Review: OPIO

OPIO 1There’s a magical little corner of Palermo, suspended in what feels like a geographical No Man’s Land, that is home to some of the best restaurants in Buenos Aires. Just a few blocks from Av. Scalabrini Ortiz, its leafy streets and single-family houses are more reminiscent of nearby Almagro than the over-developed Palermo Viejo. Luckily, despite the gastro-boom that’s been making waves, the barrio maintains an understated and low-key atmosphere.

Joining the ranks alongside La Alacena, NOLA, Gran Dabbang, and Proper, OPIO is the newest kid on the block. Billed as an Asian street food gastropub, the newest project from Tatu Rizzi (ex-Blanch) is so great I almost don’t know where to begin.

OPIO 2In a former life, the space was a run of the mill workshop, but it’s been transformed into a laid-back spot with only the slightest of industrial vibes. There’s a low noodle bar off to the left, individual tables up front against big picture windows, and a massive communal table taking center stage in the middle of the action. Low lighting offsets the high ceilings and minimalist decor; the massive collage/mural on the main wall was designed by Tatu himself. In the background, a steady stream of quality tunes sets the ideal vibe for the seriously spicy slurping which you’re about to undertake.

The menu offers variety without going overboard, and at the pre-opening I attended we were able to try nearly every dish. The prawn salad was a perfect mix of textures, with the citrus dressing playing off the fried shrimp and bringing out the crunch in the cabbage. The Pho was complex and comforting, and will definitely be one of my go-to orders even when it’s 40C in January and we’re all sweating our tits off. Another soup we tried, Khao Soi, was creamy and spicy but should have been served at a higher temperature to really make the flavors pop.

OPIO 3From there we dove into two curries – one chicken, one veg – and at that point I was sold. The chicken was deeply flavorful and falling off the bone, while the vegetarian green curry surprised me with a crunchy rice cake underneath the velvety gravy. There are two versions of Bao available – the classic porky delight and a version with shiitake ‘shrooms and pickles – and both deliver fluffy goodness. Don’t forget to go wild with the extra sauces and condiments that are placed on the table alongside your food – pile on that homemade Sriracha and double dip the tangy sweet chili sauce like there’s no tomorrow.

To close, send yourself into glucose oblivion with the peanut mousse, a classic from the Blanch glory days. It’s almost too sweet, yet somehow manages to avoid full-blown Diabetes territory, and I most definitely licked the spoon clean. If you want something a little less aggressive, the homemade ice cream pop spiced with cardamom and cinnamon will soothe your little tongue if you’re still not accustomed to non-Argie levels of spice (get it together already, man).

OPIO 4The verdict? OPIO is the perfect spot for something different, whether you’re looking to grab a bite with friends before hitting the town or trying to seduce the hottie you’re into with your chopsticks skills. The flavors are a masterpiece in contrast, showcasing the diversity and complexity of Asian food without falling back on watered-down standbys. It’s an ideal addition to a growing roster of restaurants serving up innovative and delicious food without the pretension.

OPIO
Honduras 4415 – Palermo
4864-1046
Weds & Thurs from 7pm-2am
Fri & Sat from 8pm-3am

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Feria Masticar 2016

Feria Masticar 2016

I’m not usually a “festival” person. Long lines, massive crowds, getting jostled around without much to show for it… sometimes it’s just too stressful to handle. However, there are times when taking a deep breath and diving into the insanity is all part of the fun.

It’s time for Feria Masticar, the star of Buenos Aires’ burgeoning food movement, now in its fifth year running. Waving the #ComerRicoHaceBien flag, it promises four days of eating and drinking extravaganzas, with the city’s best and brightest talent showcasing their goodies for the people.

In an effort to make the experience more enjoyable for everyone involved, this year the fair is sort of an XL reloaded version of itself, having annexed a few extra blocks and open spaces surrounding El Dorrego. There’s a whole brasas section, a beer garden, tons of market vendor stands in the middle of it all, and more space overall to stroll/scarf/lie down when your food baby gets too big.

Let’s get down to business. Here’s my shortlist of what you can’t miss from this year’s edition:

Feria Masticar 2016 / i Latina

Savory

  • Chorichang by Astor Bistro (the wild boar raviolis are also the jam, slurp up that brodo, bro)
  • Arepas de pollo y cerdo braseado by i Latina (#PuraSabrosura)
  • Oysters from Patagonia (served both raw and breaded in Panko) by Crizia
  • Chorifish + Cebichón by La Mar (be prepared for XXXL lines, however, everyone wants a piece of Gastón Acurio’s Peruvian magic)
  • Empanadas de Yacaré by El Baqueano (yep, you’re going to eat caiman)
  • 100-hour Bondiola by Pura Tiera (Chef Martín Molteni literally makes me want to live in a cabin)
  • Pulpitos by my favorite neighbors BASA
  • Pastrón by Mishiguene
  • Prawns by Gipponi + Rastellino (#UnaToneladaDeLangostinos)

Feria Masticar 2016 / CriziaSweet

  • Sugar rush chocolates by Compañía de Chocolates
  • Dolce Morte ice creams by Elena (smoked milk has never been so sexy)
  • Elderflower sorbet by Cassis
  • Cookies by Santa Teresita (if you weren’t lucky enough to summer in José Ignacio, now’s your chance)
  • Chocolate Cardamom Mousse by the Nespresso Patisserie

Feria Masticar 2016 / GanciaDrinks

  • Bar de Vinos by CAVE (rent a glass for 100 pesos and go to town on some fancy wines from Argentina’s best bodegas)
  • Alfredo Romero + more by Ludovico De Biaggi at the Gancia Cocktail Truck
  • Mimosa de Remolacha by Julep
  • Negroni Balestrini at Florería Atlántico (points for their awesome floral garnishes and beards)
  • Pisco Punk by 878
  • Everything coffee by the Nespresso Patisserie (go for the coffee + chocolate pairings to really get your blood sugar roaring)

This obviously doesn’t cover everything, but these recommendations will guarantee you leave having sipped and nibbled one some of the best that Masticar has to offer this year.

Feria Masticar 2016 / El Esteco

Double up on patience before you arrive, be prepared to get pushed around by surprisingly strong Argentine grannies, and take a lap or two before you commit to anything. Crowds are more manageable later in the evening, and if you go on Sunday when things are winding down you might be able to take home some of the goods (one woman I spoke to made off with 14kg of clams last year… why that seemed tantalizing to her I will never know).

Feria Masticar
Zapiola 50 – El Dorrego
Now through Sunday, May 8, every day from noon-11pm

Entrance $80
Dishes & drinks range from $50-80
Be smart – Buy tickets in advance here

Feria Masticar 2016 / Florería AtlánticoFeria Masticar 2016 / Pura TierraFeria Masticar 2016 / NespressoFeria Masticar 2016 / Choribondi by La Cabrera

 

Cooking Classes at Fuego

Fuego Buenos Aires

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. Continue reading

Review: Pain de Sucre

Pain de Sucre Lemon Pie

It doesn’t take much to convince me to dive into something sweet. No one has to twist my arm to order (more) dessert after dinner, and there’s always room for another bag of Haribo in my bag after a trip through Duty Free. Since I can remember, my palate has been fine-tuned to favor a decadent chocolate mousse or a brownie sundae piled high with whipped cream. When I moved to Buenos Aires however, I had no idea what I was in for. Dulce de leche on top of dulce de leche, crema pastelera out the wazoo, kilo after kilo of creamy helado in every flavor imaginable. The saccharine overload was almost enough to turn me into a savory-only girl.

Continue reading

Review: Brasero Atlántico

Brasero Atlántico

Once upon a time, calle Arroyo was just a place where you’d go to window shop for expensive antiques or drink free champagne out of plastic flutes for Gallery Nights. However, thanks to those brave souls that saw potential for a fabulous foodie future, the past few years have brought a fresh crop of delicious business to the barrio.

By this point we’re all familiar with Florería Atlántico and the magic it entails. The place is now so popular that locals are forced to hover around the entrance in line with Brazilian tourists and other curious travelers, yearning for a coveted seat somewhere, anywhere that’s free. It’s still one of the best watering holes in town, but as with everything in life, it never hurts to spice things up and forge ahead.

Enter Brasero Atlántico, Florería’s laid back little brother. After months of intrigue and patience, the much-awaited sibling made its quiet debut just a couple of weeks ago, right next door.  Continue reading

Review: Steaks by Luis

The Fire - Steaks by Luis

Any tourist planning a trip to Buenos Aires will hear ad nauseum, “You gotta try the steak!” It’s made quite clear from the get-go that if you pass through la Ciudad de la Furia and don’t scarf down the better part of an entire cow, you’ve missed the mark.

Luckily, you can’t walk more than 15 feet in this town without passing a parrilla. The offering ranges from the unassuming holes in the wall to the ostentatious, catering primarily to those looking to impress (and with well-padded wallets).

While this is a great way to savor one of Argentina’s national treasures, what about taking it a step further and getting a little more hands on? Locals and transplants alike will argue that to understand the real magic of the local steaks, one must score an invite to an asado at a someone’s home. “OK,” you mumble, “but I’m only here for a week, and obviously have no friends here.”

Fret not! Enter Steaks by Luis, a premium closed-door, five-course asado experience hosted right in Palermo Soho. Diners have the best of both worlds: access to local traditions surrounding the asado ritual alongside top-notch service in a setting that puts your friend’s backyard quincho to shame. Imagine having a pal that lives in a badass loft, grilling up some of the best meat you can find, and washing it all down with a variety of boutique wines, from picada to postreContinue reading

Review: Mishiguene

(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 Salon

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.  Continue reading