Sweet Tooth

2006.Dec.01 Friday · 4 comments

in Restaurants

 Once upon a time there were three little sisters,’ the Dormouse began in a great hurry; `and their names were Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie; and they lived at the bottom of a well–‘

`What did they live on?’ said Alice, who always took a great interest in questions of eating and drinking.

`They lived on treacle,’ said the Dormouse, after thinking a minute or two.

`They couldn’t have done that, you know,’ Alice gently remarked; `they’d have been ill.’

`So they were,’ said the Dormouse; `VERY ill.'”

– Lewis Carroll, Novelist, Alice in Wonderland

Buenos Aires – I really wanted to like the restaurant. I’ve heard about it from many people – not universally praising it, but all having liked it, and generally carrying on about its uniqueness in the Asian fusion cuisine underground of this city. It’s small – a mere 16 seats arrayed in one room with the kitchen tucked off in the corner, though open to the room – more or less my dream restaurant in terms of size and layout. It’s decorated with great touches of whimsy – knickknacks, jetsam, flotsam, gewgaw – whatever term you wish to use, cluttered here and there on shelves, atop furniture, wherever it might be fit in – no solid rhyme nor reason. It’s on a relatively quiet street. It has everything going for it. Including an overactive sweet tooth on the part of the chefs. [This place has closed. R.I.P. Please.]

I lament that in truth, I didn’t like the food – with the exception of one appetizer, I didn’t like it a bit. Dish after dish was so sweet as to be inedible, and we proved it by simply not eating most of what was on our plates. We’d gotten the invitation to dine from a couple who were visiting Buenos Aires and had contacted us, along with some other folk here, via eGullet. We were the only ones able to attend on the evening in question, and set out to find this little spot, just over a bridge I had no idea even existed on the edge of Palermo and Belgrano… and found ourselves seated and enjoying conversation at Sifones y Dragones, Ciudad de la Paz 174, 4413-9871. “Siphons and dragons? Well there are lots of seltzer siphons scattered around the room. And I suppose the generally Asian theme contributes the dragons…

Now, let me start with the one dish I did kind of like. You might remember my discussion of one of my favorite cheeses, burrata. Here, the burrata was served in a nice ball, cut open to reveal its oozing interior, and accompanied by a small sort of vegetable cake and a roasted half tomato. It was good, well, the cheese and tomato were – the vegetable thingie was like sweet carrot cake. One of our dining companions assured us that the morcilla sausage, several large cylinders set in the midst of some greens was good, though accompanied by a sauce which she seemed to ignore. The “thai salad”, while packed with interesting greens and shrimp, and beautifully presented, was doused in what may as well have been dulce de leche. Our waiter explained to us that “thai food is all covered in caramel, that’s the style”. Umm, no… it’s not. Yes, there’s some sugar used in it, often caramelized, but it needs the fish sauce (of which little was present) and the spicy chilies (of which none were present) to balance it.

Sifones y Dragones - burrata

Sifones y Dragones - morcilla

Sifones y Dragones - thai salad

For the main courses it went downhill fast. A curried chicken was swimming in a brown, almost molasses-y sauce that tasted faintly of curry powder – and not the spicy type, and to top it off was accompanied by a large spoonful of smashed up dulce de zapallo – candied squash. The roast beef, which resembled to all our eyes, and tongues, corned beef, was hidden under a large scoop of honey mustard sauce, accent on the honey. And the batata gnocchi, not suprisingly, were sweet in their own right, being more or less sweet potato, but on top of that were topped with a sweet sherry reduction sauce, mint-cilantro oil, and lots of grated white cheese. I don’t think we finished more than about half of any of the entrees. Our waiter remarked on it, we said the dishes had been a bit sweet, and he reminded us that thai food is supposed to be that way. Other than the “thai salad” I’m not sure what was supposed to be thai about anything we had, but there you have it.

Sifones y Dragones - chicken curry

Sifones y Dragones - roast beef

Sifones y Dragones - batata gnocchi

Apparently the menu changes weekly (it’s short, there were only three appetizers and four entrees listed), so one can only hope that sometimes the food is far better than this, though I’m not sure I’d bring myself to go back unless someone assured me that the week’s menu was far different. We passed on desserts – Henry remarked that after so much sugar, he didn’t want to now get the salty course…


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

asadoarg December 1, 2006 at 11:25

>Our waiter explained to us that “thai food is all covered in caramel, that’s the style”


dan December 19, 2006 at 10:19

I’ve had several people send me e-mails to tell me that I’m simply wrong about this place. I will give it another shot at some point, with a different menu. However, I guess I want to clear one thing up – although I wasn’t happy with the food, it could simply be that the chef was having an off night or perhaps just didn’t quite “get” these particular dishes.

I don’t think I made it clear in what I said that the thing that bothered me the most was the attitude we got – we were one of only two tables having dinner there that night, and the other was a table of three. So four out of seven customers (and I don’t know the opinions of the other group) were plainly not enjoying their food – and even said so to the waiter. Neither he, nor the chef, did anything about it other than to essentially tell us that it was our own fault because we didn’t know enough about Thai food to recognize the authenticity and quality of theirs.

I’m not a “the customer is always right” sort – especially given the side of the restaurant business I’ve spent the last thirty-some years on. But, even when the customer is wrong, it’s in a restaurant’s best interests to acknowledge their concerns and attempt to make things right. Even a simple “I’m sorry it wasn’t to your tastes.” would have made a difference.

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