I’m entering my last couple of weeks in Buenos Aires and have a long list of restaurants that I have to visit before I leave. I have more restaurants on this list than days left so the chances of getting through all of them is slim but I’ll do my best. And it becomes even longer when you factor in the ones I love that I want to visit again before I leave. But after looking at the wonderful photos from Frances over on The Lost Asian, Aramburu jumped straight to the top of the list and we headed down there on Saturday night.
Aramburu is one of a couple of restaurants that purports to be a purveyor of molecular gastronomy and boasts chefs that have apparently worked in El Bulli, the holy grail of this sort of stuff. Having eaten there I wouldn’t exactly call it molecular gastronomy but the 10 or so courses certainly have a fun, playful feel to them but actually ended up being pretty traditional in the end. This isn’t a criticism as such, more of a clarification. Don’t expect to be blown away by the invention of every dish but you can look forward to some delicious stuff.
On arrival we were a little disappointed to find a huge table of 20 clogging up the small restaurant. Aramburu is not a big place and I can imagine it has a lovely, calm atmosphere when there are only tables of 2 or 4 people but this was completely ruined by an enormous table complete with 2 babies that were crying intermittently through out. I am not against babies in restaurants or babies in general but it seemed a bit odd to bring them to somewhere like this. My disappointment deepened when our waiter told us that they couldn’t do the wine pairing that I’d heard so much about due to this large group draining the restaurants “resources”. This is something I would have appreciated knowing when I confirmed our booking as we would probably have changed our booking as I’d been really looking forward to the wine tasting.
Needless to say this put me in a little bit of a grump (sorry if I sound like a bitter old man) and meant the food had to be pretty good to make up for the lack of wine and the crying babies.
Well it did and it didn’t.
Some dishes were delightful, full of flavour and well thought out. Others were a little bland and didn’t bring anything to the meal. Almost immediately, before we’d even picked a wine out, we were presented with a range of amuse bouches. The edible paper with paint was fun and tasty, as was the chicken broth. My favourite was the cheese soufflé that melted instantly in your mouth. All in all a fun little mix.
First up for the proper dishes was green vegetables “done 3 ways”. It was a fresh tasting plate but none of the vegetables were done in a way that really gave any proper flavour. The frozen veg tasted like a block of ice and we left that out. Some nice touches but just a little bland.
Next up was a sort of mini brunch, which consisted of a poached egg, mini papas fritas and a mini bagel. I thought this was a very boring dish. Lots of restaurants seem to think you can’t have a tasting menu without a perfectly poached egg and that’s what was happening here. Yes the poached egg was nice but that was all it really was.
We then moved on to rabbit served with a large fresh mushroom. J and I had completely different takes on this. She loved it. I hated it. Interestingly all the reasons she loved it were the reasons I hated it. The mushroom was very raw and the rabbit was wrapped in some sort of tapenade that I thought tasted a little of dirt but she thought added texture. Each to their own I suppose.
For me this was where things started to get a whole lot better. Up to now I hadn’t been too impressed with Aramburu. All the courses so far had been a little bland and boring and the waiters had their hands full with the other table and were doing there best to just get the food in front of us with little explanation about what we were eating.
The next dish raised the bar considerably. A sizzling prawn wrapped in crispy batter cooked on a hot rock with a creamy sauce poured on top. This was crunchy, delicious and fun. The prawn was sizzling happily away on the stone when it was served making the batter lovely and crispy and the sauce cooled it down as it was poured on top. All of it was delicious. Things had definitely improved.
The following dish was fish as well, a nice cut of salmon with a foam dressing and potato puree. While not as good as the prawn this was still very nice. The fish was meaty and fresh but the foam was more for appearance than anything else. It didn’t really taste of anything.
We now moved on to the meat dishes, the first of which was probably my favourite of the whole meal. I am sucker for suckling pig and this one was absolutely terrific. It came in a chocolate sauce with a lovely pear puree that made a nice change from apple. The whole dish worked perfectly and really couldn’t have been better.
The last of the savoury dish was, as you’d expect, a lovely cut of bife de chorizo. And as you’d expect this was done very well; nice and pink with a sprinkling of salt and pepper on the side of the plate that you dragged your meat through and gave it a nutty, salty flavour to it. A traditional Argentine dish with a nice modern twist.
We then had a nice selection of palate cleansers, and a final desert to finish with. This was a perfectly nice selection of ice creams that were delicious but felt like a bit of a let down to a 10 course tasting menu.
So overall a pretty good meal from Aramburu, some stuff I loved, other stuff I didn’t but I felt pretty happy as I walked out even after a bad start. I was a little annoyed that the bill came to more than what it would have been because we ordered a bottle of white and then had a few glasses of red with the meat dishes. I felt it would have been nice to have been offered these to make up for not offering the wine tasting but there you go. Aramburu is definitely a treatsy place and a good one for a date or anniversary (providing that there isn’t 20 Brazilians shouting the house down or breast feeding in the dark in the ladies toilets). I’m glad I went before I left Buenos Aires I just wish I’d gone on another night.