There’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.
In 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.
From 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).
The 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.
Honduras 4415 – Palermo
Weds & Thurs from 7pm-2am
Fri & Sat from 8pm-3am