Calcium, the Building Block

2011.Feb.13 Sunday · 1 comment

in Restaurants

“Why Become Extinct? Authors with varying competence have suggested that dinosaurs disappeared because the climate deteriorated (became suddenly or slowly too hot or cold or dry or wet), or that the diet did (with too much food or not enough of such substances as fern oil; from poisons in water or plants or ingested minerals; by bankruptcy of calcium or other necessary elements). Other writers have put the blame on disease, parasites, wars, anatomical or metabolic disorders (slipped vertebral discs, malfunction or imbalance of hormone and endocrine systems, dwindling brain and consequent stupidity, heat sterilization, effects of being warm-blooded in the Mesozoic world), racial old age, evolutionary drift into senescent overspecialization, changes in the pressure or composition of the atmosphere, poison gases, volcanic dust, excessive oxygen from plants, meteorites, comets, gene pool drainage by little mammalian egg-eaters, overkill capacity by predators, fluctuation of gravitational constants, development of psychotic suicidal factors, entropy, cosmic radiation, shift of Earth’s rotational poles, floods, continental drift, extraction of the moon from the Pacific Basin, draining of swamp and lake environments, sunspots, God’s will, mountain building, raids by little green hunters in flying saucers, lack of standing room in Noah’s Ark, and palaeoweltschmerz.”

– Glenn Lowell Jepsen,‘Riddles of the Terrible Lizards, American Scientist (1964)

Calcio
I’m not sure that I’d want to name a restaurant after a trace mineral. Obviously, it’s not the worst named restaurant in town, or any town for that matter, but it’s odd. Calcio, Av. Rivadavia 5701, Caballito (and another branch I haven’t been to in Belgrano) bills itself as a Restaurant de Degustación, or, in essence, a restaurant of tasting menus. It’s a bit of a misnomer, as the concept of a tasting menu generally implies something put together by the chef to showcase certain items. In reality, Calcio is a modified form of a tenedor libre, or all-you-can-eat restaurant. The menu is broken up into sections – appetizers, pastas, pizzas, parrilla, other, desserts – and you can pick a “tasting menu” of any of those sections, or various combinations thereof. Or you can order a la carte, though that can swiftly get pricey unless you just want a single plate of something – they’ve clearly planned it out to push people into the “tasting” mode. [Closed]

I went for the 42 peso lunch tasting, which basically meant that with the exception of the pizzas (for whatever reason only available via their own all-you-can-eat menu), I could pick from any and all of the rest of the fare, as many items as I wanted (though limited to one dessert). This is no buffet setup. You order, all at once, or a plate at a time, and in short order it comes out of the kitchen, made, presumably, more or less to order. Of course, the kitchen might just have a big buffet in it… who knows? My waiter, who was friendly and helpful throughout the meal, had various suggestions to make, unusual for BA, no? He also assured me that all portions were “tasting menu” sized, roughly half the a la carte item size, so I could have fun mixing and matching to my heart’s content. I’d hate to see some of the full sized plates!

Calcio - empanada de carne
Not surprisingly, his first recommendation was, “you have to try our empanadas”. That’s about the only thing that everyone always insists is the best of anywhere and anytime. Here, fried, decidedly juicy, literally spurting when I cut into it (I know, I know, a knife? I picked it up and ate it like any self-respecting person here would, but I wanted to cut into it for the photo). Ground beef rather than diced steak, and just some onion and egg, but reasonably tasty.

Calcio - pincho de pollo maryland
I was all set to link to some brilliant post that I was quite sure I’d written about pollo maryland, a classic local dish, only to discover that I’ve never written about it, nor even mentioned it. Briefly then, with more to follow in another post on local variations, it is a chicken milanesa (pounded thin breast usually, though sometimes thigh meat, breaded and fried), topped with creamed corn, fried banana, and crispy bacon or ham. Here at Calcio, a reinterpretation in pincho (skewered) form, with little flattened nuggets of fried chicken, a strip of crisp bacon, fried banana, creamed corn, and a little pesto on the side. Other than that the chicken was a trifle overcooked, it was actually pretty damned delicious.

Calcio - malfatti
Waiter-man steered me away from the pasta I first selected, agnolotti with artichoke hearts and prosciutto and some other stuff, asserting that while it was okay, it was probably the least popular item on the menu and the one pasta most often left unfinished. One would think something known like that would be removed or revised. He pimped for the malfatti, which turned out to be a fantastic choice. Easily the lightest and most delicate malfatti I’ve ever had, I’d love to know their secret. They were also huge – each one the size of a golf ball, draped in melted cheese and the whole thing swimming in a rich tomato sauce. Despite the malfatti delicacy themselves, this was not a light dish, and I was once again assured that this was a half portion!

Calcio - pechito
Still thinking about that pasta, or maybe another, and skipping a main course of any sort, I ventured that direction, asserting it would be my last course. I was admonished to try at least a little something from the parrilla and let myself be persuaded. Though his suggestions leant towards beef, I decided on a pechito, a grilled pork sparerib. Falling off the bone tender, nicely seasoned, and with a choice of sauces – I went with salsa criolla – it was as much as I could possibly handle without exploding. I turned down even the idea of a fruit cup or jello, and, even with tip only plunking out 50 pesos, waddled out into the daylight.

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