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

OPIO fb

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

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

 

 

 

Review: Delhi Masala

Delhi Masala Anyone that knows me knows that I have a serious addiction to Indian food. From as far back as I can remember, I’ve craved spicy, aromatic curries and fluffy basmati rice. My first stop en route home from the airport once I touch down on US soil is our local Indian restaurant that I’ve been going to since I was in elementary school. (Side note: The owner’s children are probably going to some pretty fancy colleges thanks to my dedicated investment in their business. Moving on.)

Therefore, moving to Buenos Aires was a shock in the sense that the availability of Indian restaurants went from what felt like infinity to just a handful. Way back in 2007 I remember going to Tandoor on its first night in business, actually. Good times. Since then, slowly but surely there has been steady growth of classic, no-frills and authentic curry spots that have been able to sate the beast within me, also known as my murderous desire to eat Indian on a weekly basis. Warning: Indian food does not photograph well (duh). Sorry I’m not sorry.

Naan-senseLiving just one block away from Bengal, I was very spoiled to become close with the head chef there; he’d always indulge my obsession with spice and make sure my dish was always “nivel extranjero” instead of “nivel porteño.” He’s a good man. What makes him an AWESOME man is that in recent years he’s branched out and opened up several restaurants of his own – all thanks to the help of his family members that he brings over from India to help run the show. I’m hoping they’ll adopt me one day.

This is a lot of build up for one lousy review, but it was necessary. Delhi Masala, located right in the heart of hippie dippie San Telmo nightlife, is pretty much the only place I’ll go for a curry these days. An incredible range of dishes (so far they’re the only ones who do mattar paneer … and extremely well), the typical tacky-kitsch atmosphere of bright overhead lights and lots of little elephants strung everywhere and overall authentic flavors make this my favorite Indian restaurant in Buenos Aires.

Mattar Paneer You can’t really go wrong with anything on the menu, but if you’re really hungry I would skip the appetizers and head for the mains (the samosas are quite good though). Dal, prawn tikka masala, mattar paneer, aloo gobi, vindaloo, korma … I have to stop myself before I drool all over everything. Great range of vegetarian dishes and a whole section dedicated to briyani. Yay! Sopping up those sauces with hot buttery naan is so delicious it should be illegal. Actually, I’d totally brave the wilds of Fuerte Apache or some other scary barrio if it meant I could get my hands on whatever magic is coming out of Mohammed’s kitchen. True story. Portions are generous, waiters understand the diners’ need for truly spicy food, and they even offer house-brewed cerveza to wash it all down. Remember that in BA, you have to order the rice separately from you main dish – kind of a drag but not the biggest deal.

Before you pass out in a heavenly food coma, try to give dessert a whirl. The pistachio ice cream is super rich and at the same time refreshing, though you might need an Uvasal after all is said and done if you’re anything like me. (For clarity: If you’re anything like me you will order three mains between two people and stuff yourselves to the brim with naan and basmati rice just for good measure. So basically you probably have more self control and better judgment than I do.)

The best bit of all of this? Delhi Masala accepts Club La Nación meaning your meal will be at least 20% cheaper every night of the week – 50% off on Tuesdays! Who doesn’t love a bargain in this inflation-ridden town? Just me? Don’t be shy. Pinching pennies is the new extravagance. Or not?

No matter the day of the week, the place tends to fill up, so either head there on the earlier end or call ahead to reserve if you want to be sure. They also do take out if you prefer to smother yourself in tikka masala in the privacy of your own home. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: No judgment here.

So if you’ve been craving a good curry and haven’t found the right spot, are looking for a new place, or have never even had Indian food because you were raised in a barn … Mosey on down to Delhi Masala and prepare for a camino de ida. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Delhi Masala
Defensa 714, San Telmo
Open for Lunch & Dinner
4300-3790
Discount with Club La Nación
Take Out & Delivery

Final Photo Credit: Via Resto 

Review: January Food Binge

January is coming to a close and any painful memories of holiday excess are long forgotten. Thanks to this, I’m diving right in to 2013 and trying a bunch of new (or just new to me) spots that have been tempting me of late.

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First up is Mullu, new outfit from the team that brought us the Peruvian delights of Sipan. Nestled away on a tiny cobblestoned street behind the Kavanagh building (as a denizen of Retiro, this was much to my delight), Mullu takes the concept of gourmet Peruvian fusion up a notch. The space itself is small but cozy, with a big window that looks out onto the street – a view which reminded me more of being in Spain than in Buenos Aires, now that I think about it – with low lighting and aguayos lining the walls. The menu itself is brief and doesn’t provide much in the way of descriptions of the dishes, forcing you to chat up your waiter to see what they’re all about. I liked that. As with Sipan, the portions are massive and meant to share. Be prepared to spend a pretty penny, but it will be worth it.

ImageJust a few days later, I found myself strolling through San Telmo on a particularly muggy Sunday and in need of sustenance. Months prior I had passed Sagardi, a pintxos bar just steps from the insanity that is Plaza Dorrego, and remembered that I was still itching to give it a whirl. High ceilings, rich woods and a tempting array of cold pintxos already on display were enough to send me over the edge. Just as in Spain, you’re charged by tallying up how many toothpicks you’ve got on your plate at the end of your binge. My advice: don’t fill up on the cold bites, as the piping hot goodies that stream from the kitchen on a regular basis will be even more mind-blowing. Best served with a glass of the house tempranillo. Past the bar you can sit down and eat a la carte, and while the menu looked interesting, I think next time I’ll saddle up to the pintxos again and see what’s on tap for the day.

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Though this year has promised to be just as wild and wonderful as the last, it was also the start of another wave of expat despedidas and farewells. Luckily, to soothe the sting of the inevitable goodbye, one such of these parties was held at Zaccaria, a bistro and wine bar tucked away in Palermo just steps from La Rural. Simple yet homey décor combined with homemade dishes that just oozed with love made for an incredible evening that I hope to repeat soon. You can even rent out the space for a private dinner or small event. Definitely a place to check out if you are looking for a laid back experience without sacrificing quality.

  • Mullu – Ricardo Rojas 451, Retiro – 4311-2812
  • Sagardi – Humberto Primo 319, San Telmo – 4361-2538
  • Zaccaria – Seguí 4611, Palermo – 4775-2088

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Food Porn Friday

The first Food Porn Friday of 2013 – kind of a big deal. Big shoes to fill, lots of expectation for the 51 weeks that remain. Yikes. So what better way to kick things off than with one of the greatest things you could ever eat in your life? Thankfully it’s something I was able to scarf down just last week when I was in Mendoza visiting Chef Mun‘s new digs at Casarena Bodega. Mun and Cary hosted an incredible surprise dinner for my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary. My only demand? That the spicy tuna on crispy rice make an appearance. I swear it’s made with crack. Thanks again for a most memorable meal! (*more to come on what was definitely one of the greatest dinners of my life, get ready)

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Food Porn Friday

Of all the ethnic foods that I miss here in Buenos Aires, there is one cuisine that I often forget about – until a serious craving hits me. Ethiopian food definitely won’t win any contests for being photogenic, but it’s definitely one of my favorites due to its sheer flavor. Living in DC, I was surrounded by tons of Ethiopian restaurants – from the seedy spots that line 18th street in Adams Morgan to the finer establishments such as Zed’s in Georgetown – and never realized how I took them for granted. I woke up this morning with a serious need for doro wat,  chicken cooked in a deep red, smoky sauce and served with a couple of hard boiled eggs. It’s one of those dishes that I tried as a child and will never forget, for sure. So cozy up to some spongy injera bread have an excellent weekend!

Photo Credit: Kweschn Media