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

 

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).

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

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: 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