(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.)
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.
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.
Head 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.
If 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).
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.
BASA 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 Basement Bar & Restaurant
Basavilbaso 1328 – Retiro
Lunch, Happy Hour & Dinner