(Full disclosure before we dive in: This post is horrifyingly, miserably, tragically overdue. I also excel at hyperbole, I know. Anyway – No idea why I have dragged my feet so long to share the experience of the Comando Gourmand’s night at the chef’s table at Mishiguene. Apologies to no one and everyone. Now sit back and happy reading)
As 2015 rolled in, the Comando Gourmand was faced with a milestone: its first birthday. Since we’re a festive group, we knew it was important to tie one on. So we did. Thanks to chef/co-owner Tomás Kalika and his amazing team at Mishiguene, we were able to spend an evening stuffing ourselves silly at the chef’s table at one of BA’s newest and greatest restaurants. At the risk of sounding trite, it truly was a magical night from start to finish.
Mishiguene is nestled in leafy green Palermo Botánico, one of my favorite barrios. When it opened toward the end of 2014, there was quite a bit of buzz surrounding the endeavor; purists scoffed that no one should try to make gourmet Jewish food, it’s a losing battle, etc. Tomás explained that it’s obviously futile to go head to head with the bubbes of the world and try to compete with their home-cooked dishes that have been passed down through the generations. Instead, he decided to put modern culinary techniques to work on these traditional recipes with which so many people have fallen in love. Boom. Mishiguene was born.
The space itself is lush and inviting: imagine tropical palm leaves, dark woods with gold accents, and focused lighting. It looks rich and there is a loud, vibrant feel to the place. The cozy bar area at the front makes waiting for your table that much more pleasant, especially if accompanied by a Spritz. Mirrors along one side of the wall add depth and give everything a definite brasserie feel.
Head toward the back and you’ll end up at the nerve center of it all, the kitchen. Set off to the side is the most perfect little enclave, with a table nestled in so well it’s almost as if it fell from the sky exactly this way. If you’re a fan of having a real piece of the culinary action, this is where you’ll want to spend your night.
Chef prepared a tasting menu for the event. Talk about a feast! I’ve always been a fan of Jewish cuisine – though I would not at all consider myself an expert – and was so happy to find the same amazing flavors woven into an updated presentation.
The gefilte fish was understated and delicate, not at all like what you might have seen in grocery store aisles as a child. The fattoush salad is now perhaps my most favorite salad of all time, forever and ever amen, with its massive hunk of soft goat’s cheese, organic cucumbers and red onions, crispy pita and salty olives. Definitely paradise on a plate.
Next up was a little lamb “cigar” wrapped in phyllo dough. Though the “spicy” sauce was anything but, the lamb was deliciously shredded and juicy. Love me some lamb.
The baba ghanoush was served in the form of a whole roasted eggplant drizzled with yogurt and olive oil. I was initially hoping it would have been a pool of smoky dip goodness into which I could dive and swim around, but I loved the unique presentation and the flavors. Garlic breath guaranteed.
Up next were the varenikes, which were probably the only weak point of the whole meal. There wasn’t much depth of flavor, though we loved having them served tableside right from the pan.
By this point, it’s safe to say we were slowing down. It was like the most fantastic family-style feast, massive plates placed in the center of the table and no qualms at all about heading in gung-ho. Since the evening was much clearly more of a marathon than a sprint, I should have paced myself but as usual, threw caution into the wind because it’s always so much more fun.
Following the varenikes, steaming bowls of chicken liver and heart served among hummus and hot peppers rolled out. This is when I started kicking myself for having eaten too much in the previous courses, since the flavors of this dish were so strangely marvelous (it’s not every day you are chowing down on chicken hearts) and new to me. I was only able to manage a few bites, but wished I could have slipped the rest into a Tupperware for the next day.
Take a moment and pat yourself on the back if you’ve made it this far. We’re almost at the finish line, my friends, try to savor the moment.
For dessert, we had a delightful baklava with a bit of ice cream. I love flaky, buttery pastries that stick to my teeth and give me nightmares about cavities, and this morsel did the trick. Following this, petit fours – handmade by the one and only Nucha (mother of one of the restaurant’s owners) – were served in antique crystal dishes.
If at any point you’d forgotten that this food is about heart and soul, and sharing the magic of tradition through the generations, this was your reminder. At the end of the day, when you strip away the gastronomic bells and whistles, it all comes back to telling your story through food infused with love.
We spent the rest of the evening carrying on several conversations at once, laughing far too loudly, sipping on champagne (and then much-needed herbal tea), and toasting to both what we’ve accomplished and all that lays out before us. Because when push comes to shove, life is all about taking the everyday moments and making them magical, don’t you think?
Lafinur 3368 – Palermo
Open for lunch & dinner