Review: La Carnicería

La Carnicería - Palermo - Buenos AiresIt’s a tale as old as time: Buenos Aires and beef go hand in hand (and have done so for eons). More so than peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese and tomato soup, or Bert & Ernie; it’s just a fact of life.

The glut of parrillas all over town – ranging from old-school neighborhood holes in the wall to more upscale outfits catered toward tourists with deep pockets – means that while you might be spoiled for choice, it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Whether you’re a serious carnivore or just someone that likes to dabble in the asado arts from time time, no one wants to waste their time on a sub-par slab of steak.

Enter La Carnicería, the hottest new joint to seduce even the most demanding of palates. Located in Palermo, it actually takes the exact place of one of those greasy, old-school parrillas frequented by overweight taxi drivers and other characters. Quite the fitting reincarnation, if you ask me.

Molleja at La CarniceríaDecked out with wooden tables, simple metal chairs, and a massive butcher’s mural against one wall, the space is light and clean but masculine enough to mean business. It’s got a rock-and-roll meat shop vibe to it, though handled with care and welcoming enough that the not-so-cool-kids will feel right at home too.

The menu is brief – a welcome respite from the overwhelming tomes that plague more traditional spots – and focuses on premium cuts and preparations that make the product stand out. Depending on what’s market fresh, the cuts change on a near-daily basis, with in-house smoked meats being prepared as well.

Provoleta de Cabra at La CarniceríaTo start, you can’t go wrong with the goat cheese provoleta (served with fresh peaches) or the velvety homemade morcilla with fennel, red pepper, and green apple. However, the real star of the show is the molleja cooked to crispy, fatty perfection and finished with a cane syrup glaze and served over fresh grilled corn. The beauty is in the harmony of simple, noble flavors being presented in a way that highlights the quality of the ingredients themselves.

Morcilla at La CarniceríaMains are broken down into four categories: Grill, Smoked, Fish, and Pork. If luck is on your side, you’ll head in for a nosh on a day that ojo de bife is available. Served bone-in, it’s bigger than your head (and definitely your stomach) and will blow your mind. No, this is not an overstatement. We also had an excellent whole sea bream, grilled simply and served with a bright plate of greens – asparagus, bok choy, and peas – and salchicha parrillera to keep things meaty. Take note: each main course is joined by abundant “sides” that beg to be shared with the table.

Ojo de Bife at La Carnicería

Fresh Veg at La CarniceríaService is cool, friendly, and attentive. These boys know what they’re doing, after all. Chef Pedro cut his teeth at both HG at the Fierro and Florería Atlántico, so you know he’s on top of his game. Our friend ordered his ojo de bife rare, exclaiming he wanted it “as red as can be.” When it came out way overcooked, bordering on well done, we let the waiter know. Without one second’s hesitation, he whisked the steak back, apologized profusely and said a new one would be out in a jiffy. Sure, this might sound like standard operating procedure in the rest of the world, but in BA this kind of exchange tends to be much more painful and frustrating, with the waiter somehow blaming the customer for the whole ordeal. Big points to La Carnicería on this front.

Ojo de Agua Cabernet SauvignonThe wine list is short and sweet, featuring some real gems like the Ojo de Agua Cabernet Sauvignon. There are also several artisanal beers available, as well as aperitivi and cocktails made with Tato’s Príncipe de los Apóstoles gin.

Extra bonus points for the sifones and jars of water brought endlessly to the table, saving you the need to budget 35% of the total check on bottled water (like I usually have to do).

We left feeling sated on many levels. Excellent food, truly top notch, combined with great service and a laid-back but modern atmosphere – what more can you ask for?

So, the next time you’re craving a bit of red meat, give the old classics a night off (or four) and head to Thames 2319. It’s doubtful you’ll ever look back.

La Carnicería
Thames 2319 – Palermo Soho
2071-7199
Tuesday – Sunday, 7:30–Midnight
Saturday – Sunday, 12 – 3:30 & 7:30–Midnight

 

Review: Shout Brasas & Drinks

SHOUT Brasas & DrinksThe shortest distance between two points is always a straight line, correct? Now imagine that if along the straight line between your office and home there were a perfect little spot for a drink and some tapas – it would be a pretty good deal, don’t you think?

When Shout opened up along Maipú, just steps from Plaza San Martín, a couple of months back, I was thrilled to pop in and see if I could add it to my barrio repertoire (the #RetiroRenaissance is real, people). Luckily, it was a home run. The lovechild of two veterans of the noche porteña (Sebastián Maggi and Santiago Lambardi, who cut their teeth at Sucre and then moved on to head up the drinks team at Pony Line/the Four Seasons), Shout is reminiscent of a few of my BA favorites mixed together: Milión, Dill & Drinks (RIP), and Florería Atlántico.

Located in an elegant mansion that has lived through many reincarnations, Shout is imposing and inviting at once. Climb the winding staircase (watch your head if you’re tall) and you’ll come to a landing that leads to the bar and lounge space. Walls painted an amazing dark blue contrast with well-placed lighting to envelope you in chic ambiance. Picture windows looking over the street don’t provide much of a picturesque view, but it’s still a worthwhile exercise. Don’t miss the lovely parquet floor that was restored to its former glory after having been covered up by something much more utilitarian during its days as a boliche dance floor (though that wood was put to work as part of the bar itself).

SHOUT Brasas & Drinks 2To the left of the bar is the expansive open kitchen space, ideal for whetting the appetite and seeing how things are run at the back of the house. Toward the front are high communal tables as well as loungey furniture to satisfy the needs of every encounter. I always like to sit at the bar, chatting with the ones making my drinks and getting their recommendations for both libations and snacks. The one downside of this means grappling with those impossibly uncomfortable metal chairs that leave you sunken and sticking to the cushion. I couldn’t handle them at Dill, and I don’t think I will get over them now, but it’s a minor bump that is soon forgotten drink in hand.

Now let’s get down to business: the Brasas and the Drinks. Both menus are short and sweet, well-curated and crafted with attention to detail. We ordered the open-faced boquerones atop crusty toast, the sweetbreads, and a baguette topped with chipirones and romesco. Portions were small – they are “platitos” after all – but full of flavor. Think of them as the perfect after-school snack that will tide you over before dinner. We didn’t try any of the mains, though they follow the same line of simple and savory with a twist. Nothing too fussy or over the top, just a focus on quality flavor and presentation.

Photo courtesy of Shout

Photo courtesy of Shout

Cocktails are inventive and made with care; bartenders are quick to help you as you peruse and choose. They follow overarching trends but definitely leave their own imprint, ensuring whatever you’re about to sip on isn’t something you can find just anywhere. There is also a solid wine list, and the ability to drink a glass of any label no matter what, thanks to their magical “by the glass” dispenser that hasn’t really made inroads here yet, for whatever reason.

Service is friendly and personable, if a little on the slow side. Let’s chalk it up to the kinks that come with a new space, but it shouldn’t have taken so long for our dishes to be ready. Both owners were on hand to make sure everyone was happy, and given their background, it’s clear that focusing on client satisfaction won’t fall to the wayside.

As the summer heats up, an outdoor patio space is set to open, which should solidify Shout’s place as a microcentro must. For now the Sky Bar at the Pulitzer (less than 100 meters away) is the only watering hole that offers up what apparently seems to be a near impossibility in this city, but Shout will surely give it a run for its money when the time is right.

Whether you’re an oficinista like me or forced to head downtown to partake in some Buenos Aires bureaucracy, Shout needs to work its way onto your radar. If you’re in the mood for a quick cocktail or looking to stay out of your kitchen and have someone else do the cooking, the bases are covered. It’s guaranteed to be one of the city’s new hotspots, and you want to be sure that you’ve got a front-row seat.

Shout Brasas & Drinks
Maipú 981 – Retiro
Monday-Friday from 7pm, Saturday from 8pm
4313-2850

#MAPA14 Comes to a Close

#MAPA Final What a glorious year it’s been for the aperitivo, wouldn’t you say?

Whether you’re a hipster who drinks Campari with soda while you’re at some underground party, a chic society girl sipping on Aperol as the sun goes down, or an old-school man’s man who washes down your Cinzano with potato chips, 2014 was a good time to celebrate our love for aperitivi.

It all came to a dramatic close last sunday at the Quinta Trabucco out in Vicente López. The 15 finalists – five experts and ten aficionados – set up shop at the bar and got ready to wow both the judges and the people, hoping to be crowned not only with the title of victor, but also with a ticket to Italy.

The sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky, and the humidity decided to let us all have a good hair day. Partygoers sprawled on picnic blankets (day drinking and sprawling definitely go hand in hand), scarfed down sausagey treats courtesy of DOGG, and chugged cocktails all in the name of honest competition. Also, there was a photobooth, of which I took full advantage, because duh.

#MAPA Cocomero Rosso#MAPA14 PhotoboothThe stakes were high, and there were a lot of great contenders out there. From the experts category, my favorites were El Sodero (Mar del Plata) and Tradición (Santa Fe). El Sodero is the perfect summer drink – crisp, sweet and citrusy, and light enough to trick you into drinking 25 without realizing that this is maybe not a good decision. The cool part was that the cocktail was mixed and loaded into a Drago sifón so each magical squirt was the perfect blend of boozey goodness. The Tradición brought together whiskey, green apple, pecans and cinnamon, resulting in a dangerously delicious drank that I would happily put into a thermos and call it my special juice.

From the aficionados side, my personal favorites were the Cocomero Rosso and the Divino Fibonacci. The former took on one of the Argie’s favorite myths – that drinking wine and eating watermelon together will result in CERTAIN DEATH. Somehow, by the grace of God, we all lived to see another day. The Divino Fibonacci really brough it home with the divine proportions, Cynar, and a rosemary garnish. Simple, light, fabulous. I may or may not have had several servings of each. Hey, I had to be sure of my favorite before hitting the ballot box, right?

As voting wound down, everyone started to get antsy and we just wanted to know WHO WON ALREADY PLEASE TELL ME. Drumroll please….

Little Blackberry Spritz, el aperitivo ganador de Facundo Tochi (1)Cocomero Rosso, el aperitivo ganador creado por Matías DanaCordobés Facundo Tochi took home the expert prize with his Little Blackberry Spritz, while Matías Dana and his Cocomero Rosso soaked up the glory for the aficionados. Both winners will get to pack their bags and hit up Italy with their team captains, not to mention the badassery of calling themselves Crown Prince(s) of #MAPA14.

If you want to see more pictures from the day, visit the Comando Gourmand Facebook album.

Feeling nostalgic? You can still follow the #MAPA14 hashtag on Twitter. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.

 #MAPA14 Comando Gourmand

Auguri! #MAPA14 Finalists Announced

#MAPA14 Finalists

After a grueling first phase of cocktail creation, the finalists of the second edition of #MAPA14 have been announced! More than 300 people – experts and aficionados alike – put on their creative thinking caps in the hopes of wowing the judges and winning a trip to Italy next year. Needless to say, the stakes were pretty high.

Let’s recall the challenge, shall we? Choose one of the dishes inspired along the Ruta del #MAPA and weave it into a story alongside an original aperitivo using either Campari, Cynar, Aperol, or Cinzano.

The jury had their work cut out for them, that’s for sure. Guillermo Blumenkamp (owner of the magical Doppelganger), Luciano Banchero (journalist and creator of Podcast.fm) and Pamela Villar (chef/pastry queen at Yeite) were tasked with choosing the lucky ducks who will compete on December 14 at the final at the Quinta Trabucco in Zona Norte.

OK, so who passed the first test? Drumroll please…

Experts: Facundo Benitez, Facundo Tochi, Nicolás Brachet; Bruno Landin, and Luis Miranda.

Aficionados: Cayetana Vidal, Sofía Galarce, Joe Fernández, Natalia Salamone, Ingrid Beck, Belén Jung, Luis Redondo, Matías Dana, Matías Faure, and Lucía Seisas.

Sadly, I didn’t make it through. There were some pretty amazing stories and drinks in the running – I’m talking to you, guy who made a drink with 12 ingredients inspired by the zodiac and person who used the Fibonacci sequence as part of their story – and my final presentation was definitely more of the “could have been done by a kindergartener” vibe. I am proud of what I came up with though, because #selfesteem.

Without further ado, I present to you, La Vecchia Milano:

1 oz. Aperol
1 oz. Príncipe de los Apóstoles Gin
1/2 oz. Rosemary syrup
Crushed ice
Fresh strawberry
Sprig of rosemary

Pour the rosemary syrup into a lowball glass, add plenty of crushed ice on top. Pour in the Aperol and Gin and stir to combine. Garnish with a fresh strawberry and sprig of rosemary.

La Vecchia Milano

Stay tuned for updates after the grand finale next week!

 

Hernán Gipponi’s T&A at Gran Bar Danzón

…That’s Tapas & Arroz, sickos.

HG at Gran Bar DanzónLast week Hernán Gipponi took over the kitchen at Gran Bar Danzón and rocked Recoleta’s socks off with a four-day gastronomic extravaganza. The propuesta? Tapas, rice, and wine, featuring versions of HG’s most well-known dishes, such as organic rice from Corrientes, sous vide eggy goodness, and light, citric desserts that cleanse the palate.

Gipponi has been acting as a bit of a free agent after parting ways with the Fierro Hotel in Palermo Hollywood several months ago. Though I’m surely going to miss his legendary brunches and One Table dinners there, change is a very good thing for all. After slinging nearly 500 kilos of prawns from Chubut at Feria Masticar, he moved onto this miniature residency at Danzón the last week in October.

Credit Gran Bar Danzón

Credit Gran Bar Danzón

The menu was paired with Zuccardi wines, with the spotlight shining straight on the Aluvional La Consulta 2010. This wine alone is beyond worth the price of admission and was indeed the metaphorical frutilla en la torta of a culinarily epic Monday night.

We started off with a little pincho of cured beef with mustard, grilled tomato, and turnip pickle. Done, delicious, come to mama. Paired with a crisp glass of Alma 4 Chardonnay, it was a nice prepper for the massive feast that was to come.

Huevo, papa, molleja - Gran Bar DanzónNext up was the tapas round. Much like a gameshow, extra points were indeed earned for scarfing down as much as humanly possible. Between the chilled fennel and green apple soup, baby squid with alioli, salsa brava and papel de calamar, the beef tongue served with little morcilla meatballs, and the sous vide egg with molleja, potato and onion… yikes I just drooled all over myself while reliving this moment. If I had to choose a favorite, it would be a tie between the fennel soup and the egg, but both the squid and blood sausage morsels really gave them a run for their money.

As if it were possible to have any more room for extra food, the main event was yet to come. The skillet of organic rice from Corrientes served with prawns, pork belly, leeks, and giant lima beans was brought out to much fanfare, our cup of La Consulta served suavely alongside it. Jaws definitely had to be picked up off the table; thankfully the music was loud enough to mask our borderline inappropriate moans and exclamations.

After such an intense savory sesh, the only logical dessert was the Copa HG – a light, foamy yogurt mixed with iced passion fruit, lychee, and toasted pumpkin seeds. It was a lovely balance of sweet and salty, crunchy and smooth. The Malamado Viognier paired well, though it was a bit strange to have a dessert wine sweeter than the actual postre.

It was definitely an aggressive(ly good) way to start the week. In fact, I think my liver is just starting to recover from the level of insanity I put it through during that dinner and beyond.

One thing is certain: No matter where he rests his knives, Hernán Gipponi is one fine chef. One can only hope that these pop-up menus will become more of a regular happening until HG hunkers down behind some burners of his own.

Gran Bar Danzón
Libertad 1161 – Primer Piso, Recoleta
Monday-Friday from 7pm; Saturday-Sunday from 8pm
4811-1108

#MAPA14: Start Your Aperitivo Engines

#MAPA14 Convocatoria

Springtime in Buenos Aires: the days are getting longer, the temperatures are warming up, and it’s time for this year’s edition of #MAPA. The Movimiento Aperitivo Argentino is gearing up for another season of competition in search of the greatest new cocktail and this year, anyone can participate.

From now until December 1, aspiring mixologists can enter the running by teaming up with one of the ten ambassadors (last year’s #MAPA finalists) and developing their own aperitivo cocktail, pairing it with one of the nine dishes inspired by the Ruta del MAPA, and tying it into a creative story that weaves everything together.

Earlier this year, the MAPA battalion traveled around Argentina and hosted workshops with Martín Auzmendi – official MAPA ambassador and cocktail king – as well as the country’s top chefs and bartenders (think Antonio Soriano, Hernán Gipponi, Gonzalo Aramburu…). Along the way, these chefs were assigned with the task of inventing dishes inspired by one of the cities, using local ingredients and flavors. Participants in #MAPA14 must choose one of those dishes (based on whatever criteria they wish, be it one of the key ingredients, the chef that created it, or any kind of general good vibe).

Participants will enter one of two categories – Experts or Aficionados – and five finalists will be chosen from each. The jury – Guillermo Blumenkamp (bartender/owner of Doppelgänger), Luciano Banchero (journalist and aperitivo lover), and Pamelo Villar (chef/owner at Yeite) – will choose the winner based on the cocktail itself, the story that accompanies it, and the overall creativity and presentation. The prize at stake? A magical mystery tour across Italy with Martín Auzmendi to eat and drink their way along the original ruta del aperitivo.

MAPA’s mission is to bring together the magic of the aperitivo in all its glory against the backdrop of classic storytelling, the buena mesa and all that this entails. As we all know, nothing tops the simple pleasure of getting together with friends and family to enjoy a cold Aperol Spritz, Negroni, or Cynar Julep, watching the sun go down and just taking a moment to soak it all up.

For more information visit the MAPA website, Twitter, and Instagram.

#MAPA14 - Santa Fe #MAPA14 - Mendoza

Review: Chiuso Ristorante

Chiuso Ristorante Buenos Aires

Despite the overwhelming amount of Italian immigrants in Buenos Aires, it’s surprisingly tough to get solid Italian food that goes above and beyond your typical heavy gnocchi or sludgy risotto. Sure, there are a few spots that do it right (L’Adesso and Guido’s come to mind), but let’s just say – the struggle is real.

Thank heavens for owner/somm/one-man-show Mariano Akman and his dedication to righting this wrong. With years of experience under his belt, he opened Doppio Zero on Zabala, a tree-lined street in the posh part of Belgrano. Located on the ground floor of a boutique hotel, the 30-cover bistro served up fresh orecchiette and other pastas, and classic seafood and meat dishes, in the most intimate of miniature settings. They quickly outgrew this space and moved around the corner to a larger locale on Soldado de Independencia en Las Cañitas.

When word of its closing spread, I’d feared that it was the end of the line. Luckily, it was just a reinvention, a la Cher or Lady Gaga (but with fewer sequins). With a new name – Chiuso Ristorante – and a fancy new address – San Martín 1153, right in front of Plaza San Martín in Retiro – there was lots of buzz from the start.

The space itself is classic, anchored by the marble topped bar in what is otherwise a pared down local without much fanfare beyond the wall of Campari bottles and large picture windows. It has good bones; tables situated near the front enjoy views of the Plaza and the rest of the downtown bustle.

And the food? Just as great – if not better than – before. The variety of antipasti includes cold treats like fresh salads, burrata, paté, as well as warm plates with grilled polenta, prawns with pesto, and the most insane rabbit croquettes that you’ve ever had in this lifetime. Sonnets can – and should – be written about these croquettes. They’re light, crunchy and contain zero filler; the red pepper sauce that comes with is the perfect accompaniment. When I win the lottery I will demand to have an endless supply of these puppies on hand at all times. No joke.

Pesto Prawns - Chiuso Ristorante

Mains feature pasta (both fresh and by De Cecco), risotti, and seafood/meat. You can’t really go wrong with anything here; the conchiglie served with lamb ragú, fresh citrus ricotta and arugula knocked my socks off, as did the pappardelle with broccoli, ‘shrooms and pancetta. Though it was a tough choice between the prawn and mushroom risotti, the prawns edged out by a hair. If you’re not in the mood for carbs, order the rabbit – served just like Mariano’s grandmother used to prepare it.

Pappardelle - Chiuso RistoranteMaybe you’re experiencing a different kind of dilemma. Rather than struggle to decide what to eat, you want to order it all. Fear not. Every dish on the menu (antipasti included) can be ordered as a full or half portion. Whether you want to maximize your ordering strategy if out with friends or just want to pretend you’re sticking to your diet, it’s the best way to sample a dish without having to commit fully to it. (It should be noted that these half portions are still filling and won’t leave you scarfing down the bread basket, though it’s so delicious you would have already done so by now).

Prawn Risotto - Chiuso RistoranteDesserts are classic, with the tiramisú and the pistachio semifreddo standing out as favorites. Sadly there isn’t any grappa or limoncello to top it all off, though let’s hope that is part of the phase two planning.

Pistachio Semifreddo - Chiuso RistoranteNot only am I thrilled to have yet another great restaurant in the neighborhood (the #RetiroRenaissance is real, dudes). but it’s also so wonderful to see someone so enthusiastic about their project and dream as Mariano is. He’s always going about 80mph, corkscrew conveniently at hand in the pocket of his jeans, chatting with patrons and making you feel like you’re the most important guest of honor. His experience is obvious; he’s completely in his element and really thrives off of running the show. In a day where restaurant owners barely seem present, it’s a treat to see otherwise.

Bienvenuti nel barrio, Chiuso. It’s great to have you.

Chiuso Ristorante
San Martín 1153 – Retiro
Tuesday-Saturday 12-4pm, 8-11:30pm
4311-7652