs and hamburgers. Yep, a healthy slice of good old Americana is being served up right in the heart of downtown BA.

Palermo obviously has its share of the goods with Burger Joint and Dean & Denny’s (I cannot get beyond that awful mash-up of two US chains, it’s just too much) slinging meat patties like it’s nobody’s business, but we’re going to focus on DOGG and 180 Burger Bar because I said so. Actually, it’s because I work just a few blocks away from both places and am thrilled that I can sit at my desk after lunch with burger grease still on my hands.

DOGGYou don’t have to walk very far in Buenos Aires to find a garden variety pancho, but they’re almost always of the boiled sort, served on wimpy bread and with only papas pay or salsa golf as a topping. Praise be to the wiener gods, DOGG is the answer to all of your hot dog prayers.  The dogs are made of 100% Angus Aberdeen beef, using a classic/”secret” Brooklyn recipe, are grilled up and served on fresh-made homemade buns. It’s already evident that this is a superior base with which to start, so the toppings and sauces are literally the icing on the (meaty) cake. Imagine staring at an array of magic, ripe for the choosing: cheddar cheese, green onions, chili, guacamole, pancetta, sauerkraut, homemade pickles, BBQ sauce… I’ll give you a minute to wipe the drool off your chin now.

Source: DOGG

Source: DOGG

Everything is made to order, so once you’ve gotten your lunch, try to grab a seat at the communal table and take in the hipster atmosphere. Exposed brick, big chalkboards, subway tiles, and a rack of random hot sauces (muled in by friends and family, no doubt) add to the onda. Lunchtime is expectedly busy, with the line spilling out the door, but it moves quickly. Service is friendly; you can tell the hot dog dudes are happy to be living the wiener dream and spreading the love.

There are other options on the menu if you aren’t digging a phallic almuerzo for some reason. Wraps, sandwiches and salads are all quite good, though you’d be a dope to visit DOGG and not partake in the main event.

Some Fridays there’s even a DOGG happy hour for the after-office crowd. Though the area is usually known for sweaty underground boliches and pseudo-Irish pubs, this is a solid option if you’re not ready to head home from a long week without making a stopover for a laid-back tipple.

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180 Burger BarWalk just a few blocks from DOGG and you’ll pass 180 Burger Bar, a tiny spot filled with big beefy surprises. It’s next door to Baking BA, which makes a pretty badass cinnamon roll (They used to make English muffin breakfast sandwiches too, which was great for my hungover suffering, but stopped without warning. I’m still not over that heartbreak), and pumps out a mean hamburguesa for the hungry downtown warriors. If you ever made the mistake of eating at McDonald’s before, you’ll realize that this is most certainly a camino de ida.

The propuesta is straightforward, no bullshit: Build-your-own burger, with a happy array of homemade rolls, sauces, and toppings. Choose your bread: sunflower, Viena, or organo, Burger: beef or quinoa (for the hippies), and Sauce: salsa brava, chimichurri mayo, BBQ, tzatziki, or Dijon/mayo. The standard comes with lettuce, tomato and pickles, with special toppings as extra. Mozzarella, cheddar, provolone, fried egg, pancetta, and grilled onions – they can all be yours for a few pesos more. I like to go with cheddar and onion, but you can’t really make a wrong move.

Source: 180 Burger Bar

Source: 180 Burger Bar

All you need to do is hover by the counter like a creep and wait; even when the place is packed, your made-to-order juicy burger of love will be ready within ten minutes. If you were smart (or stupid, depending on how you choose to look at life), you ordered the papas fritas and made it a combo. Nice move, sport.

There’s plenty of seating available inside, but it can get a little stuffy (you might not want to smell like a smoke-fest once you’re done). Taking your goodies to go is probably the best bet, and you can be sure that your food will still be warm and perfect when you reach your final destination.

Take a deep breath and prepare yourself for the experience you’re about to have. The burger itself is nice and big – this is a two-hand job (?). It’s everything you’ve ever wanted in a burger: grilled up on the outside, juicy on the inside, nestled between fresh toppings, flavorful sauce and a nicely toasted roll. With the papas, you’ve got yourself a feast fit for a king. Really though, it’s surprisingly a lot of food. Tread lightly if you have somewhere important to be afterward. Full disclosure: I spent the rest of my day in a blissed out stupor, daydreaming of all things meat.

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The verdict? Throwback looks good in la City. The classics never go out of style, and when they’re reimagined with a twist to keep them current, you can’t go wrong. DOGG and 180 Burger Bar are bringing much-needed zest to the downtown scene, which is overrun with sub-par milanesas and carb-tastic tartas. Both offer delicious, fresh food, homemade with love, at reasonable prices. Why would you ever want to go back to Big Macs and superpanchos once you’ve tried the real thing?

Welcome to the neighborhood, dudes. It’s (very) nice to have you.

DOGG
San Martín 657, Microcentro
4313-9735
Monday/Tuesday, 10AM-5PM
Wednesday-Friday, 10AM-9PM
Delivery

180 Burger Bar
Suipacha 749, Microcentro
4328-7189
Lunch, Monday-Friday: 12-4PM
Cash only

A Triumphant Return

Sprinkle Drink at BASAThank God blogs aren’t apartments, because I would have been evicted by now.

Remember me? I sure hope so. This little space has become overgrown with cobwebs and too much dust. I could come up with a list of excuses as to why, but none of them is any good. So let’s just move forward and pretend that my hiatus lasted no longer than the blink of an eye, dale?

I’ve missed you all and the joy I get writing about my food and drink exploits about town. Life sometimes gets in the way, though.

One of the most exciting developments that took place in my absence would have to be the coming together of the Comando Gourmand, a group of eight fabulous women – some local, some expat – dedicated to bringing the best of BA’s food & drink to the forefront. We’re a motley crew, and a wonderful one at that. Journalists, sommeliers, bloggers, and all-around bon vivants meeting together at a proverbial communal table. It’s a lovely thing.

El Comando Gourmand Please head on over to our Facebook page and give us a Like, because – why not? We were fortunate enough to be invited to speak about the new trends in Argentine gastronomy at the Día del Gourmet celebrations recently and were then called upon by the Travel Channel’s “Food Paradise” during their whirlwind stop in town. We rolled up our sleeves and tucked into some of the city’s best steaks, burgers, and deep-fried deliciousness. Hey, it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.

2013 was a big year for Buenos Aires. It seems that a corner has been turned and we’re in for a continued wave of stellar restaurants, bars, cafés, and beyond. Allie put together a lovely little review of last year’s Top 25, check it out if you haven’t done so already.

What am I most excited about? Probably the return to local, quality, standout ingredients that come together in a simple way to bring complex flavors to a plate. Chefs are getting braver, stepping away from what everyone else is doing and taking more risks. We’re reaping the benefits, and it’s inspiring new projects to come forth. All very promising indeed.

So, whaddya say? Let’s get this show back on the road, dangnabit. See you on the flip side…

La Huella

Review: One Table at HG

HG's One Table It’s a pretty fair assessment to say that Buenos Aires has grown in leaps and bounds in the gastronomic sense in the past year or so. Pop-ups, food truck(s), closed doors, supper clubs, cook-offs, themed tours … the list goes on. It might seem intimidating to a greenhorn when it comes to upping the ante, but the hard hitters know what’s up. Enter Hernán Gipponi, chef of the eponymous restaurant at the hip Fierro Hotel Boutique in Palermo Hollywood. HG has been dishing out one of the city’s best brunches for quite some time, not to mention their gourmet tasting dinners and festive garden “Thank Fierro It’s Friday” happy hours.

My favorite wall Enter a new concept, one that brings together the best of the best: Gourmet dishes, in a familiar and communal setting, with a unique touch that sets it apart from the rest. Enter One Table. HG’s cure for even the worst case of the Mondays (dinners are only hosted one night a week) will satisfy anyone from the most demanding of palates to those just looking for something new on the scene.

Wino Seats around this table are limited, so you’d be a fool not to reserve your spot. Go alone, go with friends … go with an open mind and obviously an empty stomach. The idea is for the food to be shared among the diners in a casual and deconstructed way, which is a nice contrast of the high-level food you’re about to shovel into your gullet.

One Table Menu signedThe menu – which changes constantly and in our case was a staggering nine courses – is hand written and signed by Hernán himself, and wines are paired accordingly (and served generously). Dishes are developed with what’s in season (claro) and feature the best of what the local market has to offer.

HG and team at work Perhaps the best part of the whole experience is watching Hernán and his skilled kitchen team prep, plate and serve the dishes tableside as they come out. Hell, he even finished cooking the hare on the table – a little smoky, but whatever, I’ll take it. As someone who has always envied those who can edge out their space in that realm of the food industry, it was fascinating to watch them work as such a well-oiled machine.

Heart + Beans + MustardOf all the food we were served, it’s hard to choose a favorite. I love that HG always manages to sneak a huevo a baja temperatura in the mix, though the steak tartare and the heart (!!) with beans and mustard was a real treat. By the time the arroz bomba and liebre rolled around, I was in need of an auxiliary stomach to help me out. Everything was so delicious, so abundant, so full of love. Really. You could taste the love on the plate. Anyone who says otherwise is lying.

Fish with peas, potatoes and peppersAfter a month-long and much-needed hiatus, One Table is back with a vengeance starting next Monday, August 12. Hurry up and make your res and get ready for one of BA’s best new dining experiences.

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HG – Hernán Gipponi at the Fierro Hotel Boutique
Soler 5862, Palermo Hollywood
One Table Dinners – Hosted on select Mondays, by reservation only
3220-6800

Finishing touches on the hare

Review: Sunday Brunch at Farinelli

Sunday Brunch at FarinelliAh, brunch. Buenos Aires hasn’t always done it right, but we’re getting there. After months of neighbors (or, just myself) clamoring for a little Sunday loving in Retiro, Farinelli at Arroyo has just started a brand-spankin’ new Brunch Extravaganza – and I gotta say, it’s pretty damn amazing.

The location is great: A bright, sunny corner of quiet Retiro with giant windows that are ideal for people-watching / stalking while you sit down and get settled. I like some booth action, but there are large tables in the middle that accommodate groups a bit better, though once the place is packed there isn’t a lot of room to spare. Fresh blooms from Florería Atlántico adorn the countertops and the day’s spread of fresh goodies – fruit salad, croissants, and the Bloody Mary bar (score!) – are poised to make your mouth water.

Brunch it upThe menu itself covers a nice range of brunch classics. French Toast, pancakes and waffles will satisfy those in need of a serious carb fix, while protein freaks will love the array of eggs (fried, scrambled, omelet) and sides that can be mixed and matched. One of the best bits? Real bacon, folks. Hallelujah praise the lawd. If you’re more in the mood for the “unch” side of brunch, there’s a bacon cheeseburger, a shrimp “burger” and a few sandwiches to keep you happy as well. It’s worth mentioning they’ve got Tabasco and maple syrup in spades. No more pancakes & honey for you.

Menu With all this food, you’re going to need to wash it down with something fabulous. You’re in luck, as the cocktails are from next-door neighbor Florería Atlántico (BFFs) and are the perfect libation for the occasion. If it’s early, order the Bloody Mary, and if you’re rolling in a bit later in the day, an Aperol Spritz will not let you down. There is also a short but quality list of wines available if you want to keep it classy.

Bar at the ready Funnily enough, ours was the first ever table to inaugurate this new brunch event, so I awkwardly screamed at everyone working there “FELIZ BRUNCH!” like I was some kind of zany neighborhood cheerleader. Hey, it’s a big deal. Brunch has made it to my ‘hood and I’m going to celebrate! Service was great – to be honest, much friendlier than usual and super efficient. Our dessert was delayed quite a bit and they were kind enough to take it off the check, something unexpected and not typical for BA customer service.

Bacon Cheeseburger DSC_0986 DSC_0987And the food? Yum city, I tell ya. Perfectly cooked fried eggs, nice crispy bacon, and that cheeseburger was one of the best I’ve had in the city. The fries were not piping hot, which I thought was strange, but I’ll chalk it up to first day jitters and the fact that they probably don’t have the timing down yet. Everything was fresh, well-seasoned and overall fabulous.

So here’s the deal: This Sunday funday brouhaha takes place from 11am-4pm only, with reservations available only for the 1pm time slot. It was pretty quiet when we arrived (11:15, hello, I was raised to be punctual), but by the time mid-day rolled around things were poppin’. Let’s not even mention the scene at 3pm – Tables bursting with hipsters and families alike, and sad people outside being told that they couldn’t be guaranteed a table before things wound down.

Farinelli ArroyoIf that isn’t a (good) sign of things to come, I don’t know what is. Welcome to the barrio (again), Farinelli, we’re so very glad to have you here.

Farinelli
Arroyo 900, Retiro
Monday-Saturday 8am-8pm
Sunday Brunch 11am-4pm
Reservations recommended for Brunch
4328-7998

Rockstar of the day

Review: Delhi Masala

Delhi Masala Anyone that knows me knows that I have a serious addiction to Indian food. From as far back as I can remember, I’ve craved spicy, aromatic curries and fluffy basmati rice. My first stop en route home from the airport once I touch down on US soil is our local Indian restaurant that I’ve been going to since I was in elementary school. (Side note: The owner’s children are probably going to some pretty fancy colleges thanks to my dedicated investment in their business. Moving on.)

Therefore, moving to Buenos Aires was a shock in the sense that the availability of Indian restaurants went from what felt like infinity to just a handful. Way back in 2007 I remember going to Tandoor on its first night in business, actually. Good times. Since then, slowly but surely there has been steady growth of classic, no-frills and authentic curry spots that have been able to sate the beast within me, also known as my murderous desire to eat Indian on a weekly basis. Warning: Indian food does not photograph well (duh). Sorry I’m not sorry.

Naan-senseLiving just one block away from Bengal, I was very spoiled to become close with the head chef there; he’d always indulge my obsession with spice and make sure my dish was always “nivel extranjero” instead of “nivel porteño.” He’s a good man. What makes him an AWESOME man is that in recent years he’s branched out and opened up several restaurants of his own – all thanks to the help of his family members that he brings over from India to help run the show. I’m hoping they’ll adopt me one day.

This is a lot of build up for one lousy review, but it was necessary. Delhi Masala, located right in the heart of hippie dippie San Telmo nightlife, is pretty much the only place I’ll go for a curry these days. An incredible range of dishes (so far they’re the only ones who do mattar paneer … and extremely well), the typical tacky-kitsch atmosphere of bright overhead lights and lots of little elephants strung everywhere and overall authentic flavors make this my favorite Indian restaurant in Buenos Aires.

Mattar Paneer You can’t really go wrong with anything on the menu, but if you’re really hungry I would skip the appetizers and head for the mains (the samosas are quite good though). Dal, prawn tikka masala, mattar paneer, aloo gobi, vindaloo, korma … I have to stop myself before I drool all over everything. Great range of vegetarian dishes and a whole section dedicated to briyani. Yay! Sopping up those sauces with hot buttery naan is so delicious it should be illegal. Actually, I’d totally brave the wilds of Fuerte Apache or some other scary barrio if it meant I could get my hands on whatever magic is coming out of Mohammed’s kitchen. True story. Portions are generous, waiters understand the diners’ need for truly spicy food, and they even offer house-brewed cerveza to wash it all down. Remember that in BA, you have to order the rice separately from you main dish – kind of a drag but not the biggest deal.

Before you pass out in a heavenly food coma, try to give dessert a whirl. The pistachio ice cream is super rich and at the same time refreshing, though you might need an Uvasal after all is said and done if you’re anything like me. (For clarity: If you’re anything like me you will order three mains between two people and stuff yourselves to the brim with naan and basmati rice just for good measure. So basically you probably have more self control and better judgment than I do.)

The best bit of all of this? Delhi Masala accepts Club La Nación meaning your meal will be at least 20% cheaper every night of the week – 50% off on Tuesdays! Who doesn’t love a bargain in this inflation-ridden town? Just me? Don’t be shy. Pinching pennies is the new extravagance. Or not?

No matter the day of the week, the place tends to fill up, so either head there on the earlier end or call ahead to reserve if you want to be sure. They also do take out if you prefer to smother yourself in tikka masala in the privacy of your own home. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: No judgment here.

So if you’ve been craving a good curry and haven’t found the right spot, are looking for a new place, or have never even had Indian food because you were raised in a barn … Mosey on down to Delhi Masala and prepare for a camino de ida. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Delhi Masala
Defensa 714, San Telmo
Open for Lunch & Dinner
4300-3790
Discount with Club La Nación
Take Out & Delivery

Final Photo Credit: Via Resto 

Review: BASA Basement Bar & Restaurant

(Quick note before you get to the good stuff: This post was supposed to go live more than a month ago, before I fell off the face of the Earth – OK, the southern hemisphere – and was out of town for a nice stretch. Not that any of this really matters to you, of course, but take this small message as proof that I do indeed still exist.)

BASA Basement Bar & Restaurant I feel like a broken record. The Retiro Renaissance™ (I just did that) continues to take Buenos Aires by storm, and the (now not-so) newest contender on the stage just happens to be located on my tiny little street on the ground floor of the posh Quartier residential/office building mere steps from Av. del Libertador. BASA Basement Bar & Restaurant is the chic big sister of next door’s Grand Café which opened up several months ago. Brainchild of the dream team behind Gran Bar Danzón, Sucre, Sanbenito (RIP) and even some spots in Brazil, BASA had all of us waiting anxiously for its debut.

Inside BASA If you’re familiar with Danzón or Sucre, BASA’s industrial-hip interior will seem happily familiar to you. Though located technically underground, the restaurant and bar area are spacious, inviting and not at all claustrophobic. The bar itself is massive, taking up the whole back wall and proudly showing off an array of booze and cocktail tools and treats.

Ludo's G&THead barman Ludovico De Biaggi knows what he’s doing: at just 23, he has already logged nearly a decade behind the bar (child protection groups, not to worry, he started off practicing alongside guru Inés de los Santos, but strictly with non-alcoholic delights while his mom was busy working in Danzón’s office. Yep, it’s a family affair.). Ludo’s extreme dedication (watch him make your drink and you’ll realize he is more focused on that task than you ever were on anything, ever) results in some amazing cocktails – dare I say, his take on my favorite G&T surpasses that of Florería Atlántico’s famed Tato, and his Smoky Rusty Nail is simply exquisite. Take advantage of his creativity and let him whip something up off-menu for you, if you’re lucky.

Arroz negro at BASAIf the drinks are fabulous, the food is beyond. Try not to fill up on the amazing, fresh-baked bread that is brought out before you order, something easier said than done. The menu is pretty extensive, with creative small plates and appetizers that are best shared – the fritto misto and the sartén de hongos are the stuff dreams are made of. Main courses include a variety of meat, pasta and fish dishes joined by a variety of sides. You can’t go wrong with the grilled fish of the day and a simply dressed green salad, but if you want to do it up, the arroz negro with shellfish and squid ink is most likely infused with a little bit of heaven. Although, all of this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given that head Chef Julieta Oriolo is the one orchestrating this behind the scenes. The wine list is on the pricey side, but has tons of options, and the desserts are a perfect way to end your meal (check out the profiteroles).

BASA Service is professional (though it’s been clear that some servers know more than others about how to work in a higher-end restaurant), and you’ll notice that one of the owners and/or managers is never far from the action – speaking directly to the legacy that Patricia and Luís have spent more than a decade constructing.

Cocktail wisdom at BASABASA hosts a daily happy hour with drink specials and a lively atmosphere for an area that has previously been quiet for so long. Before, you’d have to either brave the mess that is Reconquista just to have a beer after leaving the office or suffer in silence, but now we can all let out a collective sigh of happy relief knowing that our newest neighborhood haunt raises the bar (pun not really intended) significantly. The best part is knowing after a great night stuffing myself to the gills, I’m half a block from home. Retiro, I love you.

BASA Buenos Aires BASA Basement Bar & Restaurant
Basavilbaso 1328 – Retiro
4893-9444
Lunch, Happy Hour & Dinner
Reservations recommended