Brunch in the Name of God

2010.Nov.08 Monday · 4 comments

in Restaurants

“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honourable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

– The Woodbridgian, along with their motto, Pro Deo Rege Patria – For God, King and Country

Roughly six months ago the then editor of Time Out Buenos Aires asked me if I would check out a newly opened bar/lounge called Prodeo, Gorriti 5374 in Palermo, 4831-4471. She put me in touch with one of the owners, a fellow norteamericano named Mike and he invited Henry and I to drop by for a drink one eve. We did, really just to check the space out, but then Mike and the newly installed Dutch chef, Jeroen Van den Bos, asked if we’d like to check out some of the bar food they were experimenting with – the restaurant part of the lounge was yet to open. We agreed to be guinea pigs, and were delighted in return with a series of extraordinarily creative small plates with various nibbles on them. [Closed]

Prodeo Lounge, Chef Jeroen Van den Bos
I didn’t write it up at the time because basically the menu hadn’t been finalized and there was no assurance that any of what we tried was going to be on the menu (and, looking at the current bar menu, none of it is, though that may be seasonality coming into play). So I backburnered the writeup, sent a brief note about it off to the editor – who decided to wait and have it reviewed down the line when the restaurant opened for real – and then kind of forgot about it. There’s always something new opening or that I’m hearing about, and some of this stuff just never gets followed up on.

Recently though, I’ve been hearing rumbles that Prodeo had taken to serving a North American style brunch that was touted as anything from “at least it reminds me of brunches back home” to “outstanding!” So it went back to the front burner, and yesterday when we found ourselves with time to head out to a brunch, we met up with another friend at the lounge to sample the wares. Now I have to admit, I expected it to be a bit of a scene – though in the end, we were the only people there during the entire brunch other than a couple that dropped in for coffee and muffins and then left.

Prodeo Lounge - Bloody MaryFirst off, the space – comfortable, if a trifle “industrial” – a bit too much poured concrete and sheet metal for my personal tastes, but looking like a classic lounge setting. I do like the open kitchen at the back, and there’s a wall waterfall that’s very soothing in the middle. Music on both visits was good background music, what our friend described as trip-hop, a new term for me – though on looking up the term that doesn’t seem fitting, since trip-hop is described as a mix of electronica and hip hop without vocals – this seemed more like electronica meets pop music. Back to the space – generous sized tables and booths, plenty of room to spread out. Now, most important to start off the brunch, a fantastic Bloody Mary – easily the best I’ve had in Buenos Aires (having specified picante) – and a mere 15 pesos at brunch (double that at dinner time apparently). Freshly grated horseradish and everything!

Prodeo Lounge - bagel with smoked salmonThe menu is, for the most part, classic brunch that you’d find in New York – eggs benedict, bagels, scrambled eggs, etc. – just what we were looking for. If I can be pedantic momentarily – neither the English nor the Spanish on the menu is grammatically correct for a good number of items – odd given that the owners, and staff, are fluent in both. But to the food. We tried a trio of muffins – poppyseed orange, mixed fruit, and bran – all good if slightly sweeter than we would normally want them – but fitting local tastes far better, and given the lack of existence of muffins here, just fine. Bagels – good flavor, perfect shape, missing that chewy crust – a choice of accompaniments, either a quartet of butter, cream cheese (more of a creme fraiche), dulce de leche, homemade strawberry jam, all for a mere 12 pesos; or, a generous amount of smoked salmon, more of the cream cheese, green onion (the NYer in me wanted red onion, but I’ll live), and capers, at a slightly steep 32 pesos, but then, it could have been a full meal by itself.

A trio of egg dishes – excellent soft scrambled eggs, and two versions of eggs benedict. We were a trifle disappointed in the latter – no English muffin, instead a small wisp of thin toast of some sort, barely more than a large flat crouton, respectively topped with ham in the regular version and avocado slices in the latino version; perfectly poached eggs, and odd hollandaise (shouldn’t a Dutch chef know “holland”-aise sauce backward and forward?…) – made with vinegar rather than lemon according to our waitress, and a bit heavy on the butter – the latino version spiked with chipotle chili, though so little as to be a mere hint, it could definitely be ramped up several notches. Not that hollandaise can’t be made with vinegar, but it just doesn’t work with the benedict. The accompaniments good – crispy smoked bacon, deep-fried sage breakfast sausage, and decent crispy browned potatoes on the side of all three dishes.

All in all a pleasant brunch, and certainly better than many versions to be found in BA – perhaps only a little disappointing because of how creative and amazing the bar food had been on our previous visit. And between the two visits enough to have us plan to drop back in one evening for dinner on the now established menu.

It did give rise to a discussion on the perfect brunch here in BA… you’d just have to figure out how to get all the elements together…

– Bloody Marys from Prodeo Lounge in Palermo
– Bagels with Smoked Salmon from Big Mamma in Belgrano (now that Amarantha has closed)
– Eggs Benedict from Novecento in Las Cañitas
– Crushed Potatoes with Sour Cream from Sirop in Recoleta

…then we can all meet up here with the different dishes and have a delightful Sunday afternoon!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

BB November 15, 2010 at 02:06

Since I love bloody marys, I decided to take your advise and give it try today. The bloody mary was very good, however they charged us 30 pesos per drink during brunch. The place reminded me of a dark day spa…a empty spa. The food was so, so. Maybe with more people and more lively music it would seem less of a sad place. All that money invested in the design, but I guess money can’t buy soul. Too bad I wanted to like this place.

dan November 15, 2010 at 08:46

You know, the same thing happened to us, I didn’t mention it because I assumed it was just a mistake – when our bill arrived, and we’d had several bloody marys between us, they were all charged at 30 pesos instead of the 15 listed on the menu (and 12 listed on the website), so it added up! We pointed it out to our waitress (who was a bit scattered to begin with, couldn’t remember who ordered what a single time through the meal, just randomly setting things down on the table), she said she’d accidentally put them in the computer at the evening lounge price, apologized, and immediately corrected it, so I didn’t think anything more about it other than it being either a) a mistake, or b) her own scatteredness. I guess this is a good tip to check your bill!

jeroen November 26, 2010 at 22:27

Dan,

Thank you so much for your write up about Prodeo’ s brunch in your blog. As usual, I read it with great interest. It gives us the opportunity to perform better every single day ahead.

Hollandaise sauce ís made, however, with vinegar. According to “La repertoire de la cuisine”, it is, quote; Réduction de mignonette avec vinaigre, presque a sec. Ajouter jaune d’œufs. Fouetter en incorporant petit a petit soit beurre clarifié. Unquote. Even Fernand Point (Who we consider the grand father of nouvelle cuisine; I would hope you ever heard of him) said that Hollandaise sauce is a “Réduction de mignonette, poivre, laurier et un bon vinaigre, montée au buerre“. Even closer to your home New York, Gray Kunz still adheres to the old school recipe, where sauce Hollandaise is nothing more than a “good quality vinegar reduction, called gastric, then emulsified with egg yolks, clarified butter, and seasoned with salt and cayenne pepper”

Like you, most people who proclaim themselves chefs, while they are merely cooks, or gastronomy-affectionate, refer to Wikipedia or other on-line dictionaries, in search for “authentic” recipes. For them, information found on internet is more important than lessons learned by working very, very hard for over 20 years in top rated restaurants and hotels. That’s why they don’t seem to see the difference between hash browns and breakfast potatoes, or deep fried and oven roasted chicken patties.

We should never forget that some cornerstones in the kitchen can’t be changed. Sauce Hollandaise is one of them. But for someone like you who has never worked in France, or in really good French restaurants, it’s an acceptable mistake.

Kind regards

dan November 27, 2010 at 01:04

Jeroen,

Your patronizing tone aside, I’ve worked in the restaurant business, at top-rated restaurants as a cook, chef and also sommelier, for more than 35 years, so I think I’m a bit more than “gastronomy-affectionate”. While you quote a couple of sources, one could just as easily quote both Antoine Carême and Auguste Escoffier, whom I would hope you’ve heard of, say Hollandaise should made with lemon juice (though, you could go back further to Varenne, who used vinegar), so one could argue it either way.

But more to the point, Eggs Benedict is an American dish, invented in New York in the mid-1800s at either the Waldorf Hotel or Delmonico’s restaurant, depending on which story you believe, and the traditional recipe given by both uses lemon (and interestingly, if I recall, you worked briefly at the Waldorf and would know that) – the shallots are cooked down in a small amount of vinegar until it evaporates, but then they add freshly squeezed lemon juice before or after blending in the yolks and butter. There’s nothing wrong with changing things around, but it does change the flavor of the dish, and since the intent (at least according to what I was told upfront by Mike) was to showcase a New York style brunch, it tasted different – then again, substituting ham for Canadian bacon changed the dish, as did toast in place of an English muffin – so it’s your own style and I have no problem with that. It just wasn’t quite what we’d been looking forward to, and the vinegar was very noticeable. Believe me, I’ve cooked brunch in restaurants many times in my career, and I know how difficult it is to please people at brunch – from both sides of the plate. As to the potatoes, I didn’t refer to them as hash browns, but as crispy, browned potatoes – if you term them breakfast potatoes, I have no problem with that – they were delicious whatever you call them.

Your style of cooking is excellent and you have nothing to apologize for. But, if you’re going to bill a meal as a particular style of cooking, and then serve a different style, it is only natural that someone, like us, who comes for the former may be disappointed by the latter.

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