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

Navarro Correas Experience at Guido and Gran Bar Danzón

It’s gray, foggy and gross out, and this Friday is a holiday. What’s a girl to do? In addition to all those gastro-tastical events I told you about last week, you can add a few more to your agenda. The “Bodegas Navarro Correas Gourmet Experience” (what a mouthful) was underway last week at Tegui in Palermo, but runs today and tomorrow at Guido and Gran Bar Danzón, respectively. Both happen to be some of my favorite spots in the city, so hop to it.

Guido Restaurant will be providing a three-course menu, at AR$190/person:

Antipasti: Caponatta de berenjenas, Ciambotta, Cous cous, Burrata, Perperonatta, Prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella, Pizzas. Served with Navarro Correas Reserve Chardonnay 2011

First Course:  a choice of – Chicken curry risotto, Slow-cooked lamb sorrentinos with truffle cream sauce, or Grilled salmon with pumpkin mash. Served with Navarro Correas Reserve Malbec 2009.

Dessert: Served with Navarro Correas Extra Brut.

Guido Restaurante 
Blvd. Cerviño 3943 – Palermo Botánico
4802-1262

Gran Bar Danzón will be serving these delights on Wednesday night

Appetizer: Beef carpaccio with truffle vinaigrette, arugula, and parmesan ice cream


Main Course:
Risotto with Malbec-braised beef, Brussels sprouts, grilled eggplant and sauteed mushrooms.

Dessert: Warm pecan tart with pears and vanilla ice cream.

The menu includes three glasses of Navarro Correas Reserve (white, red, and dessert), water, and coffee or tea. AR$220/person.

Gran Bar Danzón

Libertad 1161, 1st floor – Recoleta
4811-1109

This hoopla will continue on through June 30 and in tons of other restaurants in Buenos Aires. Don’t miss …. Sucre, Sanbenito, Casa Cruz, Restó, Tarquino, Nectarine, or Hernán Gipponi. 

Check Planeta Joy for more information
Photo Credit: Cabiados

Poor Photo Documentation

Remember how I said I’m not a fancy expat with an iPhone? Well my Argentine better half is, so I realized that we had some proof of our delicious endeavors of late. The really crappy shot of the Chinese chef with the duck is obviously of my own doing, thanks to the trusty Blackberry that I’ve had for like 49 years. Bon apetit, Enjoy, Chau chau

Razor clams at La Locanda.

Grilled octopus tentacle at El Muelle

Trio of seafood delight at El Muelle – Grilled prawns, scallops, and tentacle

Peking Duck at Shi Yuan

 

Back in Action

Le sigh. I’ve been neglecting you, yes I have. But not because I want to, you see. The past few weeks have been more than hectic as I was tying up loose ends and starting a new job (which also signaled the end of my “I can be in pj’s all day until heading to work at 4pm” reign, and oh how glorious that was). I disappeared like a hermit and ignored the 5 people who read this blog. Sorry about that.

I’ve had some great meals lately, but they’ve all been very spontaneous and failed to be photographed as a result. I am not one of those fancy expats who has an iPhone, so sorry I’m not sorry about that. For one, I went back to Shi Yuan in Barrio Norte for a Chinese feast of the senses. Definitely recommended to go with a big group to order a ton of stuff (they also have a dim sum menu if you can read Chinese) and Peking duck, which must be ordered a day ahead. Portions are huge and the prices affordable.

Just around the corner from Shi Yuan is another little gem, located where Olinda bistro used to be. La Locanda offers up crazy fresh, homemade Sicilian food. Run by Daniel and his family, this spot serves up food that is so simple, so fresh, and so utterly delicious. The menu changes daily – isn’t even written down on a blackboard or anything – and the dishes are all excellent. We had some incredible razor clams and homemade fettuccine with shellfish. What I didn’t love? The price. No menu = no chance to gauge how much things cost. I would definitely recommend it, but be prepared to drop a pretty penny on those delicias Sardas.

Last night, to celebrate my surviving the first week at work, we returned to my all-time favorite place in Buenos Aires. Having dinner at Bengal is like having dinner at home for me, where all the waiters know us and don’t even need to give us the menu. The owner is always there and manages to fill us in on who’s-who at the other tables (Ricardo Alfonsín, Carlos Bianchi, Vice-President Amado Boudou perhaps…). The food is perfection and it’s always such a pleasant experience. If you haven’t been, put it at the top of your list of restaurants to visit – or I will cut you.

Now let’s do a little roundup of linkage since you’ve probably already lost interest in my recounting my last few meals without any photos.

Where to eat the best thin-crust pizza in BA, courtesy of Planeta Joy. I know El Cuartito is supposed to be the ultimate in BA pizza, but I need thin crust and I need it now.

-Next weekend (which is extra-long thanks to Labor Day), head to San Telmo and check out Buenos Aires Market, which will offer organic & healthy goodies from over 50 local businesses. The best part – it’s on one of my favorite streets in town, Avenida Caseros, between Defensa and Bolívar. Saturday & Sunday, 10am – 6pm. Click here for more info on what to expect this weekend.

-Live vicariously through The Lost Asian on her recent trip up to Salta. I only wish I could save up enough moola to recreate a culinary odyssey such as that one … Le sigh.

-Great little article from Saveur about a sixth generation Las Vegas family. Best part: recipes for cilantro rice, black beans, and grilled fish tacos

-Looking for a place where you can share reviews, comments, and more about your food, drink & cultural experiences in Buenos Aires? Check out Kekanto, a Yelp-esque community that will definitely give you some great tips on new places to check out

Top 5 Cold-Weather Spots

Welp, it’s officially autumn here in Buenos Aires. Anytime the temperature dips below 68 degrees, the boots, wool coats, scarves and other winter accessories magically make their way to the streets. Now that we’ve got hibernation on the brain, where should you go when you want to cozy up on a chilly day for a delicious meal?

 

Pura Tierra

I used to live in Belgrano and loved having Pura Tierra so close to my apartment. They serve gourmet regional cuisine, so imagine lots of dark woods, exposed brick, and low lighting. You’ll fill up on braised bondiola with honey-glazed apples, grilled llama, homemade pastas and delicious Argentine cheeses. This is an experience for the senses. Perfect for when you need to stay warm and dive into some impeccable regional food.

3 de Febrero 1167 – Belgrano – 4899-2007

Vrindavan

Ok, I can’t not sneak in an Indian restaurant. But what’s better for warming up than a piping hot and spicy curry? Come on. Vrindavan isn’t new, per se, but it’s my newest favorite for its killer vindaloo and amazing discounts (40% with Club La Nación on Tuesdays). It’s located downtown, so you can sneak away from the office and dive in to rich kormas, fluffy basmati rice, and tons of other dishes that will rival what you’re used to back home. Service could be better, but you’ll be too busy drooling over your Chicken Tikka Masala that it won’t really matter.

Tucumán 874 – Downtown – 4328-9252

Olsen

When in doubt, warm up with vodka. Or something like that. Olsen is ideal for a Saturday brunch/lunch out in the garden – they’ll bring you blankets to stay warm – or snagging a seat next to the fireplace for dinner. You’ll feel right at home among the clean Scandinavian lines (oh how I miss Ikea, natch) and the illuminated bar. And the vodka. Don’t forget the vodka.

Gorriti 5870 – Palermo Hollywood – 4776-7677

Sette Bacco

Usually when the cold weather hits, I up my pasta intake by about 300% No shame here. It’s like my body flips out without a steady diet of carbs. I love Sette Bacco since it’s completely unassuming on a side street in Recoleta but insanely beautiful at the same time. A repurposed old family home, Sette Bacco serves up melt-in-your-mouth pastas, risottos, and meat dishes. Order that grilled molleja salad to start, it’s heaven on a plate. Tables are tucked into every nook, so don’t be scared to ask to see what’s available upstairs. It’s perfect for a homecooked meal when you don’t want to do any of the cooking.

Agüero 2157 – Barrio Norte/Recoleta – 4808-0021

HG – Hernán Gipponi at the Fierro Hotel

This might be a no-brainer, because all I want to do on a gray Sunday afternoon is spend three hours eating the most amazeballs gourmet brunchy bites available in Buenos Aires. What’s nice is that it’s reservation only (you’ll probably know half of the people there), and the dining room takes on this personal feel that makes it easier to brave the windchill once you leave. Get ready for inventive eggs, exotic fruits, and more taste explosions. Book a table next to the window and pretend you’re outside, when we all know you have 2 pairs of socks and three t-shirts on.

Soler 5862 – Palermo Hollywood – 3220-6800

Photo Credit: Guía Oleo, Groupon, Panoramio, Sette Bacco, yours truly