One of the reasons I love this city is its uncanny ability to draw you in, seducing you with its hidden gems, stunning architecture, and nostalgic romance, among so many other qualities. In spite of the chaos, the stress of the hustle, and the feeling that the city might actually be out to break our spirits just for fun, there’s a redeeming quality that can be found around almost every corner – if you know where to look.
Life has been hectic lately, working long hours and weekends, rushing around just to get the basic things done, and I’m often left at the end of the day feeling like a deflated little party balloon. However, when I rang the buzzer and took the old-school lift up to Fuego for a Korean cooking class the other day, all of that noise melted away as the magic of Buenos Aires reveled herself to me yet again.
Located along Av. Callao in Congreso, Fuego is a closed-door restaurant that serves cuisine inspired by faraway cultures and flavors prepared by Chef Nicolás Díaz Martini. During the week, a diverse array of cooking classed are offered, running the gamut from Thai to Vietnamese to a Master Class on Spices.
Walking down the long hall to its entrance, you get the feeling that you’re being let in on a secret to which only a select few are privy. Parquet floors lead to picture windows overlooking cupolas that harken back to the golden age of this concrete jungle; winding hallways reveal cozy nooks and details impossible to find in today’s modern construction that emphasizes cost-effectiveness above all else. It’s the perfect spot to dive into dishes that will spark wanderlust and create memorable moments.
There were just six of us huddled around Chef’s prep space carefully organized in the most lovely mise en place – a myriad of spices and sauces lay before us, ready to be transformed. On the menu were a few hallmark dishes: classic kimchi, marinated bean sprouts, spicy fish soup, and slow-roasted beef cooked in soy, ginger, green onion, and garlic. We watched, listened, learned, and tasted as Nico explained the building blocks of Korean cuisine, sharing personal anecdotes and tips on where to buy the typically elusive products and ingredients required to recreate the magic at home.
Sharing an experience like this with other passionate food lovers is always fun; every once in a while it’s nice to strike up conversations with strangers and see what you can learn from them. Given that we were all focused on a common goal – making a delicious meal and then scarfing it down – there weren’t as many awkward pauses that sometimes arise at a more traditional communal table setting. As we dipped our chopsticks into the massive bowl of kimchi we’d just made, friendly bonds were formed and laughter came more easily to all of us.
By the time we actually sat down at the table to dine, it was as if we’d all known each other for much longer than just a couple of hours. As for the food itself? I could have eaten endless bowls of the spicy fish soup, savoring its rich broth loaded with umami flavors, content knowing that it can be replicated in my own kitchen whenever I’d like. Bean sprouts – typically one the sadder, most boring of ingredients – came to life with a simple marinade that left us fighting over the leftovers. The slow-cooked beef, similar to bulgogi, had us all licking our fingers as we searched for those perfectly crispy and caramelized bits that bring us one step closer to what heaven must feel like.
The hours melted away, and suddenly I realized it was way past my bedtime: my next day’s to-do list was already miles long. But I stopped myself, gazed out the window at that dreamy cupola, and did my best to soak in the beauty of the moment.
Fuego Buenos Aires
Avenida Callao – Congreso (address provided upon reservation)
Open Friday and Saturday evenings for dinner
Cooking classes hosted regularly during the week