Restaurants in Palermo Viejo / Hollywood seem to fall into one of two categories: In-your-face, occupying a full street corner with big windows and a bigger propuesta loaded with hooplah; or something more tucked away, unassuming, with no need to rely on the gimmicks that have taken over the area in the past few years. As much as I love to slap on some stilettos and prance around town (who am I kidding? I don’t really do that, ever. But you get my drift), of late I have been much more drawn to these mellow, hidden gems that elude some serious buena onda with a heavy dose of gourmet goodness.
Enter Ocho Once, founded less than a year ago and making waves (albeit quiet ones) with its intimate, homey setting and unpretentiously delicious food. Situated on a nearly-ignored block of Palermo Hollywood but steps from the hustle and bustle we’ve all grown to love/hate – depending on traffic – the restaurant itself is actually the Chef’s home. The interior channels granny chic in the best way, with dark woods and marble countertops, vintage bar carts and antique light fixtures. Music in the background is well-curated but doesn’t drown out the conversation. Stepping over the threshold, everything seems to just slow down a bit. It’s a welcome change from what awaits us outside after we’re done eating.
The five-course menu we were served was creative, delicious and spot-on in terms of portion sizes. There is a focus on organic and natural ingredients – also reflected in the wine list – but don’t worry, you won’t be munching on kale or tempeh all night. First up was a tiradito de salmón rosado marinated in soy sauce and passion fruit – high-quality fish with amazing texture and a dynamic marinade that had me licking my plate.
Next up was a chilled spinach soup with roasted pear and cashews. I am not usually crazy about chilled soups – they can be hard to pull off – but this was nice as the pear added some weight and depth to the dish. A blob of homemade sour cream was an interesting surprise but a bit too acidic for my liking. I did use the awesome homemade bread to soak up the rest of the soup, so all was well.
Our third course competed with the first for being the table’s favorite: Prawn ravioli with coconut lemongrass sauce. This little bite of heaven was just incredible. A bit of heat in the broth added some complexity and the pasta was light and perfectly cooked. I could have eaten an entire bowl of these, they were that good. In fact, adding another ravioli (raviole?) would have helped balance things out, given that the previous course was a soup and this was pretty soupy itself.
The fourth course was a big hunk of bondiola served with some humita and chutney. Though the meat was a bit fattier than I tend to prefer, it was so tender and fall off the fork juicy that it was just delightful. The humita wasn’t as bright as I would have liked; overall this dish is best served on a chilly autumn night since it’s pretty potent.
Dessert was a lime-melon soup with mango panna cotta. I was ready for something that wasn’t soup-based, but the dessert was fresh, light, and flavorful. The panna cotta was my favorite bit. It would have been nice to even just have some fresh sorbet or even a bit of cake to offset the whole … liquidity of it all. But still, a fine way to end the meal on a light note.
Service was friendly and warm but not invasive, and the Chef introduces each dish at your table as they are brought out. There is a modest corkage fee, definitely a nice choice if you want to take one of your nicer bottles out for a night on the town. If you’re planning to head there in a group, ask about the table in the back – a very intimate and unique spot to have a meal, indeed.
I was impressed with what Ocho Once offered and would love to go back and see what other delights will be flying out of the kitchen over the coming weeks. If you’ve grown weary of the loud, brash Palermo “scene” but don’t want to compromise quality, make a note in your datebook to head over to this spot for a truly solid experience.
Ocho Once Maison du Chef
Exact address given upon reservation – Palermo Hollywood
Open Wednesday – Saturday for dinner