Buenos Aires – A retrospective

Hello all, sorry for the radio silence on the blog but I have been moving continents and going on holiday and haven’t had any time to post. Before I get my teeth into London I wanted to put one more post out about Buenos Aires before I say goodbye to it for good.

Buenos Aires was good to me; I had a great time, made some fantastic friends and discovered some great blogs. However, I ended up having a bit of a love/hate relationship with the restaurants here. There are a handful of restaurants that I will genuinely miss and a few that I won’t, but on the whole my main criticism of Argentine restaurants is their lack of subtlety; I can count on one hand the meals that I had where I was genuinely blown away by a plate that had been prepared with real love and attention and didn’t just try and grab you by the balls and say “eat until you can eat no more”.

When people come to Argentina the one thing they expect above all others is steak, so this seems the obvious place to start when I look back on my favourite places to eat. Tourists will always want to go to La Cabrera. Although it is probably the most clichéd place to eat in Buenos Aires, there is no denying that La Cabrera will deliver you a good piece of meat, cooked the way you asked for it and delivered with a certain degree of panache. It also gave me one of my first real revelatory experiences in BA; sweetbreads. Here you can find the best in the city; crispy on the outside, succulent on the inside. I’d never eaten a gland before but Argentina has made me one of their biggest fans. Another tourist favourite is Don Julio where you get a more “authentic” parilla experience. It is still a bit of a tourist trap but it was right round the corner from my flat and the food and service were always outstanding. If you want to avoid the tourists and visit a genuinely brilliant, understated parilla then Parilla Pena in Recoleta wins every time. I discovered this place late. It doesn’t look like much from the outside but serves up some of the best empanadas I’ve had all year and great steaks at amazing prices. I should also mention Desnivel down in San Telmo for a great atmosphere and decent prices.

On the subject of empanadas, a special mention has got to go out to Pekin, this place always serves up some of the best empanadas in the city and was a regular Sunday night hangout. My favourite was the cordero.

Once you’ve filled yourself up with all this meat you’re going to need to balance it out with some ceviche. Now this was my second real revelation of my time in Buenos Aires. It’s been over two weeks since I left and I am going through some serious cold turkey. Ceviche is the greatest thing in the world and the perfect antidote to too much red meat. It’s fresh, zesty, filling and, if you go to the right places, cheap as chips. So where to go? The big three (in my opinion) are: Chan Chan, Solo Pescados and La Primavera. Some people will tell you to go to Astrid and Gaston or Sipan but these up market places over complicate things and I always find myself going back for the simpler options.

So those are the traditional places where you can soak up the local culture and cuisine. When it comes to the treatsier end of the scale I found BA to be very hit and miss. When my family were here we enjoyed a fun but flawed meal at La Vineria de Bolivar, one of the city’s most famous micro gastronomy outfits (I hate that word). It had an inventive menu and we had a great time but they went completely over board on turning things into dust. In 13 courses I think about 3 didn’t include dust of some sort or another and it got a little tiring after a while. We had a similar experience at Arramburu, which I thought was better than La Vineria but still far from perfect. The worst tasting menu of my time in Buenos Aires goes to Pura Tierra. Sadly I chose this as the destination for my last meal (I should’ve gone to Chez Nous) and it was extremely disappointing. 10 tasteless dishes of underseasoned meat and uninventive cooking was served up at a hefty price, this was the worst side of an Argentine taster menu. On the other side of the coin Paraje Arevalo served up two outstanding tasting menus both times I went there. A small, fun place with a great cook this is somewhere I am going to miss.

Another vibrant part of the Buenos Aires food scene was the supper clubs. These were a great way to meet other people with a passion for food or expats living in the city.

The ones I would recommend are Casa Felix, for the amazing décor and freshness of ingredients, and Casa Mun for his obvious passion for cooking and the fun atmosphere they have there. Somewhere I didn’t get the chance to go to and wish I had was Casa Jauretche which a reliable source has told me is amazing but I never got to try.

What else is there? Pizza at Siamo nel Forno always hit the spot when you were in need of some comfort food but I feel that Buenos Aires is quite under represented when it comes to Italian food. I found this strange when you think of how many people here have Italian heritage but there you go. Another under represented country is Japan with only Yuki passing muster and Niji standing head and shoulders above the rest. We headed down to China town about once a month for a dim sum hit at Hong Kong style and to stock up on Udon noodles, coconut milk and other assorted trinkets. For fish I’d go to Oviedo every time and if you want some Mexican I controversially choose Cielito Lindo which all my friends hate but I love. J and I would go once every two weeks for the best margaritas and tacos, far better than the trendier Fabrica del Taco, which gave me food poisoning TWICE (fool me once shame on you etc).

Final shout outs go to the deliverys, while BA Delivery is certainly a great resource I would say 90% of the stuff on there is complete and utter dog food. I used to order a Poke meal at least once a week but they have sadly had to shut down their delivery and now do pop ups about twice a month. I will miss their beans. Marfa delivery was a lifeline during my working week as it was the only place I could get a decent salad, (Argentines don’t generally do greens), go for the pollo y palta salad, it’s a winner.

My last recommendation is probably my favourite restaurant in Buenos Aires, certainly the most consistent and fun, and it’s Cafe San Juan. I went here in my first week in BA and it never let me down since. Bold flavours, good seafood, amazing mussels and pates, this is a sure fire winner with a great atmosphere. If you haven’t been, go!

And that’s your lot really, I’m sure there are a few that I’ve missed out and if you think there are any glaring errors (except about Cielito Lindo, there my love is blind), then please feel free to add them in the comments section.

I had a great year in BA, it has reinforced my love of food, got me into food blogging which I’ve really enjoyed (for a great discussion on this, have a look here) and generally it’s been a blast. It’s great to be back in London but I know when November rolls around and the days get dark I’m going to be yearning for bife de lomo and a bottle of malbec, but London is full of treats to be had and everyone loves a treat, don’t they?


4 thoughts on “Buenos Aires – A retrospective

    • Ah! How could I forget brunch!? Mmm, I loved Malvon for the decor but was rapidly losing love with the food. Only the maracuya cheescake had me coming back for more.

  1. Great stuff my man, a brilliant sum up of all our culinary highs and lows… Personally i feel no need for brunch mentions really… is there anywhere here that could truly stand up next to ANY greasy spoon in Londres or new york diner… thought not. Eggs benedict has become a highly sought-after new fad, but in my book the only place that knew how to make Hollandaise sauce with any real flavour (Amaranto, Recoleta… sigh) closed it doors long, long ago.. everyone praises (but we really only make do with) Gringa and the ever-(tiresome and) popular Oui Oui, but something fresh is coming very soon… just keep an eye on this TakeoverBA-sized space… Best of luck homie xxxxx

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