Who’s on First?

2012.Sep.17 Monday · 1 comment

in Restaurants

Every now and again I just love being surprised and delighted by being confronted by my own misconceptions. For some time now I’ve passed by this restaurant in Palermo, Nicaragua 5802 at the corner of Carranza, and just sort of said to myself, “oh, another regional Argentine spot with some sort of indigenous language name to try and make it sound more authentic”. I mean, what else would be the reaction to a place with a moniker like Guaresnei. It looks like something right of the Guarani language, you know? But there I was, hungry, and thinking, what the heck, let me give it a shot. Besides, the food I saw them serving through the window looked… interesting… and good.

And then I got the menu, which, of course, has the explanation in the front of it of how the owner/chef came up with the name. And first I was puzzled, but then I got it, and laughed out loud. You see, the explanation was that it was his nickname from school, and he got it because of how badly he spoke English as a teen. And I’m like, what? What are you talking about, what does that have to do with English. Maybe it’s a local phrase…? Nope. For those of you who speak Spanish, try pronouncing the name and see if you get it… I’ll wait.

Okay – here it is… Guar-es-nei… pronounced (as best I can render it) Hwa-es-ney… stick a thick local accent on it, and you have… What is name? As I said, it took me a minute. I’m liking this guy already. Let’s see how his food fares.

Guaresnei -breads
The room isn’t all that exciting. It looks like any dark wood panel, dark wood floor, dark wood bar, anywhere. Dark wood tables and dark wood chairs too. Lots of light, plenty of windows. Owner at the bar, one waitress in the room – bordering on not quite enough, and if it had gotten any busier than it was, she couldn’t have kept up, it’s not a small place, but it hovered around twenty guests for the whole time I was there. In short order she brought me a menu, the selection seems to be creative twists on local fare, and I’m all for that. They have wi-fi. I settled in. A nice array of breads and a quite good eggplant escabeche arrived – I only nibbled a little because I knew I’d ordered a decent amount of food.

Guaresnei - nachos
I don’t know what it is, but I almost always will order nachos if they’re on a menu here – I keep hoping for something different. And these both were and weren’t. The thing is, that I should just accept that here, nachos doesn’t mean anything more than corn chips – they don’t have that background context of all the gooey melted cheese, beans, ground beef, guacamole, sour cream, and pickled jalapeños that are what nachos are really all about. Not surprisingly, these are just corn chips topped with guacamole, and, strangely out of sight, underneath, a pool of melted cheese-whiz type cheddar, rather than being ladled over it. To its credit, the guacamole was fresh and vibrant, and rather than being mashed to a paste, was chopped avocado, tomato, onion and garlic – gives it some texture.

But no spice. I asked, and the waitress returned with (I should have taken a photo) a large jar filled with oil and packed with fresh and dried chilies. I scooped a big amount out and scattered them over the top (I think she was expecting I might just drizzle a little of the oil over it, not actually dive into the chilies themselves), and got to work – my goodness those were good. Later, talking to the owner, he told me that they’re chilies he gets from Brazil, and he, too, likes to dump them all over things. So in the end, a decent plate of nachos, if still not the norteamericano version.

Guaresnei - torre de pizza
That looks like a lot of food. But that’s deceiving because of the angle of the plate. It’s not a lot of food. It’s an enormous amount of food. That plate is an oval, not a round, and is a solid 16″ long by 12″ oval. The Torre de Pizza, described as a bondiola (pork shoulder) steak with bacon, peppers, sun-dried tomato, and a roasted apple, is actually four, count them, four bondiola steaks, each about 3 ounces, each topped with a half of a roasted bell pepper, a slice or two of smoky bacon, and a slab of melted provolone. On the side of that “pizza tower” are around fifteen sun-dried tomatoes, plumped up and hot and juicy, and an entire roasted apple, or two. Plus some lettuce and carrot slices. And it’s really, really good. I did a respectable job getting through it too, though it left me no room for the proferred dessert.

Lunch finished up with a coffee and an on-the-house shot of local liqueur Legui, one I haven’t tried before but will again – a lovely little digestif that has a sort of burnt caramel orange peel and herbal flavor to it. With a couple of bottles of mineral water (those peppers were intense), and tip, lunch came in at 150 pesos. Not bad for what I got – and truthfully, I could have split those plates with someone and been perfectly happy and not quite so full. Not just Recommended, but a place I’ll go back to regularly – I really enjoyed myself.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

MattyC September 17, 2012 at 18:21

Even better – and certainly worth mentioning when you consider the number of people who carry them these days – it’s 20% off “todos los días” with tarjeta La Nación. We dropped in there randomly without knowing about the offer, and it definitely tipped the scales for us.

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