Saturday, February 16, 2008

Buenos Aires eats

I was thinking I should really make more posts about Buenos Aires and life here. The easiest thing to start with is food. We started going out to eat a lot more when we moved here. Of course it's cheaper to go out to dinner here than it was in New York, but I think we also didn't know many people or things to do when we first got here, so hunting for great restaurants was like our primary entertainment for the first few months. It still is, sometimes. Also, I'm a little homesick for the world-wide cuisine of New York. Porteño cuisine offers some of the world's most delicious steak, malbec, empanadas, dulce de leche, etc, and i'm sure lots of people can write about porteño foods much more knowledgeably than I can, so my list reflects my fondness for variety and international flavors. And even most foreign restaurants in Buenos Aires have lots of Argentine influences, such as a focus on great beef and not much spice. We don't go out to eat now as much as we did in our first months, but we love it when people come to visit from out-of-town so we can take them out to our favorite eats. I'm starting a short list of our favorite restaurants and I'll keep adding on as I have time (or discover new yummy places!).


BiWon: a Korean restaurant in Once (Junin 548, 4372-1146, cash only, closed sundays). I think it's pretty authentic Korean but i'm not an expert. The star of the show is Korean barbecue, unbelievably tender and delicious marinated strips of beef or pork. They'll bring you a grill to cook it yourself on your table, or they will cook it for you in the kitchen. There's also tasty noodle soups, dumplings, bi-bim-bap, soju, and lots of other stuff I've never ordered. As soon as you sit down they will bring you a delicious array of 10 or 12 little dishes, like Korean tapas, ranging from pickled spicy cabbage kim-chi to potato salad to seaweed and sometimes a dish of tiny crispy whole fishes. It's a little expensive but totally totally worth it. The ambience and decor are a bit weird, but the waiters are always really nice.


Green Bamboo: a fancy spot in Palermo Hollywood that serves an Argentine version of Vietnamese food. They have lots of special cocktails; try the Green Velvet, a basil-ginger-saki-vodka cocktail. The entrees are huge and very tasty, though they are more "vietnamese-inspired" than authentic. Mike has gotten excellent beef dishes, such as "Bo Luc Lac, sauteed tenderloin beef cubes marinated with lemongrass, honey and sweet chilli," and I've tried a few seafood and vegetable dishes which are all delicious. There is a dessert, ripe bananas wrapped in thin super-crispy warm fried flaky dough, involving chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream, and an awkward cloud of hair-thin spun-caramel perched on top, which is unbelievably delicious! I am drooling just thinking about it. The prices are a bit expensive ($35-$50 pesos per entree) and the kitchen is VERY VERY VERY slow and it's painful having to wait an hour for the food to arrive, but it's always really tasty when it does turn up. We really only go to this place when we need a place to bring guests, since it's too expensive (and slow) to eat here all the time. It's a comfy place with kind of cute and kitschy decor, a few fake bamboo plants and beaded curtains and pretty paper lanterns.

Antigua Querencia: our favorite basic Argentine parilla. It's right around the corner from our house in Almagro, and delicious and cheap. We can share one bife de lomo, a punto, with sweet potato fries and a lettuce-tomato-onion salad. They serve ice cream with chocolate sauce for dessert. Everything's perfect, the only sad thing is that (like almost every other restaurant in BA) they don't have ketchup for the fries. We usually make a reservation because it's pretty popular.


Artemisia is a vegetarian-and-fish restaurant on Cabrera in Palermo Soho. It's great to visit an oasis of flavorful, fresh, healthy, veggie-centric food in a city of steak and pizza. The best part is before dinner you get a plate with different kinds of warm, freshly-baked homemade bread! and some tasty white bean spread to put on top. The ginger lemonade is really really delicious, sweet and tart and spicy! We've loved the salmon raviolis (no dough - each ravioli is made of two thin slices of salmon, stuck together, with a little packet of mushrooms and veggies inside) and had a few delicious polenta dishes, one of them included sauteed greens, tomatoes and brown-sugar-candied garlic. The salads are always great. The only mediocre thing was an "indian rice" or "hindu rice" or something like that which was salty, boring and bland. But everything else is always great. They have a nice list of organic wines and an impressive selection of herbal teas. The menus are cute but a little hard to read; they are handwritten on a stack of small brown paper bags.


Olsen is a "nordic" restaurant in Palermo Hollywood, one of the few places here that we've found a satisfyingly huge and tasty weekend brunch. They offer a long list of imported vodkas, but I have little interest in vodka so I've stuck to the food. My favorite favorite dish here (i think it's only available on the dinner menu) is smoked pork neck with cranberry sauce (or maybe it's lingonberry sauce, to go with the Ikea theme?) which is more flavorful and tender than any pork I have ever tried before. If you like bacon, you will be very happy with their pork neck. It's not all chewy and greasy like bacon though. It's just purely awesome. For brunch, they have a cute and tricky menu/placemat which offers different-sized combinations of tasty brunch options. Their crispy golden chunky potatoes are my favorites, although (of course) i wish they could give me ketchup with that. They have a pork option for breakfast which is basically as delicious as the pork neck dinner entree. I have good luck ordering the daily special for brunch, it's always been super tasty and very very big. Last time we ordered waffles but were a little disappointed with small, hard, waffles and of course no maple syrup (why am i so obsessed with sauces?). They have nice fresh green salads, and a cute "smorgasbord" which is 5 little nibbles, small bits of bread with spreads and toppings, it's expensive and not filling at all but it's cute. Olsen is kind of pricey in general but it's always really satisfying! The scandinavian-modern design of the space seems kind of overly dramatic, but I do like the feeling of walking in off the street into their front garden, which has some tables and seats in it, and usually if the weather is OK they open up the front wall of the restaurant so that the front of the restaurant feels kind of like it's in the garden too.

Carlito's (sorry, no links!): Corrientes 3100, close to Abasto Shopping (there's a whole strip of Peruvian restaurants here, but we were told this is the best one and we are willing to believe it). A very popular Peruvian greasy-spoon serving amazingly delicious and cheap rotisserie chicken with spicy sauces on the side. They also serve aji de gallina (shredded chicken in sauce that's actually spicy), ceviche, jalea (an enormous mountain of fried seafood), lots of seafood, fried-rice dishes, and even salchipapa, a giant platter of french-fries mixed with hot dog slices. Really, though, it's all about the rotisserie chicken. I think it's around $18 pesos to get a half-chicken with salad and french fries, which can easily feed 2 people and probably three. How do they make that chicken so juicy and tender and flavorful?! Everything is served with two different creamy sauces on the side, a sweet tangy watery one, and a hot spicy exciting one that tastes like green jalapeños. Mike is so obsessed with Carlito's that he actually wants to eat there every day. Really. Every day. My favorite thing is chicha, a thin sweet dark purple clove-flavored drink which is supposedly corn-based. It reminds me of Christmas-flavored kool-aid, plus little sweet fruity chunks in the bottom. Only $1 a cup. The eating experience at Carlito's is usually a little intense, it's one big room, brightly lit, plastic tables and chairs, always completely packed, lots of kids running around, loud cumbia playing on the jukebox, guys squeezing between tables selling bootleg DVD's and the waiters somehow scurrying through it all, bringing your tasty chicken very quickly.


Sudestada is an uber-minimal, clean, modern place in Palermo Hollywood that serves slightly-more-authentic Southeast Asian food. It's one of my favorite places to eat, although on a few occasions we've had serious disappointments there. Dinner is pretty expensive so we mostly stick to the reasonable lunch special. $28 pesos gets you a drink (choose the tangy Thai lemonade!) and a salad or dumplings, plus your choice from a limited menu of entrees. We always always always go with Bo Xao which is a smoky lemongrass stir-fried beef with potatoes and peppers over rice, and the noodle dish, I forgot the name but I think it's the only noodle dish on the lunch menu. Sometimes I get the battered, deep-fried sweet & sour fish, which is actually REALLY delicious despite its alarming raspberry-jam color. The waiters here are so serious and the decor is so serious, the whole package initially came off as cold and inhospitable, but after many many many happy lunch-hours spent here, I have grown to love almost everything about this place. Except for the vegetable fried rice, do not order that unless you are a fan of the cubed-carrots-corn-and-peas veggie mix from the freezer section, plus rice and no flavor.

Cusic is a cute, quiet, homey cafe with some lovely outdoor spaces. It's on a quiet block in Palermo Hollywood, and you have to ring a big old metal bell to be let in. You enter through the front patio, passing under the boughs of a beautiful willow tree (when the weather is warm you can eat at one of the tables under this tree) and inside is a nice big open space with plenty of tables, the menu is hand-written on giant chalk-boards and there is also a pair of comfy couches around a coffee-table with magazines, an upstairs loft with larger tables, and a sweet little backyard with an herb garden and another table where you can eat outside. I think the drinks are the best thing here - they have great fruit juices and smoothies, ginger lemonade, iced tea, a great big frappuchino, hot teas, submarinos, coffees, etc. The food is pretty simple cafe / comfort food, not amazing but decent. I always get the Frida Wrap, which is cream cheese, american cheese slices, tomato, cilantro and avocado, inside of a homemade flour tortilla, with a generous green salad or delicious potato wedges. They have great breakfasts with eggs and smoked salmon and the potatoes are always great. They have nice cinnamon rolls (uncommon in argentina!) and bagel-like things. The prices are okay, if not very cheap... like $8 or 10 pesos for a big smoothie, $20 for a sandwich with salad, or $20 for an enormous breakfast with eggs, salmon, tea, juice, etc.

ok, got to get back to work. coming soon:

el cafe del libro
Thymus
milion
sarkis
status
osaka
La Cabrera
ocho 7 ocho
Home
Olivas i Lustres
enfunda la mandolina
Providencia
La Reina Kunti
thymus
Los Sabios
La Parisiennne
bio
la dorita
cafe tortoni?

if anybody's actually coming to Buenos Aires, it's good to know a few things about restaurants here. Few restaurants accept credit cards, so bring cash. Try to make reservations, as lots of the best places will be booked up if you just wander in at dinnertime. Prices go up all the time because of inflation. Service is generally slower than it is in the usa, and people usually spend a long time over a meal, drinking coffee and chatting afterwards. Waiters will never bring your check until you ask for it, and you should hand money to the waiter rather than leaving it on the table. Sometimes a place can have great service and food one day, and poor service and bad-quality food another day! I think these things are not as consistent here as they are in the usa. www.guiaoleo.com is a great resource to help you find almost any restaurant (or type of food) you're looking for.

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1 Comments:

Blogger bubigoldie said...

Hi Eliza - I just finished reading your latest blogs - sounds like you had a great week-end - I also enjoyed your restaurant critiques - you & Michael's sister Sarah seem to have knack about writing about food - I'm looking forward to meeting you when you & Michael come to visit us for his father's wedding
Michael's Bubi (Grandmother)

3:04 AM  

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