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El Querandí: Dinner and a Primer to the History of Tango

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There are a few ways to experience tango while in Buenos Aires. Milongas are probably the most popular option, where people of all skill levels join in the dancing. And there are recitals with excellent music, usually no dancing, but possibly the most authentic. Or, you can choose the full-on tourist experience of the dinner show.

Sexy Tango

We arrived at El Querandí at 9:30, and were promptly served dinner: salads, empanadas, steak and wine. While eating and awaiting the show, we met our table companions. Everyone in the restaurant was a foreigner; German, American, French, Japanese. That would usually be a turn-off, but not tonight. The crowd was happy and energetic, and besdies, you wouldn’t go to El Querandí if you wanted to be surrounded by locals. The show is an overview of tango’s history! Hardly a lesson most Argentinians would need.

Once the lights went up, idle chatter with our new friends immediately stopped: our attention was entirely captured by the show. Two hours of top-notch dancing and singing, with incredible music performed by an odd quartet consisting of a piano, violin, bass and accordion. Some of our favorite moments in the show were actually just the band playing by itself.

The initial acts were set in the outskirts of Buenos Aires in the late 1800s, when roughly-dressed workers and the immigrant women who worked in brothels were inventing a new art form. The way it turns out… and I had really suspected as much… and perhaps especially when it’s performed by young, skilled and beautiful people… and, yes, perhaps especially when they are dressed as rough-n-tumble dock workers and prostitutes… well, the tango can be … let’s just call it “passionate”.

There was singing as well, with a tribute to Carlos Gardel who popularized tango both at home and around the world. As the show moved into modernity, when tango found acceptance among all walks of Argentine society, the sets became more professional and the dress more genteel. The grace and timing of the dancers was amazing, and there were a number of beautiful moments. The dancers struck a lot of classic poses, which was well-appreciated since photography was permitted during the show.

Fine, it’s not the most authentic way to experience tango in the city, but El Querandí provides a wonderful evening of food and music. And anyway, “most authentic” doesn’t necessarily mean “most enjoyable”. We were amazed at how well-staged the show was, and how much fun we had. If you’re looking for an entertaining evening out, and a solid tango show, you won’t be disappointed in El Querandí.

El Querandí’s Website
Peru 302
Tel: 11 5199 1770 (Reservations Necessary)
Location on our BsAs Map
Travel Insurance

Tango Cena
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March 10, 2011 at 12:50 am Comments (3)

A Sixteen Course Feast at La Vineria de Gualterio Bolivar

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Haute Cuisine Books

Make sure your mind is open and taste buds in fine working order before you sit down at La Vineria de Guaterio Bolivar, on Calle Bolivar in San Telmo. Dinner is a set menu, with sixteen highly creative dishes served over the course of three hours.

Restaurant San Telmo

And I do mean creative. How else to describe lamb tongue pate wrapped in pumpkin slices? Or frozen salmon balls? Or olive oil emulsions and meat topped with foam? We were continuously amazed; each of the sixteen courses set in front of us was a tiny marvel, some tastier than others, some more clever, but all unique. Every time our waiter (who resembled a handsome version of Borat) would approach our table with a new tray, I’d get a little fidgety. Nervously excited about what I was about to consume.

After setting down each carefully arranged plate, the waiter explained the ingredients, a bit about the preparation and concept, and how to go about eating the dish, which was not always as straightforward as put-fork-in-mouth. He also served wines; the menu allows you to sample Argentine wines appropriate to the food you’re eating. We had delicious whites with the appetizers, dry reds with the meatier dishes and sweet wines with dessert.

This wasn’t so much “dinner” as a cultural experience. Jürgen and I are in no way gourmets, closer to McDonald’s than Michelin, but we really loved our meal at La Vineria de Gualterio Bolívar. Though each of the plates was tiny, we left full and satisfied. The set menu is pricey, but definitely fair given the extraordinary amount of creativity in the food and the attention of the staff.

The restaurant is small and well-known, so make reservations if you want to go, and show up promptly at 9pm. All the guests are served at the same, so that the cooks can fully concentrate on one dish at a time.

La Vineria de Gulaterio Bolívar
Bolívar 865
Location on our BA Map
Tel: 11 4361 4709

Spoon Buenos Aires
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Pulpo Buenos Aires
Pate
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February 24, 2011 at 4:11 pm Comments (5)

Riding the Bus

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The Rough Guide to Argentina

After watching a few barrel at breakneck speed down San Telmo’s tiny cobblestone streets, more inclined to use their horns than breaks when approaching an intersection, we concluded that buses must be the fastest way to get around Buenos Aires. And funnest.

Argentina Bus

The BA bus system is incredible, intimidating and comprehensive. Regardless of where you are or where you’re going, there’s usually a bus that will deliver you directly at your destination. Over 300 lines weave through the city, all operated by private companies (Bus #29 is run by Pedro de Mendoza C.I.S.A, for example). You’d think a citywide bus system would require central planning, but the privatization works here. The colectivos, as buses are known here, run frequently and even if you’ve just missed the #152, chances are another is right behind it.

Before hopping on your first colectivo, it’s worth your time to get a crash course from a local: the drivers are not patient, and would rather kick you off than answer questions. The Guia “T” is indispensable. A guide that details every bus in the city, it provides charts and maps to help you figure out which number you should take. The Guia T is the Bible of Buenos Aires. Study it. Worship it.

Basically, it goes like this: you’ve done your research in the Guia T, and know that #93 will you take you to the Recoleta Cemetery. Find the bus stop, and keep an eagle eye out for a #93 racing recklessly down the street. Wave it down as early as possible. The bus should stop, but I’ve seen them simply slow down and open the doors. Either way, as soon as those doors open, jump inside. Hesitate for just a second, and the bus will be on its way without you.

Once you’re on the bus, you tell the driver exactly where you’re going (an intersection is best), then pay the indicated fare. Right now, a full fare is about $1.25 and you pay the machine with coins, which can be difficult to find in the capital. In fact, the most troublesome part of taking the bus is scrounging up enough change; vendors are reluctant to give their monedas away. I’ve had people give me a $2 bill rather than a $1 coin, more willing to lose profit than relinquish their precious metal.

Once you’re on the bus, hurtling down BA’s busy streets and watching the buildings pass by, the stress was worth it. In the short time we’ve been here, it’s been a lot of fun — getting familiar with “our” lines, learning to jealously horde our change, and consulting the Guia “T” as we stare wide-eyed and happily out the window, on our way to whatever adventure the day holds in store. I bet by the end of our three months here, we’ll have joined the ranks of weary and wise passengers, silently heaping scorn upon happy foreigners like our current selves, so ridiculously proud of themselves for a thing like riding the bus.

Well screw you, Future Us! Stop trying to ruin our fun.

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Sexy Bus
Night Bus Buenos Aires
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February 22, 2011 at 9:48 pm Comments (4)

Buenos Aires from Day to Night

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Tango

If your schedule allows it, spend a whole day without any plans wandering around the streets of Buenos Aires. Put the guidebook and map away, and just take in the city in all its insane glory. And when you get tired, grab a window seat in the nearest Bar Notable, and watch the people and traffic of one of the world’s most entertaining cities pass by.

Here are some photographs I took during one of my recent wanderings:

Tango Couple
Dog Walker Buenos Aires
Cutest Dog
Airplane Playground
Bombereos Buenos Aires
Bomberos La Boca
Bomberos Antiques
Bar Notable
Buenos Aires Art
Buenos Aires Hotels
Deco Buenos Aires
Lion Head Buenos Aires
Romans Buenos Aires
Nature House Argentina
Modern Art
San Telmo Art
San Telmo Shopping
San Telmo Sights
San Telmo Blog
Smallest House San Telmo
Subte Maria
Unique Architecture
Water Delivery
Travel Blog
San Telmo
Buenos Aires at Night
Argentinian Lovers

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February 17, 2011 at 7:41 pm Comments (4)
El Querand: Dinner and a Primer to the History of Tango
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