The Price of Progress

2007.Dec.07 Friday · 1 comment

in Food & Recipes, Life, Restaurants

 A process which led from the amoebae to man appeared to the philosophers to be obviously a progress – though whether the amoebae would agree with this opinion is not known.”

– Bertrand Russell, Logician and Philosopher

Jangada’s new patioBuenos Aires – I’d heard that Jangada has moved to new digs, at Bonpland 1670, around the corner and a block or so away from its old locale. Clearly they must have been doing well, the new spot is easily three times the size of the old, and at first glance I was a bit dismayed… out front, in addition to just a couple of sidewalk tables, they now have a “lounge”, with low white leather couches… but, of course, they need a spot for smokers since the smoking ban… I thought, but then, indoors, it turns out they’ve decided a very large, long space, into two rooms, glassed off from each other, and though I didn’t see anyone smoking, the same maitre d’ whom they’ve always had asked if we wanted smoking or non… so I’m guessing the enclosed room is the smoking room. But a better option seemed to be to zip past the bar and continue out back to the patio, where we could dine al fresco without street noise. The garden’s quite nice, softly lit – actually the whole place is nicely done, despite being a fancied up version of the original and perhaps a trifle too designed, but hey, they’ve got to compete with all these other trendy spots that are grabbing the tourist, expat, yuppie dollars and euros (and I do mean those currencies, not pesos, based on the xeno-conversations I could hear). Yes, that’s perhaps the drawback of a great neighborhood spot getting all the attention from various writer folk, I’m guessing the article in the NY Times had more of an impact than my blog post – all the trendy folk come running, and if you decide to follow the dollar signs, it can change your concept. (On the other hand, you never know, I’ve heard from half a dozen folk who’ve been to Casa SaltShaker that they went to Jangada as a result of reading my writeup….) [A shame, but this place close in mid-2011.]

Of course, prices have gone up – around 20% since my first post on this spot a year ago, partially inflation and no doubt partially to pay for the new rent, etc. Everything is now served on fancy white square plates and high sided bowls and such, other than, thankfully (and perhaps out of necessity), the tablas, which still come on a wooden platter like pictured above. Even when we asked for a couple of lemon wedges they came in cute little bowls, arranged standing on end. I’d have to say, though, the night we were there, the local flavor was gone – just there on the patio we were accompanied by a group of four visitors three from Spain, one from the U.S., an older couple from the U.S., and a family of seven, some of whom may have been local, but a couple of whom were clearly stumbling along in Spanish. Passing through the dining room I heard a mix of languages and I saw several guidebooks out on tables. Instead of just the maitre d’ and a waiter handling the whole place, they’ve got three teams covering the room(s) (okay, it’s bigger, I know), each with a waiter and busboy, dressed all in black t-shirts, slacks, and for all I know underwear…

Thankfully, and I suppose of most importance, since I can get used to these changes, the food is just as good as it has been on past visits to the old location, and I still recommend going there.

You know, Jeff over at Buenos Aires, City of Faded Elegance, and Daniel at basta de demoler, write regularly about the disappearance of local architecture and the replacement with modern, sleek (or not so sleek), edifices. While I can’t begrudge the owners of Jangada their newfound success, I can say I’m sorry to see the local-ness of the original, elegant or no, has departed.

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ikura zaru soba

That same progress, or steady change, of course, brings with it a host of things that expats often clamor for – the availability of stuff from “back home”, wherever that may be. In general I find I don’t miss much of anything in particular, I’m happy to jump in and adapt to what’s available locally. I haven’t spent the last couple of years bellyaching about the lack of peanut butter, cottage cheese, or this brand or another of what-have-you, as so many that I encounter do. If those things are that important to you, go back, or arrange to get them sent, the lack of Skippy isn’t a sign of the apocalypse. It’s not even personally directed at you. Still, now and again when something that I enjoy pops up on a shelf here or there, I’m delighted to see it, like unexpectedly encountering a friend while wandering along the sidewalk. And one of the things I wondered about, now and again, was salmon eggs. Yes, salmon eggs, ikura. Salmon is flown in from points west regularly, and we’re surrounded by it, especially at the myriad sushi bars that have sprung up (often, again, taking the place of some cool little neighborhood café), yet with two exceptions – Yuki and Nihonbashi – I’ve never seen salmon eggs here, and certainly not available retail. Well, I’ve found a spot that carries them, and though they carry a hefty price tag, I’ve snagged some, and put them to work, satisfying my tastebuds, atop some zaru soba lightly coated in soy, along with some shredded nori seaweed. I know, it’s not your standard breakfast of champions, but it works for me.

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