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Punta Brasas – Not Bad in a Pinch!

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Grilling the Argentine Way

It was a Sunday afternoon, and we were stomping angrily around Palermo Hollywood looking for a place to eat. The restaurant we had wanted to go to was closed, and we had no backup plan. One of the bad things about eating in Buenos Aires is that restaurants have irregular schedules… Mondays, Sunday afternoons, Tuesday nights, closed. Advance research is always a smart idea. But one of the good things is that there’s usually another great option around the corner, regardless of where you are.

White Wine

Before we even got two blocks away, we encountered Punta Brasas on Bonpland and Honduras. We grabbed a spot on the upstairs terrace, and sat down for an excellent meal. I had a Caeser salad, and Jürgen ate stuffed chicken. The service was good — our waitress was there when we needed her, but stayed out of our way generally — and the prices were fair. Sitting in the sun with a bottle of white wine cooling in a bucket, and great food in front of us, it was difficult to be anything but happy.

But we almost didn’t go! It was a typically porteño scene: as we were approaching Punta Brasas, the door girl approached us on the sidewalk. “Looking food? Come in! So nice!” This is such a turn off. Even though we had planned on going there anyway, we almost turned around out of principle. Why do so many restaurants around the city employ this pushy tactic? Does anyone actually ever say “okay”? If anything, I have to believe that it drives business away.

Puntas Brasas
Bonpland 1694
Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Tel: 4776-2784
The Perfect Steak

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May 3, 2011 at 7:21 pm Comments (0)

Bakano – Our Pizza Addiction Threatens to Destroy Us

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Make your own Pizza

During a recent excursion into Palermo Hollywood, I began to feel faint. Taking a seat on the curb, I went through a mental checklist; I’d had plenty of water, a hearty breakfast and a good night of sleep. But something was off… and suddenly I realized. I hadn’t eaten pizza in nearly 4 hours.

“Jürgen… ” I stammered, barely clinging to consciousness, “help me… find…”

Pizza Hollywood

When I came to, I was seated in front of a plate of empanadas and a big, cheesy pizza. Reflexively, I shoved a slice into my mouth, and soon felt strength flood back into my veins. “You’ve saved me yet again, old chum. But say. Where are we?”

Where we were was on the balcony of a popular pizza restaurant called Bakano. “Bakano” is Colombian slang for cool and, from our perch overlooking Palermo Hollywood, we found the restaurant very bakano, indeed. Like most spots in Palermo, this pizzería is relatively new; it only opened in 2006, but it seems to have caught on, especially with the lunchtime business crowd. A television station’s headquarters are nearby, and we were told that it’s not uncommon to see famous people grubbing here.

The pizza and empanadas were good, but we enjoyed the balcony view the most. That, and the odd choice of soundtrack… the Star Wars theme was blasting from inside the restaurant. If you’re in Palermo Hollywood and suddenly find yourself in desperate need of pizza, definitely check out Bakano.

Location on our Buenos Aires Map
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April 15, 2011 at 10:27 pm Comments (5)

Casa Felix: Great Food & Company Behind Closed Doors

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Since opening a couple years ago, the closed-door pescaterian restaurant Casa Felix has built a name as one of the best dining experiences in the capital. Chef Diego Félix and his US American wife Sanra welcome guests into their charming Chicarita home for an evening of excellent cooking and conversation. In the garden and around the dining table, it’s not uncommon for total strangers to quickly become friends.

Casa Felix

Concentrating on ecologically-friendly, organic foods and produce from their own garden, Diego invents dishes which are both delicious and beautiful to look at. Ingredients are selected from across South America, such as plantain leaves, manioc and an Argentine mint called peperina. Unless you’re a professional gourmet deeply familiar with the continent, you’re going to be discovering a lot of new tastes during the five-course meal.

Casa Félix is a secret underground restaurant, but breathless reviews in publications like the New York Times and Condé Nast Traveler have made it a rather poorly-kept secret. Which is good. We visited on a warm late-summer evening and, sitting in the garden for a drink before dinner, fell easily into conversation with other guests. Everything was so relaxed and casual, it really felt like you were over at a friend’s for dinner. If you had a friend who was an amazing cook.

The restaurant is just one piece of Diego and Sanra’s culinary project called the Colectivo Félix, which seeks to promote eco-gastronomic through meals, investigations and photography. We didn’t get to meet Sanra, who was occupied with their recently arrived newborn, but Diego was a gracious host throughout the evening, eager to explain the various herbs and ingredients, and clearly happy to have us in his house. Besides, meeting Sanra would have probably just ratcheted up our envy of her… a gorgeous home, a highly-praised closed-door restaurant, the attention of the world’s best food critics, and a handsome Argentine husband who just happens to be an incredible cook. Quite the life, there!

Check out their website, and make reservations when you’re in the city! The five-course meal is just 150 pesos (US$38); an incredibly fair price for an unforgettable evening out.

Colectivo Felix’s Website
Tel: 11 4555 1882
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Casa Felix Garden
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April 1, 2011 at 11:49 am Comments (0)

Sebastián Rivas of Amici Miei

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Incredible Pasta Recipes

One of San Telmo’s most popular spots is Italian restaurant Amici Miei, where tourists and locals congregate in equal numbers to enjoy handmade pasta and a balcony view over Plaza Dorrego. We recently got to meet its owner and top chef, Sebastián Rivas.

Sebastian Rivas Proia

Sebastián perfected the art of Italian cooking while living and working in Parma, and decided to open his own restaurant upon returning to Argentina. He was lucky to find an excellent space in San Telmo. Four years ago, when the restaurant opened, San Telmo wasn’t all that touristy or popular, and Amici Miei has benefited greatly from the neighborhood’s recent resurgence. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the restaurant’s classically elaborated pasta, made with imported Italian products and served with a modern flair, is excellent.

The restaurant itself is unpretentious, adorned with a few paintings from local artists, and with perfect light spilling through the windows during the evening hours. An open window into the kitchen permits observation of the cooks stretching, pulling and cutting the pasta. Sebastián invited us inside, so we could watch him throw together some of his signature dishes, such as black truffle risotto with mushroom sauce. We had a few spoonfuls — it was unbelievable, and I kept waiting for him to leave us alone in the kitchen, so I could shovel the entire bowl into my mouth.

The plates he prepared were all classic Italian recipes with unique touches. For example, he serves the rotolo, a traditional rolled-up pasta, with three kinds of basil: fried, dried and liquefied. This fusion of the time-honored and modern is what Sebastián aims for at Amici Miei, along with a friendly atmosphere (the restaurant’s name means “My Friends”). He comes out of the kitchen to visit with guests, and there’s often live music on weekend nights.

Many of the restaurants on Plaza Dorrego are tourist traps, leeching off the popular Sunday flea market, but Amici Miei certainly isn’t one of those. Watching Sebastián at work in his kitchen was a fun experience; with a small staff and a head chef who’s clearly intent on serving high-quality food, this restaurant is worth a look.

Amici Miei’s Website
Defensa 1040
Tel: 11.4362.5562 (Reservations recommended on weekends)
Location on our Buenos Aires Restaurant Map

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March 7, 2011 at 2:58 pm Comments (2)

A Sixteen Course Feast at La Vineria de Gualterio Bolivar

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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

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February 24, 2011 at 4:11 pm Comments (5)

Pedro Telmo – Good Cooking in San Telmo

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Great Pizza Recipes

We’ve been eating out a lot since we arrived, mainly at places which have come highly recommended by guidebooks or locals. Great parrillas, Peruvian cuisine, famous pizzerias. But that doesn’t mean we’re skipping the less well-known places entirely! This past week, after a long day of exploring the city, we sat down inside Pedro Telmo, on the western side of the San Telmo Market.

Madres Argenina

We ordered a couple empanadas, which were delicious, and also enjoyed their heartier meals, such as home-cooked lasagna and pizzas. With posters of Carlos Gardel and soccer teams on the walls, and wonderfully sweet ladies working both behind and in front of the bar, Pedro Telmo is the down-to-earth kind of establishment that abounds in Buenos Aires.

What’s your favorite neighborhood joint to get a quick bite, or take a short break?

Pedro Telmo on our Buenos Aires Map
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February 20, 2011 at 4:50 pm Comments (3)

Status – Peruvian Restaurant

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Peruvian Cook Books

“You’re right! That is totally Russell Brand! I don’t know, maybe he’s here for a movie premiere? He’s going outside for a smoke, I’m going to follow him!”

I returned about 30 seconds later. It totally wasn’t Russell Brand enjoying a meal in the popular Peruvian restaurant Status with us, just a hip porteño doing a good job of capturing his look. With the distraction gone, we could get back to concentrating on our incredible food.

Peruvian Restaurant

There are a number of Peruvian restaurants in Buenos Aires, but the one which came most frequently recommended to us was Status, near the Plaza Congresos. With huge portions, an unpretentious atmosphere, Russell Brand lookalikes, and unbeatable prices, it’s easy to see why so many people love it. The best sign: it’s frequented by Buenos Aires’ sizable Peruvian population.

Although the most popular plate is the ceviche (raw fish), I went for the carapulcra: a flavorful beef and potato stew with garlic and other spices served with rice. Love. The amount of food was tremendous, and we were glad not to have ordered appetizers, though we did save room for dessert: Suspiro de limeña, The Lima Woman’s Sigh, made of dulce de leche with a topping of meringue.

If we ever choose to live in Peru for 91 days, a huge reason will be because of the cuisine. A blend of European, Asian and indigenous foods, which is unlike any other country’s. Status is a great place to try it out.

Virrey Cevallos 178
Tel: 4382-8531
Location on our BA Map

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Status Buenos Aires
Peruvian Bread
Carapulcra
Arroz Con Pollo
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February 15, 2011 at 12:12 am Comments (2)
Punta Brasas - Not Bad in a Pinch!
For 91 Days