Cutting Corners

2006.Oct.20 Friday · 0 comments

in Restaurants

“There’s no corners to be cut that don’t cost you in the end. You’ve got to play the game. You’ve got to play a good, solid game. Anything short of our best game is trouble.”

– Craig MacTavish, Head Coach, Edmonton Oilers hockey team

Buenos Aires – A few months ago a new restaurant opened up a couple of blocks from our house. It has a very trendy look to it, all gleaming white and curves, a flat screen t.v. mounted along the bar, designer plant arrangements… it just screams “look at me”. The sign outside, in lettering straight out of Star Trek announces “Fusion + Healthy + Food”. I avoided it like the plague. I rarely see more than a scattered few people in the place. But, eventually, I felt I ought to get around to it, and so I have. They offer two menus – a regular and a “low calorie” menu (which apparently involves low fat cheeses and saccharine to excess). Let’s just say that the curved walls aren’t the only corners that have been cut at French, French 2220, 4825-3603, in Barrio Norte. [Closed]

French - Caprese saladAnyone who’s been reading this blog for any length of time knows my opinion about what porteños have done to pesto. But I keep hoping. The menu specified “fresh basil pesto” on the caprese salad, so I at least wasn’t thinking anymore about olive oil with a few flecks of dried herb in it. The word “pesto” in Italian comes from the word “to crush” – it’s a crushed paste. There are various versions of it, but at it’s heart it is a crushed paste of an herb, salt, garlic, some sort of nut (classically pinenuts), olive oil, and garlic. This turned out to be a plate heaped with radicchio leaves, undressed and untrimmed, some slivers of warm tomato, some batons of rubbery, tasteless “mozzarella”, and a drizzle of olive oil with pureed basil in it. After my recent cheese tastings, this mozzarella was particularly unappealling – and certainly not the “fresh mozzarella” promised, nor that would typically be part of a caprese salad.

Pesto, contracted form of pestato, past participle of pestare “to pound, to crush,” in reference to the crushed herbs and garlic in it, from Latin root of pestle.

French - shrimp risottoI do love a good risotto. And the promise of a risotto packed with vegetables, shrimp, and fish was too good to pass up. Yet… I should have. It was immediately apparent when the plate was delivered that rather than risotto, I was getting a bowl of rice. Saffron (or at least yellow) rice to be sure, but just plain simple boiled rice. That’s not risotto, it’s barely related. And it wasn’t so much chockful of things as having a few desultory bits of broccoli and onion scattered through it, along with maybe half a dozen baby shrimp and the same number of bite sized pieces of fish. It was unseasoned, flavorless, and even after dumping the bowl of grated cheese onto it and adding salt, I barely ate half of it, mostly picking out the addons.

French - pineapple crumbleThe couple sitting at the table near to me received two plates of the chicken breast “diet” plate. Both of them spent several minutes poking at it, declared it “a bit crusty”, and pushed the plates away. Yet, for some reason, I allowed myself to be talked into trying a dessert, when what I should have done is gotten up, thrown down some cash, and walked out. Instead I went with the “house specialty” according to my waiter, of a pineapple and cranberry crumble. First, no cranberries, just pineapple – but, aha, I thought, I misunderstood, that red scoop of gelato next to it is cranberry to accompany the pineapple crumble. No, it was raspberry, and not very good. And the crumble, didn’t have much in the way of crumble – it was a gooey mess of warm syrupy pineapple topped with something that may have once been crumble. And the two browning pineapple leaves don’t help a lot. Oh, and note the little dusting of powder on each of the plates, right up to the dessert – same thing, paprika – what’s it doing on my dessert?

All this, a bottle of water and a glass of wine (only chardonnay, cabernet, and malbec, unidentified, available), and it topped 50 pesos for lunch. When a place screams “look at me” I should remember it’s best to look away….

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