As I mentioned in my last post, I was in Argentina recently. I spent my time between the wine region, Mendoza, and the capital, Buenos Aires. Long days of travel and sightseeing (and staying out late) meant that I went to a lot of cafe’s in both areas.
Mendoza recap: Mendoza is knows for its malbecs, and they had some very good ones. I went to several bodegas to taste some wine; my favorite were Renacer, Ruca Malen and Bodega Benegas. On the wine tour, I had lunch at the bodega Ruca Malen. A great meal, each course paired with it’s own wine, of course.
The main course was a beef tenderloin grilled “a las brasas” served with potatoes and bacon rolls and a goat cheese and black pepper sauce.
I also had a fantastic meal at 1884, Francis Mallmann’s restaurant (voted the 7th best restaurant in the world by Restaurant Magazine). Fantastic meal, great atmosphere. The restaurant is part of the Bodegas Escorihuela winery which had some very good wines. I had the Escorihuela Gascon Malbec and the Escorihuela Gascon Viognier; I preferred the Malbec, but both were nice. The menu is split into three sections: From the Grill, From the Clay Oven, and From the Kitchen. I would recommend getting a dish either from the grill or the oven. Mallmann is classically trained in the French style and tends to over prepare many dishes. Getting a dish from the grill or oven forces a simplification of the dish and, in my opinion, produces a more authentic Argentine meal. I had the chivito de Malargue (baby goat from Malargue), which I would recommend to anyone going there.
Buenos Aires recap: I did not eat at many restaurants in BsAs because I was living with my friend’s family while staying there. We normally stayed home and cooked something at home with the family. I did go to a few restaurants which I can recommend.
Bobo was very good. Located in the Palermo district, the food was well prepared with a good attention to detail. The style is modern and they blend cuisine from across the world but use spices more traditional to Argentina.
I also had the opportunity to go to a dinner club, Casa Saltshaker. This was one of the best meals I have had in a long time–easily the best meal on the trip. The dinner is served at a communal table with no more than 12 people attending. Each week is a different menu based off a theme. The week I went the theme was Thai food to celebrate the birthday of Bhumibol Adulyadej (also known as Rama IX), the current king of Thailand. The meal was a five course meal (sorry no photos of this one) that was perfectly paired with wines. I was very impressed by the preparation of the food and the wines chosen. The first dish was a smoked eggplant salad served on a tomato slice. This was paired with a Nieto Senetier Brut Nature sparkling wine. The second dish was a shrimp and lime consommé paired with a Jose L. Mounnier Torrentés. Again wonderfully prepared and delicious with the wine. The third dish was a double. One half of the plate was fried tofu served on a slice of pineapple and the other half of the plate was peppered sauteed calamari. This was paired with Monteviejo Festive Rodado which surprised me at first. I generally don’t go for rosés, but this one was perfect with the tofu and pineapple. The fourth dish was a melon curry with salt cured trout paired with Alredo Roca Pinot Noir. Argentines are not very used to spicy foods, so Dan, the chef, opted to refrain on adding too much spice and instead provided a spicy pepper sauce on the side. The addition of the sauce greatly improved the meal. To finish the meal a squash tart with caramelized cashews was paired with Callia Amable Dulce Natural.
I highly recommend it. If you go anywhere to eat in Argentina, go there.
(Update: I forgot to add a link to the Casa SaltShaker blog. There is an entry–with photos!–about the meal)
One more thing of note: ice cream. I am astounded by the capacity of Argentines to eat ice cream. The huge Italian influence (gelato style ice cream) mixed with South American flavors makes for some amazing treats. The Dulce de Leche flavor is a good start, traditional and delicious. Don’t stop there though, if you really want a treat, have Tramontana or Banana Split. Tramontana is basically a ducle de leche ice cream with chocolate crunchy nuggets mixed in. Banana Split is not like in the US. Forget about serving ice cream on top of a banana, instead make banana flavored ice cream with dulce de leche and mix in bits of chocolate. Amazing. If I can figure out how to make that here I would make a killing.