Bland Elegance

2009.Jan.31 Saturday · 3 comments

in Restaurants

“Let yourself be open and life will be easier. A spoon of salt in a glass of water makes the water undrinkable. A spoon of salt in a lake is almost unnoticed.”

– Buddha

Buenos Aires – It seems a trifle odd to enter into a hotel and find yourself in the dining room. But then, in this small space, the dining room’s hostess stand more or less doubles as the hotel’s reception, or perhaps not, she didn’t even look up when I said hola, so I seated myself – one must take advantage of each square meter to its optimum. It’s a pretty room, all soft colors and white tablecloths, a small garden and lounge at the far end, a gleaming bar along one wall, pretty flowers dotted about. No one really looks up as I enter – I’ve mentioned before this whole “manager staring at the computer screen intently and not only not acknowledging, but barely noticing anything going on in the room”. I don’t get it. In the restaurant business, nothing… nothing should be more important than your customers and making them feel welcome. Feeling ignored is sure to impress them – and not in a positive way. After a couple of minutes, the waiter wanders over from reading the newspaper he has spread out on the bar and now folded up and put away, bringing menu and greetings. I’m in the dining room of the Bo Bo, Guatemala 4882, Palermo, 4774-0505, for a long overdue visit to one of the neighborhood’s two most well known boutique hotels.

Bo Bo - chilled pea and bean soup

The menu is intriguing, the bread is fresh and tasty, and now that someone’s paying attention, I’m feeling at least slightly better. I order the chilled fresh pea and bean soup, and it arrives in short order. It is creamy, smooth, cold to just the right serving temperature, and lacking in salt. A good sprinkle from the shaker, and the waiter’s offer of a grind of pepper or two, and it’s absolutely delicious.

Bo Bo - two salmon pizza rustica

I move on to the pizza rustica, a slightly free-form round of dough, lightly charred on the bottom, adorned with a duo of “salmon” – one side salmón rosado the other salmón blanco, which is not, as I’ve mentioned before, a salmon at all. Regardless, it is tasty, sprinkled with capers and a bit of arugula salad, and is once again lacking in salt, easily fixed, but noticeable.

Bo Bo - Oatmeal cookie trifle with mascarpone and citrus fruit

The oatmeal cookie trifle sounds like just my sort of dessert, and it almost is. I love the slightly crunchy texture of the cookies against the mascarpone cheese. I love the mix of citrus segments, especially the grapefruit. The sweet chocolate chips in the cookies are, perhaps, a misstep. Bitter chocolate with grapefruit, yes, I could see it, maybe… hmmm… but there’s something jarring about the sweet chocolate and bitter acidity of the fruit together. Still, completely intriguing.

So, how do I rate this? Tough call. The room is beautiful and comfortable. The food is creative, well thought out, beautifully presented, and needs to be better seasoned. The waiter, once putting himself in gear, was friendly, attentive and charming. The rest of the staff were aloof – I complimented the young woman who was arranging the flowers in the room on how beautiful they were and she simply looked at me and walked away without a word or smile, the manager at the bar never once looked up from his pile of paperwork and computer screen, the woman at the reception desk didn’t acknowledge my gracias on the way out, she, too, was intent on something on her desk. I saw others come and go, both hotel and restaurant guests, and all were equally ignored, so it wasn’t just me. If I were the owner of the Bo Bo, I’d be in there trying to wake my staff up – you’ve got a good thing going, a great reputation as a hotel, and I think the restaurant could have just as good of one if someone started paying attention. In the end, recommended, with hope….


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

matt January 31, 2009 at 11:05

I must say I felt a bit conflicted about my stay and multiple dining experiences at Bo Bo. Beautiful room, amazing environment, but never quite “there” in terms of execution, flavor and service. I completely agree with you.

Laura January 31, 2009 at 14:17

I had such a wonderful experience in Buenos Aires, but I must admit that I stayed in a tiny bed and breakfast in San Telmo and steered relatively clear of the hipper hotels in Palermo (although I shopped a LOT in that neighborhood). I had a few nights out at these hotels, and although they were very beautiful, I was disappointed to see that they had attitudes similar to some of my less favorite places here in New York…namely in the Meatpacking district. It’s too bad, because I found Buenos Aires generally to be so lovely and unpretentious.

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