There was a rumor that local Recoleta casual spot Delicious Café, Laprida 2015, offers up a Wednesday only hamburger that a few people were touting as the best patty in the city. Given that I’m fond of their pastries, I thought I’d give it a shot one recent hump-day. Luckily, it turns out, it was indeed a Wednesday when they were offering the burger, because the rumor was simply wrong – it’s just a special that they put on the menu when they feel like rotating it through the list of daily specials – it could be any day of the week, or more than one. I have to admit, I would have liked to have known when ordering it that it wasn’t a hamburger on a bun with the listed accompaniments of caramelized onion jam and roasted tomatoes, and that it was two small patties that more or less resemble breakfast sausage. But, I can cope without a bun. And they even cooked the patties rare as asked. They are, however, pretty much unseasoned other than some salt, and the accompaniments are kind of boring and rather skimpy. What I ended up doing was asking for a second ramekin of the quite good hummus they were serving with flatbread and giving the patties a good schmear of that. Great, crispy potatoes and a perfectly edible salad. Good, but kind of a yawn, certainly not up there in the top echelons of burgers in this town. Relatively inexpensive, as the special of the day it was a mere 80 pesos, including beverage, plus tip.
Staying with the burger world for the moment, a drop-in at the much touted Ninina Bakery, Gorriti 4738 in Palermo. I hadn’t planned on it (thought it was on my list to get to one of these days), but three spots in a row that I’d set out to have lunch at turned out to be closed during posted hours, no signs or anything to indicate why – more likely they just need to update their websites or Facebook pages with corrected hours. I was wandering along Gorriti and spotted the place and got a yen for a burger. I was going to try the straightforward beef burger, but I just can’t resist lamb when it’s on offer. Great space, attentive service, I like that they give you choices – the first question asked was how I wanted the burger cooked, so kudos right upfront, then a choice of one sauce, four toppings out of about a dozen, and one side out of three. I went with lamb burger, medium rare, tzatziki sauce, red onions, sun-dried tomatoes, black olives (I only picked three of my four, which seemed to concern my waitress greatly, she asked me twice if I understood that I really could pick another one), and a side salad of arugula and cherry tomatoes. Perfectly cooked, lightly charred on the outside, well seasoned, delicious! Interestingly the salad is served with a bottle of olive oil on the side but nothing else – no vinegar, salt or pepper offered. Good selection of licuados, or smoothies, raspberry and avocado hit the spot. It was all so good I couldn’t resist following up with a slice of their torta vera, what turned out to be more or less a deep dish apple pie. Nice and fresh, lacking a bit in the classic spicing that I’d go for in the States, but hey, I was sitting at the counter right by the espresso machine and nabbed the cinnamon shaker they use for the capuccinos – dusted the slab of pie well and dug back in. Good espresso too, though now I know that they go for that classic Italian espresso where it’s barely half a demitasse cup rather than the usual Argentine full one. So, next time, a double. And there will be a next time. A little pricey though – the lamb burger was 130 pesos (beef is 110), and the pie was 59 – all told, lunch with tip came in at 280 pesos.
Several times over the last year or so I’ve passed by a spot that sort of captured my attention, but I resisted because I was sure it would just be a gimmick. But I found myself standing on its corner, hungry, and decided to give it a go. NYC Bistrotheque (right there with the name I was on edge), Nicaragua 6002 in Palermo claims to have the best ribs in the city as well as the best sandwiches. Plus artisanal beers on tap. Could they live up to the claims? Hate the space – it’s like a modern diner wannabee with tables way too far apart. Now, I didn’t try the ribs. I decided to give a shot at their “Extreme” hot wings (they offer four levels of heat, from sweet and unspicy to extreme, which my waitress told me only Americans order (hey, finally, someone doesn’t automatically think I’m American when I walk in). The wings arrive naked and just barely cooked (after 35 minutes of waiting), my guess is they were frozen and just tossed into a saute pan and cooked until someone thought they were more or less done. The sauce is on the side in a ramekin too small to dip into. And it’s about the heat level of cocktail sauce. I asked and was assured that I indeed had the extreme sauce in front of me. What’s in it, I inquired? Barbecue sauce with a few drops of tabasco was the answer. Got it…. My sandwich, the “Nightclub” (they also have a regular Club) arrived within a minute of my wings – I think they were both ready at the same time, she just needed two trips to the kitchen. After the disappointing wings, surprisingly good. Decent bread, perfectly toasted, gobs of melted mozzarella and cheddar, actually crispy bacon, and caramelized onions. No condiments, but swiftly solved with a request for mustard. I’d gone for the “green salad” option instead of fries, which turned out to be a mound of nothing but chopped lettuce. Oh, the artisanal beers? Three of them, all, according to the waitress, from Isenbeck – I didn’t realize they made more than one beer, and their website doesn’t indicate that they do – my guess is she got that wrong – but it was a decent rubia anyway. The sandwich, thumbs up, the rest of it all, not so much. Moderately priced – the two courses, beer and tip brought me in under 200 pesos.
For my birthday last week I took a day off to spend enjoying. Lunch at Roux, solo, as Henry was off to la facultad for classes. I thought it would be fun to go to a show of some sort, something different, and people have been telling me for months about Fuerza Bruta, a sort of interactive performance piece held nightly nearby at the Centro Cultural Recoleta. Let me just say, loud, bizarre, occasionally mildly painful, weird, interesting, strange, colorful, odd. It reminded me of some sort of performance art that I might have gone to in my 20s somewhere in Alphabet City before it was fashionable to go there, only high-tech. It certainly isn’t a “more accessible Cirque du Soleil” as more than one person has described it to me. It’s one of those things you’ll like if you like that sort of thing. Dinner, we thought we’d check out the new La Causa Nikkei, recently opened here in the ‘hood at Callao 1290, corner of Juncal (back corner of the plaza, sort of hidden away). The idea of having a Peruvian restaurant close by had us going, even if it’s the Japanese fusion sort rather than classical.
Let’s get the good stuff out of the way first (uh oh…). Love the room, sleek, colorful, well-designed (though, really dimly lit – had to use the flash to get pictures, which I hate doing). Service is friendly, efficient, perhaps at moments bordering on too much (I think everyone in the place, from managers to busboys, at one point or another came by the table to ask if we liked whatever we were eating – though that’s perhaps better than the BA standard of never asking). Actually, I guess, in a way it wasn’t effective service – despite all those folk asking, and us, as you’ll see, not being overly thrilled with the food, no one paid a moment’s attention to our answers, they were already moving on to the next tale. Cocktails – we loved the spicy rocoto infused chilcano, not so much the chicha morada sour, which was really watered down and had little to no purple corn and fruit flavor. When we flagged someone down and kind of stopped them in their tracks, they offered to replace it with something else, no charge, so we got another round of the chilcanos. A little amuse bouche of salmon tartare with fresh lime segment and some sesame oil did start things out nicely.
And then, it kind of all fell apart. The huancaina sushi roll had cold, gluey rice and a sauce that tasted like the cheese dip you get with movie theater nachos – no hint of yellow chili spice at all. The ceviche was acceptable, though completely devoid of both salt and chilies, we added the former, and asked for some ají, for which our waitress brought us a sort of mild, tomato-y cocktail sauce kind of thing, we asked if there was anything hotter, she brought us some pureed rocoto chilies, and then was shocked when we used up the whole dish of it on the appetizers. We asked for another with our main course, actually, two more. The arróz con mariscos had rice that was so overcooked it was like breakfast porridge, was loaded with way too much soy sauce, and tasted burnt as well, let alone having next to no shellfish in it. The seco de cordero was made from a cut of lamb that was so fatty and gristly we could barely saw through it – a cut that should have been long braised but wasn’t. I ended up, after the fact, looking up who is behind the place, to see if it was a “known” chef, only to find that this is a creation of the folk behind Sushi-Pop, which is pretty much my bottom of the barrel pick for sushi delivery in town, so there you have it. Oh, and this place isn’t cheap – two courses, one bottle of water, three cocktails – almost 800 pesos including tip.