Review: La Susana – José Ignacio

La Susana - José Ignacio

Ah, summertime. If you’re stuck in Buenos Aires it usually means sweating in places you never thought possible, praying the power doesn’t go out on the hottest day of the year, and taking at least six cold showers a day.

For those lucky enough to make their way across the River Plate to the bucolic Eden that is Uruguay, however, verano takes on a completely different connotation. Splashing through turquoise waves, complying with the tacit “All White Linen, All the Time” dress code, and eating seafood at every meal are just part of the glorious package. If you can filter out the annoying bits (Argentine dads that are 40+ but refuse to wear anything that isn’t a graphic t-shirt with jean shorts and Converse All-Stars, for example), you’ll soon come to the conclusion that la vida es mejor en el EsteContinue reading

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Review: Editor Market Café

Editor Market Café

Buenos Aires has experienced a serious coffee boom in recent years, with a slew of sleek spots popping up all over town – not only in the typically trendy Palermo but also in Microcentro and San Telmo. After generations of accepting burnt cortados and mediocre cafés con leche, younger palates have grown more discerning as their penchant for buzzwords like “fair trade,” “organic,” and “flat white” gradually evolved into genuine interest and expertise.

We’re all familiar with the current favorites: LAB Tostadores de Café, Lattente, Barrio Cafetero, and Coffee Town (special mention for The Shelter and its insanely well-done interior design). No one can deny that they’re the collective caffeine kings, bolstered by delicious add-ons like LAB’s chocolate chip cookies and Lattente’s special guest Sheikob peddling his perfect bagels on Sunday mornings.

So let’s take a minute to give a warm welcome to newcomer Editor Market Café, a special little gem that is sure to earn its spot along the new ruta de café porteña (patent pending on that phrase).

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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.  Continue reading

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

Review: La Alacena

Photo courtesy La Alacena

Photo courtesy La Alacena

For those of you that are either from Buenos Aires or have been here long enough to remember the glory days (pre-inflation with that solid 3 to 1 exchange rate), you might reminisce about a time when Palermo wasn’t overrun with pastel-pink cookie cutter shops, cafés peddling mint lemonade, or French bulldogs wearing leather jackets. A simpler, more wholesome time indeed.

Well, you can stop living in the past. Enter La Alacena, the newest gem in a Palermo that harkens back to the quieter days with a real barrio feel. After dominating at BASA (and before that, Le Blé, Bar Uriarte, and beyond), Juli has spread her pastry-making wings and opened up shop on the wide, sunny corner of Gascón and Honduras.

Juli’s cooking stands out for its complex simplicity. Here you’ll eat real food, with a focus on high quality, market-fresh ingredients. Fresh-baked, crusty breads form the bases of inventive prensatti sandwiches, bright roasted vegetables top off hearty salads, and pretty much every dessert available will knock your socks off. Daily specials rotate through pasta, fish, and other delights.

Her style is effortless, unpretentious, making you feel that you could almost replicate these flavors at home (if only you were half as talented as she).

The space is simple but homey, with big glass windows facing the street and shelves of ceramic dishes for sale lining the walls. The open kitchen lets you peek in on the culinary action, and overall a feeling of artisanal warmth is transmitted throughout. Service is efficient and friendly (and thank God they accept credit cards).

Salad at La AlacenaSeriously, everything is delicious. How is that even possible? You’ll want to visit every day just so you can eat everything on the menu. Saturday brunch is the perfect cure for a previous night of excess, and nothing can top the now famous chocolate and sea salt tartaleta (featured recently in La Nación). Wash it down with a glass of red wine and you’ll be set for the day.

La Alacena is also open some evenings for dinner, with a menu of small plates meant to be shared. Feast on antipasti like veal carpaccio with arugula, lemon and parmesan, grilled baby squid with fresh herbs and aioli, and roasted mushrooms with almonds and parsley.

Well-deserved positive press means that it’s harder and harder to walk in for a table on the weekends, so call ahead and reserve just to be certain. During the week things are a little more tranquilo, but don’t expect it to stay that way for long. We can only hope that this little corner stays true to its down to earth roots, but with Juli at the helm, we’re in good hands.

La Alacena

La Alacena
Gascón 1401, esq. Honduras – Palermo
Monday – Friday 9am-7pm; Saturday 10am-7pm
4867-2549

Murasaki: Ramen to Warm the Soul

MurasakiOne of my favorite parts of living in Buenos Aires lies within its endless galerías, long, narrow little centers that usually boast a wide array of shops: electricians, watch repairmen, random specialty stores packed to the gills and lacking completely in natural light. They offer a taste of adventure in this urban jungle, concealing gems that only the most brave of conocedores are fortunate enough to know about. For the explorers of the culinary variety, these galerías often are home to miniature restaurants or cafés as well.

Galería Larreta sits right on calle Florida, at the start of the pedestrian street best known for its leather hawkers and currency exchange shops. It was apparently the center of the go-go movement in the 60s and boasts a massive marble mural (try to say that five times fast) by artist Luis Seoane.

Bypass the shops and head straight back to Murasaki, a Japanese restaurant that serves not only fresh sushi, but also steaming bowls of magical ramen that will warm your heart and soul. Now, the cult of ramen isn’t necessarily news here, but discovering hidden treasures tucked among the porteño landscape always renews one’s faith in what this city has to offer.

If you’re looking for something BBB (bueno, bonito, barato), you’ve come to the right place. Sushi can be ordered individually, letting you choose from a range of sashimi, nigiri, rolls and temaki. The menu also offers up classics such as gyozas, yakitori, and tempura, but the star here is the ramen/udon section. Splurge a little for the fresh ramen and go to town – you can order broth with either a miso or pork base; both are delicious but I think the pork edges out the miso by a hair.

The egg yolk wasn’t as runny as I would have liked, but I think they assumed I would be put off by it (um, wrong, but I’ll let it slide). Be sure to jack up your broth with all of the spicy add-ons the waitress brings to the table – it really takes things up a notch.

Slurp up the rameny goodness and enjoy this pause in your busy day. Since you’re basically sitting inside a miniature labyrinth, no one will find you at your new hiding spot. Come to think of it, if you’re a) having an affair, b) hiding from your friends/boss/real life responsibilities, or c) a hermit, you’ll like Murasaki even more.

For those who might enjoy a little more social exposure, there’s another location a few blocks away at Viamonte 500.

Gyoza at Murasaki

Murasaki
Florida 971, local 32 – Galería Larreta
4314-6866
Open Mon-Fri 8am-8pm
Open Sat 9am-4pm

 

 

 

New Kid on the Block: Aramburu Bis

Bis Menu

Spinoffs aren’t always the best idea. I mean, how many people actually watched “Joey“? See what I mean? But when matters are handled by a master, the results can be much more successful.

Enter Aramburu Bis, the hip, laid-back little sister of molecular powerhouse Aramburu. Opened recently, Bis is a more informal presentation of what makes Aramburu one of BA’s greatest restaurants: spectacular food, an excellent wine list, and attention to detail that makes even the most subtle element stand out.

Located on the corner of Humberto Primo and Salta (just steps from Aramburu), this bistro has a friendly neighborhood feel and a very unpretentious vibe. It’s the perfect blend of high/low – sophisticated dishes are served at communal tables, and the space is light, with vintage touches that make you feel like you’re hanging out in an almacén de barrio. A mix of vecinos, locals, and tourists make up the clientele, an inviting mix.

The menu is brief but changes frequently in accordance with what’s in season and what’s market-fresh. The wine list is curated by Agustina de Alba, whose accolades precede her (and rightly so). Twice named the best Sommelier of Argentina, she’s just 26 years old and quite the luminary. Expect more greatness from her down the line.

What’s special about Bis is that it offers solid riffs on Aramburu’s impeccable cuisine at a more friendly price-point, without sacrificing quality or creativity. I don’t know about you, but a 12-course tasting menu with wine pairings isn’t something I’m able to swing on a regular basis. At Bis I can chow down on a huevo a baja temperatura or some fantastic seafood, but won’t need to break the bank in the process.

Everything we ate was just fantastic, from start to finish. Portions were abundant, perfect for sharing at our communal table and left us full, fat, and happy.

The beef tartare was perfection – a faithful version of what you can find across the street at Aramburu with the mustard sorbet, but with a twist of crispy shoestring potatoes that results in a more unbuttoned approach. The rabbit stew, served in a steel sauce pot, was a welcome remedy to the first whiffs of brisk fall air blowing outside. The prawns wrapped in a crisp dough (one of my favorite courses from Aramburu) are served in a piping-hot cast iron dish table-side, complete with a fresh seafood broth poured over it all to finish.

Bis rabbit stew

As for mains, the cochinillo (suckling pig) was my wildest dream come true. Slow-cooked for 24 hours, it falls apart when you go to attack it, but the skin is so crispy and crackly that it provides a great contrast. The barley and mushroom risotto provided a strong complement but still allowed the pork to be the star (duh).Bis suckling pig

The corvina (drum fish) served up with a cauliflower puree and fennel was heaven on earth: light, fresh, and flavorful. Plated beautifully, it was a reminder of who’s behind the whole operation.

Bis corvina

I’m not usually one to crave red meat (so sue me) but the ojo de bife was straight up sensual. Crispy on the outside, juicy and bloody on the inside, served up with a bright pumpkin puree, onion, and chimichurri.

If you’ve still got room (and even if you don’t), dessert is a must. Gonzalo’s arroz con leche has reached reviews of mythical proportions, but once again – it’s well deserved. First off, who doesn’t love eating comfort food out of a little jar? That means no one can shove their spoons in and steal a taste, which is great for fatties like myself. I’m pretty easy to please and have always liked this dessert, but those who tend to be harder to convince have changed their minds once they dig into this beauty. A classic nostalgic dish prepared and served with a twist, it’s the ideal way to end a meal.

Even though I knew I’d be a fan of Bis before I walked through the door, I was so pleased that my expectations were confirmed and then surpassed. It’s a place you’ll want to visit again and again, whether it’s bringing friends visiting from out of town or just because you’re not in the mood to cook on a Friday night. You’re guaranteed to feel like you’re an amigo de la casa as soon as you sit down, which makes the food more delicious and the wine taste better.

Maybe it’s because I’m a younger sister myself, but I wouldn’t mind a little sibling rivalry here. I guess I’ll just have to visit Aramburu and Bis on several occasions to see which one is in the lead…

Bis table

Aramburu Bis
Humberto Primo 1207, esq. Salta – Constitución
Mon – Sat 12:30pm-11:30pm
4304-5697
Reservations recommended
Park at the garage next to Aramburu or better yet, take a taxi