Getting the Business

2007.Aug.29 Wednesday · 2 comments

in Restaurants

 Time is the measure of business.”

Francis Bacon, Sr., English Philosopher and Lawyer

Buenos Aires – You know that moment when something in the back of your mind says, “this is a mistake…”. Not quite loud enough to be a shout and frighten you into a flight response, but just enough to set things on edge. That happened several months ago, when I wandered into a little loungy space near to the Recoleta Cemetery & Entertainment Complex (it really is all one, even if they pretend there are several separate entities involved) that advertised “sushi libre” on a little sandwich board out front. I’m almost always game for all you can eat sushi, but something said, “no…..” in a voice trailing away like it had leapt over a cliff. The friends I was with apparently weren’t salivating at the thought of unlimited pieces of raw fish as much as I, and we up and left. Then, this past Sunday, when all of my local friends, really, all of them, were either being slugs at home or had other plans, or at least claimed such nonsense, I found myself wandering the ‘hood late in the evening, looking for a bite to eat. Henry was off to La Plata for a day or two, I’d been indoors working most of the day, and I was feeling sort of, poor me… and there was this warm, inviting, red glow, and the sandwich board. And so, I found myself at Business, Guido 1936, 4801-1844. [This place has closed and been replaced by something equally innocuous looking and frightening.]

My brain didn’t do the mistake thing off the bat, it waited until I was seated on a comfy banquette, a tall, cute waiter in attendance, looking around at walls cluttered with Americana that invoke a road trip down Route 66. It waited until I’d made a vague attempt to actually read the menu, printed in miniscule yellowish white lettering on glowing red plastic, in a room lit by reddish orange lights. Had I had my reading glasses with me I couldn’t have read this – there’s not enough light to provide contrast between the letters and the background. My waiter concurred, with a sigh, that he generally has to list off a good number of the items that they offer because no one can read the damned things. That settled, I’d already more or less decided beforehand on a sushi libre, it’s what drew me in in the first place – though, as a couple of them passed my table, I note that they offer hamburgers that seem to be about an inch thick, with real buns… so maybe one day… – and then I realized I was seated right next to the sushi station, a little three sided box of Ikea style shelving, a little more than waist high, behind which, now, a young man came to make sushi. No refrigerator, no water to wash up, just shelves… and that was when my hindbrain started its protest.

And yet, I paid it no mind, instead, watching, fascinated, as this youngster proceeded to start onto various sushi plates… and realized that at least, he wasn’t storing the fish on the shelves… he was actually running back and forth to the kitchen about every 10-15 minutes for more pieces of salmon… and it was pretty much just salmon. There was an occasional bit of pseudo-crab, and there was lots of cream cheese, and a bit of avocado, but there was mostly, as usual, salmon. And he had some damp cloths to wipe his hands on, which he did replace now and again through the evening. But still… there it was… that trailing scream to run… and I didn’t. I’d ordered the “sushi libre especial”, the difference from the “sushi libre clasico” being that the especial includes sashimi. Not much of it, especially given the 15 peso or so price differential, but I didn’t know that upfront – save your money, or insist on more sashimi perhaps – and it did indeed begin to arrive.

Business - sushi libre plate 1Now, it was a slow process. I’ve watched many a sushi maker make sushi in front of me. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen it take quite so long. Oliver, over at Argentina’s Travel Guide kindly offered up that maybe his sense of time lapse was altered due to hunger, but no, really, I’ve never seen anyone move so slowly and deliberately making pieces and rolls of sushi. I’d estimate my first plate took him a minimum of 15 minutes, possible 20, and we’re not talking anything elaborate. A plain salmon roll, a salmon and cream cheese roll, a salmon and avocado roll, a couple of pieces of salmon sushi, a half dozen slices of sashimi, and part of a crabstick roll. I’m not really complaining, I was warm and cozy, I had a magazine to read, the music in the background was good – a bit of cacophony from one table of six people not far from me who were of the sort who seem to feel the need to shout to each other, hoot and holler, despite being no more than a couple of feet apart, you know, the sort who in their late 20s still think it’s roll on the floor hysterical to blow coke threw a straw at each other – and I do mean the bubbly drink.

Business - sushi libre plate 2And once it arrived, it was passably good. The salmon was fresh, the rice was properly made, it was a good portion, and I made my way through it relatively quickly and methodically. Then I settled back to read a little bit more, figuring the waiter would get around to me shortly and I could order another roll or two. And he did get around to me, about 15 minutes later, when he removed my first plate and deposited another not much different from the first, without a word. And, I realized, as I was about halfway through the second plate and thinking, okay, this is just a trifle too much food, that the sushi-man was already hard at work on another platter. I waved and got his attention and told him that really, fifty some pieces of sushi was quite sufficient, thank you much, and a third platter was not necessary… he sighed, and put the couple of already made rolls back in one of his plastic bins and carted it back to the refrigerator, I hope. The waiter seemed equally surprised, and perhaps a bit disappointed, I don’t know, maybe they had a bet going on how much I would eat – but he offered me dessert, which I declined, and then a coffee, likewise, and we settled on a cup of tea while he figured out the bill – set price, remember, but that took another 20 minutes…

So, overall, Business offers okay sushi (and maybe hamburgers), there’s far better to be had, and certainly both more variety, and faster service. But on a drizzly, cold night, when all your friends have simply abandoned you…

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Scarlett September 4, 2007 at 22:11

Business is around the corner from our first apartment and we had sushi there … once. We were not as adventurous..we just had a California Roll. It was sort of tough and the wasabi was missing..did you get wasabi?

dan September 5, 2007 at 10:42

There wasn’t wasabi on the sushi pieces themselves, but there was a nice little scoop of it on each plate to use. It wasn’t real fresh though – the flavor had faded to a fairly dull heat – that powdered wasabi really has to be mixed up fresh about once every 1-2 hours at the most to stay nice and hot.

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