We were fortunate to get in a second trip to BsAs this year (8th trip in total dating back to 2007) on our way back from Chilean Patagonia – we did the usual mucking about in the federal district outskirts for a few days, starting from EZE and making a wide north-westerly arc. We stayed at the Hotel Sofitel La Reserva Cardales (muy agradable – the spa was fantastic and a needed relief after spending 10 days hiking in temperate rain forests), and got a much more extensive look at Lujan and Pilar, two lovely cities that are really not that far outside of the BsAs tourist-centric barrios and which we recommend visiting. Lujan and Pilar are both renowned for their Basilica Nacional Nuestra Senora de Lujan and Nuestra Senora de Pilar cathedrals, respectively – along with great plazas, good local parillas (explore 3 or 4 blocks away from the main plazas and you’ll find some really good down-home cooking), authentic and reasonably priced Argentinean curio shopping, and some really nice folks who welcome visitors with open arms.
The highlight for us was day three, visiting the town of Escobar, which is just northwest of Tigre, bordering the delta region. They have an incredible cemetery, and an amazing zoo/biopark called Temaiken (puts the old, tired zoo in BsAs to shame). The Temaiken park (part zoo, part biosphere, part agricultural commune) has raised boardwalks that allow you to walk through the animal enclosures so you really get up close and personal. They have a spectacular aquarium, a bat house, bird sanctuary and all sorts of interactive exhibits, and lots of kid-centric areas. The two of us, being just larger versions of kids, thought it was one of the best zoos we’ve experienced. Highly recommended.
Later that evening we drove south towards the city and met up with friends in barrio Martinez, just on the outskirts of the city, at a restaurant called La Rosa Negra, for a casual, but phenomenal steak dinner (after eating camping provisions in Chile and a mostly vegetarian diet at the Sofitel, we were ravenous!). We then headed into the inner city and spent five nights at the Hotel Mio Buenos Aires in barrio Recoleta (excelente de cada modo). We visited with friends of ours in the city and walked around the streets we know so well, revisiting the art galleries in Retiro and the neighborhood shops in Recoleta, Barrio Norte and Palermo we’ve patronized over the years – its amazing how you remember shop keepers and when they recognize you as well and give you that big Porteños smile . . . well, it’s a good feeling for a traveler so far from home to be welcomed back to the neighborhood.
We also went biking within the ecological reserve in the eastern portion of Puerto Madero (Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve), something we’d been meaning to do for some time – highly recommended. The views from the grasslands back into the city center are surreal. Naturally, we cooked with our friends in the city and also sampled some of the local BsAs cuisine - some places we’d heard favorable reports about, as well as a few old haunts we hadn’t been to in years. All in all, a good visit with friends and chefs, who were all in good cheer and who continue to cook up and pour the good stuff. To wit, here are the highlights . . .
Hernan Gipponi Restaurant | Soler 5862, Hotel Fierro | Well, let’s not mince words . . . this is a formidable little restaurant we’d heard nothing but good things about. Focused, poised, with presentation skills that separate the men from the boys. Hernan cut his teeth in Europe at both the Guggenheim Bilbao and Quique Dacosta’s El Poblet restaurant. Everything – food, wine, service, atmosphere, noise level – was near perfection. Yes, rather expensive, but for that special occasion you cannot go wrong with the degustation and wine pairing menu. The seared fish had the slightest of crunches, then melted on the tongue. The lamb, with just a whisper of fresh fig, was a singular delight – crawl under the table and go to sleep goodness. Dessert to die for! I could go on and on about all the wonderful little treats that are in store for you – rather, just let me say this - get there if you can.
BoBo Hotel | Guatemala 4870| It had been a few years since we’d visited this special little restaurant, tucked inside one of the best B & B’s in the neighborhood. Perhaps the most civilized place to enjoy lunch in all of BsAs (with all due deference to the wonderful outdoor Summerterrace Mallorca at the Melia Hotel in Recoleta). There is a calmness and sophistication about this venue in Palermo SoHo and if you arrive in the right frame of mind (a pleasant demeanor is so important culturally – just the acknowledgement that you are visitors and greeting people with a simple, ‘Hola, buenos dias’ will pay huge dividends), its as welcoming as any establishment you’ll enter in this great metropolis. A laid back oasis that bespokes the need for a relaxing repast; perhaps the shrimp cerviche with passion fruit or grilled octopus and baby squid to get you started. The fresh lemonade (playfully infused with carbonated water and a hint of passion fruit) alone is reason enough to book airfare and hotel as soon as you finish this TR. Just sit back and enjoy great service, great food, and a pleasurable respite from the rigors of the day. (Hey, being a tourist can be a grueling enterprise!)
Filo | San Martín 975 | Okay, okay – yes, I make a pit stop here nearly every time I visit the city – but (IMHO) frequenting an establishment in a city so diverse in Italian restaurants just means they’re doing everything right. Similar in quality to Sotto Voce, Amici Miei, Sette Baco and Bella Italia – just not as expensive. IMHO, you just can’t get better pizza anywhere in Argentina. When you visit Plaza San Martin – which you definitely should, as well as the art galleries and leather/garment shops in and around barrio Retiro – do yourself a favor, stop by Filo and grab a table or sit at the bar and order the Ensalada Gigi and Pizza Alla Giani. Trust me on this! An eclectic, fun place to chow down. Most highly recommended.
Lo de Paka | Avenida Congreso 2011 | LdP has been on our radar for a few years now and anna00747 always comments on the scrumptious pollo a la parilla they serve up. I have to agree, they do it right at this fun Belgrano enclave. This is a very reasonably priced joint that serves up good eats day in and day out. Definitely call ahead for evening reservations – I’ve been shut out the last few trips just showing up late night, only to find out the chances of scoring a 6 top were somewhere between slim and none. We finally had friends in the neighborhood book a table and join us for dinner, and we were rewarded with a most excellent dining experience. Highlights for me were the mollejas (sweetbreads), thin-skinned empanadas (some of the best in the city), lamb and fries. Basically, as good as it gets in BsAs when it comes to a neighborhood parilla.
Side note on fries/frites in BsAs – it seems to me that there is an Argentinean tradition to serve fries à la Provenzal – either tossed with garlic, salt and parsley, or with what passes locally as chimichurri – either way, I can’t remember not having fries prepared this way in any parilla in the city. One of the local foodie traditions that I never get tired of. Finger lickin’ good!
Side note on pork belly – finally, I’m seeing pork belly featured on some menus. That’s a really good trend that I hope continues to grow. I had a great pork belly hash (with the requisite floating sunny-side-up egg) at a no-name joint out in barrio Flores one late morning – just a pit-stop to grab a bite while waiting on local friends to get cleaned up and ready for a busy day playing tourists with us - but awfully memorable in hindsight. My new motto for BsAs – “más cerdo vientre, por favor”
A Nos Amours | Gorriti 4488 | We were trying to find a small arcade we had stumbled into years ago – mainly to see if we could reconnect with their 6-lane electric slot-car track we had a blast at one fuzzy afterhours morning long ago. We eventually found it. Up a few blocks on Scalabrini Ortiz past Cordoba . . . but that’s another story for another time. Anyway, we recalled this excellent French bistro that friends who live in the neighborhood took us to years ago. This quaint little gem offers a selection of organic, artisanal goodies and, while unassuming and low-key, I can’t think of a better way to while away a few hours just a stone’s throw from the helter-skelter that can be Palermo SoHo on Saturday afternoons or Friday nights. Do not be put off by the humble surroundings; this is really some of the best French-influenced food I’ve had in BsAs. This is as close to what I was raised on and personally cook as anything in the city and we highly recommend it – get there if you can. Side note - kudos to the chef/owner for being attentive, without crossing that fine line into intrusiveness.
Tarquino | Rodriguez Pena 1967 | This is a truly inspired creation from wunderkind chef Dante Liporace, who has brought back a treasure trove of training, experience and talent from his journey’s in Europe; most notably, a couple of stints at El Bulli. Along with some other Argentinean talents who have traveled the world perfecting their culinary skills, Dante has come home and elevated expectations within the city’s diverse dining community. We dined here twice, once in the afternoon and once for dinner. Granted, this is a rather expensive outing and weekend prime-time evening service tables are difficult to score, but I guarantee you will come away, as did we, shaking your head and grinning like the Cheshire cat. The atmosphere is sophisticated and the dining room is spectacular. From exquisite chunks of sucking pig, served with an onion compote and orange puree, to the prized goatling meat served with roasted peppers, fried egg foam and a chickpea puree, Dante creates a succession of scents, flavors, textures and temperatures – we tried so many courses, including the mushroom soup with lamb meatballs, chinchulines and sweetbreads, and an exquisite black hake (not to mention the chilled treasure chest of flan with white cream for dessert, yummolicious!) – everything was superb and cooked to perfection. Attentive service and a superior wine list. Let me just say, it is one of the finest places I’ve ever eaten at and leave it at that. My new best of the best in the city. Get there if you can.
Finally, a quick tip o’ the hat to the Mio Lounge – a sophisticated bar and lounge that serves up a great breakfast, wonderful afternoon tea, and might just have replaced the Alvear Palace Hotel lobby bar as our go-to pre-dinner cocktail environ.
Until our next visit | Be well and travel safe