“Life is like a coin. You can spend it any way you wish, but you only spend it once.”
– Lillian Ruth Dickson, Missionary
Buenos Aires – Sometimes, it’s just time to get up and go. “Staying the course” as our current president has put it in the past is not the best option. There was the version of Three Penny Opera starring Sting, where a third of the audience, including myself, got up and left at the intermission… and even that was painfully long to wait. There are any number of movies that just became yawn fests or too stupid to continue to watch, necessitating either a walk out or ejecting the disc. There were books that just weren’t interesting – with rare exceptions, if a book doesn’t keep my attention through it’s first chapter, I don’t keep going. There were classes that weren’t worth getting a grade in. There were meetings, seminars, and encounters that necessitated an exit strategy of one sort or another (who among us hasn’t arranged for their cell phone to be called, beeper to go off, or a discrete interruption from a staff member, just to get out of somewhere?).
But it’s rare that I get up and walk out on a meal. I’ll almost always see it through to the end, just to see if perhaps there’s something redeeming. But sometimes, not. Yesterday was one such moment. It’s not that the food was awful, or inedible. It’s not that I, we, couldn’t eat it. It’s not that it was overpriced. It’s not that the staff weren’t friendly. It was just one of those days where a trio of us were out to have an enjoyable middle eastern style lunch, and we were simply not wowed, not impressed, not… interested. A local Armenian shopkeeper that a couple of us know is very into the world of food and wine, and we’ve had several discussions with Juan about the best spots to try out Armenian – Árabe food. For lunch, he had two recommendations. Cheff Iusef, which I’ve already reviewed (and been back to); and “the restaurant at Club Marash”… which, with a little research, turned out to be called Anush, Armenia 1242, in Palermo viejo. He had another recommendation for dinner, the restaurant at the Armenian Cultural Center, just called Armenia.
Walking in could have been a clue – the “club” is a large social club, with flyers up for sundry events. The layout includes a couple of couches clustered around a television, where a couple of middle aged guys (who seemed to be the club management) were watching La Pantera Rosa cartoons at high volume. When we entered, one of them went and turned on a stereo at the other end of the room, with blasting speakers… which we asked if they’d turn down… they did. The table setup is scattered, but basically looks like a casually run catering hall… and oh yeah, that’s what it is. [This place has closed, or at least been replaced.
Lunch turns out to be a semi-prix fixe. You pay seven pesos for a plate of different warm empanadas – more or less – all pretty small, all undercooked, and all flavorless. That’s followed by a trip to the cold buffet, where one can officially choose from a list of about twenty cold dishes, but in practice there were only eight or nine. All of them had clearly been sitting in a refrigerator for quite some time… not only were they that cold, but they’d picked up that slightly stale flavor, and were heavy and dense. Of course, they didn’t mention the three peso addition for cubiertos, which is local custom in restaurants as a charge for bread, silverware, and napkins. I can’t complain about their bread, silverware, or napkins… though I don’t feel as if we each got a dollar’s worth of use out of them. But that’s our fault. Because the option at the end of the cold buffet is to order one of the hot plates from the kitchen – a typical, and potentially interesting sounding range of Armenian and other Middle Eastern dishes, but at this point, we were having none of it. Over the objections and obvious disappointment of our young waitress (who asserted that the hot food was much more enjoyable than what we’d just eaten…), we asked for the bill, paid and left.
Cheff Iusef was two blocks away… and the food reconfirms my impressions from past visits. Sometimes it’s worth sticking with what you know.