Murasaki: Ramen to Warm the Soul

MurasakiOne of my favorite parts of living in Buenos Aires lies within its endless galerías, long, narrow little centers that usually boast a wide array of shops: electricians, watch repairmen, random specialty stores packed to the gills and lacking completely in natural light. They offer a taste of adventure in this urban jungle, concealing gems that only the most brave of conocedores are fortunate enough to know about. For the explorers of the culinary variety, these galerías often are home to miniature restaurants or cafés as well.

Galería Larreta sits right on calle Florida, at the start of the pedestrian street best known for its leather hawkers and currency exchange shops. It was apparently the center of the go-go movement in the 60s and boasts a massive marble mural (try to say that five times fast) by artist Luis Seoane.

Bypass the shops and head straight back to Murasaki, a Japanese restaurant that serves not only fresh sushi, but also steaming bowls of magical ramen that will warm your heart and soul. Now, the cult of ramen isn’t necessarily news here, but discovering hidden treasures tucked among the porteño landscape always renews one’s faith in what this city has to offer.

If you’re looking for something BBB (bueno, bonito, barato), you’ve come to the right place. Sushi can be ordered individually, letting you choose from a range of sashimi, nigiri, rolls and temaki. The menu also offers up classics such as gyozas, yakitori, and tempura, but the star here is the ramen/udon section. Splurge a little for the fresh ramen and go to town – you can order broth with either a miso or pork base; both are delicious but I think the pork edges out the miso by a hair.

The egg yolk wasn’t as runny as I would have liked, but I think they assumed I would be put off by it (um, wrong, but I’ll let it slide). Be sure to jack up your broth with all of the spicy add-ons the waitress brings to the table – it really takes things up a notch.

Slurp up the rameny goodness and enjoy this pause in your busy day. Since you’re basically sitting inside a miniature labyrinth, no one will find you at your new hiding spot. Come to think of it, if you’re a) having an affair, b) hiding from your friends/boss/real life responsibilities, or c) a hermit, you’ll like Murasaki even more.

For those who might enjoy a little more social exposure, there’s another location a few blocks away at Viamonte 500.

Gyoza at Murasaki

Murasaki
Florida 971, local 32 – Galería Larreta
4314-6866
Open Mon-Fri 8am-8pm
Open Sat 9am-4pm

 

 

 

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