All the cool kids are doing it. Reserving their Friday and Saturday nights for dinner in a strange home to which they don’t have the address. These details are only divulged in the final moments, with the understanding that you won’t reveal anything to those who aren’t in the know. You pull up to an unmarked door on a dark side street in one of BA’s many barrios. You ring the doorbell, about to join the ranks of what feels like an elite secret society.
This is a fitting, if not obvious, place to start writing about the wonders of the Buenos Aires gastro-scene. Closed Door restaurants – puertas cerradas – have been around for the past several years (Casa Saltshaker and treintasillas being the pioneers here) and are on the tips of everyone’s tongues as the new foodie phenomenon. Tourists, expats and locals alike are all eager to participate in this underground yet accessible culture that promotes intimate, family-like experiences with close friends and complete strangers sitting around a communal table. It’s a breath of fresh air to feel like a VIP guest while eating in someone else’s home. You’re guaranteed an all-around memorable experience, from the noteworthy food to the stimulating conversation to the luxe feeling of participating in something so intimate.
So, you’re dying to try a closed-door spot. Where to begin? Luckily you have tons of options from which to choose: from totally under the radar places to more established restaurants that aren’t so secret anymore (but that haven’t lost their charm). Unique Asian fusion, an entirely pescatarian menu, dishes that highlight the best of local produce, gourmet home-cooked meals … No doubt there is something for everyone. You can almost always count on excellent wine pairings to accompany each course. Here’s a list of some of BA’s best puertas cerradas:
Casa Felix – Pescatarian
Casa Mun – Chinese, Japanese & Korean with a California twist
Casa Saltshaker – Gourmet home-cooked
Cocina Sunae – Southeast Asian flavors
Jueves a la Mesa – Varied, using only the freshest local produce
La Cocina Discreta – Modern Argentine / Mediterranean
Mis Raices – Jewish cuisine*
Paladar – Gourmet international
Pagano – Home-cooked (*Here you pay what you feel is enough, no set price for food)
Treintasillas – Modern Argentine
*It should be known that Mis Raices is the true pioneer (as Dan Perlman reminded me) and has been around for 30 years! Talk about ahead of the curve.
You can also check out this Top 5 Review from the Argentina Independent which helps narrow the playing field a bit.