No Ridicule, Perhaps Meaningless

2011.May.29 Sunday · 2 comments

in Restaurants

“Dada is the groundwork to abstract art and sound poetry, a starting point for performance art, a prelude to postmodernism, an influence on pop art, a celebration of antiart to be later embraced for anarcho-political uses in the 1960s and the movement that lay the foundation for Surrealism.”

– Marc Lowenthal, translator’s introduction to Francis Picabia’s I Am a Beautiful Monster: Poetry, Prose, And Provocation

I actually have no idea what that means. I usually don’t when it comes to philosophical statements about art. What I know about Dada-ism is that it was intended to ridicule the meaninglessness of modern life and the modern world, or at least as it existed in the 1960s – and I can kind of get that. I have no idea what it has to do with the world of food, particularly not in a place that serves up food that is certainly not worthy of ridicule, though, I suppose, when it comes down to it, it is indeed meaningless – food generally doesn’t have a whole lot of philosophical content. Unless you read Brillat-Savarin… “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.”


Not quite two years ago I made my way to Dadá, San Martín 941, in Centro, 4314-4787, which numerous folk had recommended to me, and I gave it a cursory writeup along with a couple of other spots that I’d tried that week. It’s a spot that always gets rave reports from people who go there, and with good reason. The food is delicious. It does tend, often, towards a slightly sweet side, but then, Argentines have that famous sweet tooth. And not everything on the menu is. Sweet, that is. It’s all delicious, or at least all that I’ve tried over several visits – interestingly looking back at that first post, I still have yet to try the famed rib-eye steak – I promise, next visit. One of the other things I like about it is that it’s one of the few places you can plop yourself at the bar and eat – when I’m solo I generally prefer that to a table, and it often gives me a chance to have a chat with either bartender or someone else who is also on their own at the bar.

Dada - morbier in phyllo pastry

That phyllo-wrapped slab of Morbier cheese has become a mainstay of my lunches when I drop in. It’s gotten progressively better – more delicate on the wrapping, and really fully enclosed as opposed to the sort of folded over, puffed all over the place version that was there the first time I tried it (you can see the difference in the photo from the first time). The onion jam is now a really dark, caramelized tangle of onions that don’t taste like they’ve had a mess of honey added – just pure onion flavor. And the salad is simply a better salad, and lighter on the dressing than that first time. The chef has steadily refined this dish, even with its simple components, and now, it’s pretty much Morbier-perfection.

“Morbier is an aromatic and surprisingly mild French cow’s milk AOC cheese defined by the dark vein of vegetable ash streaking through it middle. Today, the ash is purely decorative, a nod to the method by which Morbier was once produced in Franche-Comté. Traditionally, the evening’s fresh curds were sprinkled with ash to prevent the formation of a rind overnight. The next morning, new curds were laid upon the thin layer of ash to finish off the wheel. The wheel was then washed and rubbed by hand, forming a rind to protect the rich, creamy interior and to create a delectably stinky aroma. Morbier, which is aged for at least 60 days, pleasantly confounds expectations. Contrary to its smell, Morbier has a mild taste and leaves a wonderful, nutty aftertaste. Morbier is excellent served with Gewürztraminer or Pinor Noir.”

Dada - salmon and prawn pasta

Here’s the reason I haven’t gotten to that ribeye… the pastas. Dadá simply produces some of the most interesting and tasty pastas I’ve had in Buenos Aires. Rarely anything traditional, particularly on their daily specials, they’re creative and often surprising combinations that each time have left me wanting to come back for another. On my last visit, a whopping bowl of rigatini chock-full of smoked and poached salmon, lightly crisped grilled prawns, grated cheese, and a large dollop of fresh avocado puree – all mixed together, supremely satisfying.

Now, not everything at Dadá is perfection as some claim. The room is cute and cozy, but a little cramped, particularly at the tables which are just a touch too close together, particularly when the room is bustling. Service is always friendly but often lackadaisical, and more than once I’ve arrived to find that the gate at the front door is locked because they’ve decided to simply take a break, or open later than posted hours – not that they’re required to open at any particular time or be open all day, but it can be disappointing when I have my heart set on lunch there. It’s not cheap, particularly for a casual spot that’s mostly about lunch (though early dinner is often popular with the local business crowd and particularly with tourists from nearby hotels) – that Morbier salad currently runs 39 pesos and the pasta clocked in at 56 – though the latter was really packed with seafood, which is never cheap here – so, for example, this particular lunch, adding in 10 pesos for water, came in at 105, plus tip. Overall – Recommended.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

fedelowe May 29, 2011 at 11:36

el dadaismo es un movimiento que data de la primera guerra mundial no de los 60s
como bien expresa la cita que mencionas

dan May 29, 2011 at 12:59

Sorry, yes, you’re correct – the period that it flourished was during the WWI era, the 60s was when it was revived as a political cause as well as a foundation for some of the modern Surrealists.

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