Buenos Aires – Our first choice for dinner after the concert was, unfortunately, closed (yesterday was a national holiday – well, actually tomorrow is the Día del Libertador José de San Martín, but Argentina has recently adopted the custom of moving holidays to the closest Monday or Friday to give people long weekends). Michael and his friend Nestor, the owner of a company that makes hand-tooled bags (Michael exports his wine-related bags and accessories to the U.S.), figured that one of the nicer hotel restaurants in the area would definitely be open. Hotel restaurants are always a safe bet on holidays. We strolled the couple of blocks to the Hotel Panamericano and its premier restaurant, Tomo I. By the way, strolling during wet weather in BsAs can be hazardous – something I’d kind of casually noticed, but until last night didn’t register, is that many buildings provide their own sidewalks (maybe all?), and they’re often not concrete, but various kinds of tiles. Last night being my first “dress-up” night, and just happening to be drizzly, we quickly found that walking in dress shoes on varying wet tiles is akin to a bad practice session of the Ice Capades.
Safely arriving at the hotel, we took the (incredibly slow) elevator up to the restaurant. Tomo I has that interesting hotel-fine dining blend of formal white-tablecloth, tuxedoed staff, with customers who range from dressed up to overly casual because they wandered down from their hotel rooms in whatever they were wearing. The room itself is long and narrow and inordinately red. (Sorry, no photos, didn’t bring the camera along for the evening.) Though in business for a little over 30 years, it has only been located in this venue for the last 11. There were only half a dozen parties seated, roughly 20 people, so we were immediately shown to a table. For whatever reason, despite not having said anything other than buenos tardes, I was given the only menu in English. I handed it back and got a Spanish one, along with an apology. I do have to practice.
The menu is fairly classic “continental” cuisine – i.e., very French in technique and style, though with a strong dash of Italian influence. There are the obligatory few pastas as well. An interesting amuse bouche – an eggplant terrine was served first. To her credit, our waitress recommended against my first choice of appetizer, a chilled melon soup, explaining that the melons just aren’t ripe enough right now and the soup isn’t very good at this time of year (implication being that they don’t change the menu very often?). We tried two other soups, the rustico, a vegetable and bean soup; and the langoustine (prawn) bisque. I had the bisque and it was quite good – Michael says it’s the second best bisque in the city, the first best apparently being at Asia de Cuba, in the Puerto Madero area (somewhere I usually avoid as it reminds me of eating in the South Street Seaport in NYC).
For main courses we had a selection of tournedos of beef, a duck confit, and my choice, mollejas de chivito, or the sweetbreads of a kid (baby goat, that is). I love sweetbreads and have never had them from goat, so why not? They were creamy, tender, cooked perfectly, and served with braised endive and roasted cherry tomatoes. Quite good! Dessert might have been the most interesting thing – on the prix fixe menu was listed a special, Pomelos en Riesling, or grapefruit in Riesling. It was a fantastically good chilled Riesling wine soup with pieces of pink grapefruit floating in it, and a bobbing scoop of a sort of cream sorbet. Wow! By Argentine standards dinner was a little pricey (495 pesos or $165 for three of us, including the two bottles of wine and tip), though not for this caliber restaurant, and certainly not by U.S. fine dining standards!
We shared two bottles of wine. The white, a 2003 Torrontés from Bodegas Etchart in the Cafayate region, was intense, rich, ripe… a wine that could be summed up perhaps by the word “fat.” Absolutely delicious. This grape continues to impress me, and this one may be my favorite so far. Our red, one that Michael had been wanting to try, the 2000 Monteviejo Malbec. This wine is produced by famed roving oenologist Michel Rolland, the winery is owned by a consortium of French wineries. Honestly, for all the hype the wine gets, it was sort of soft, without a lot of depth, and a ton of oak, producing something that tasted sort of like milk chocolate covered cherries, with the chocolate dominating. For the price, I wouldn’t be tempted again. (Interestingly, I looked back at my notes from the Malbec tasting we had on July 17th, and the 2002 “Val de Flores” from Monteviejo was our second place pick.)