In which I wander about, trying one foodstuff or another, and introduce you to places new, remind you of places old, recommend or warn, and generally natter on.
Sometimes it’s the little things, like a moist, delicious carrot cake topped with thick, rich, creamy frosting (albeit slightly more sugary than I personally prefer), along with great coffee and fresh juice blends, a solar-powered charging station for phones and tablets, yes, you read that right, and a cute view overlooking a small park. You can find all that here in Recoleta at Be Juice, Barrientos 1586, just off Av. Pueyrredón.
Planning on another coffee and pastry, sort of an extension of my earlier stabs at new pastry shops in Recoleta here and here, I wandered into Nero Mocca, Arenales 2468. It turns out they really aren’t a coffee and pastry shop as I’d surmised, but an ice cream parlor. They do have a couple of pastries, but nothing all that interesting, and their coffee’s pretty decent. But as long as I was there I figured, what the hell, let me try their house signature, the Copa Mandoria, an ooey, gooey, ice cream sundae of chocolate and dulce de leche ice creams, whipped cream, chocolate cookies, meringues, white and dark chocolate chips, and lots of chocolate sauce. I don’t think I’ve had an ice cream sundae quite like that in probably twenty years, and certainly not here in BA (then again, I haven’t been looking for one either).
Turning towards the savory, I finally got Henry to accompany me to Mishiguene, Lafinur 3368 in Palermo, which I wrote up not all that long ago. He’s not overly adventurous when it comes to trying cuisines he’s not familiar with, and modern Israeli is certainly something new for him. He liked what he ate, though was (justifiably I think) disappointed that the fatoush, which was supposed to be a salad of pickled onions, cheese, olives, and “a variety of different tomatoes”, only had cherry tomatoes, even if some of them were cut in half. And he found the braised lamb over couscous to be made up of spice combinations he’d never tried before and while it was delicious, he wasn’t so sure he’d want to try it again. On the other hand, I was brought near to tears by an appetizer of a whole cauliflower roasted to golden brown in parchment and then served up with spicy tomato sauce, yogurt, and tahini for dipping. It’s massive as a one person appetizer, but, as I said to the chef when he popped out to visit that I could just come in for that and a glass of wine and be supremely happy (he says that sometimes that’s exactly what he has for dinner). I also finally tried their much touted pastrami, which is slow cooked “sous vide” for something like 18 hours and is easily, far and away, the best pastrami I’ve had in Buenos Aires. There’s also something kind of different and special about have a slab of pastrami served up like it’s a steak. This place remains at the top of my Middle Eastern favorites in the city.
There was a point in time where Güerrin, Av. Corrientes 1368, near to the Obelisco, was one of my favorite pizzerias in town. Certainly, I think, of the “Argentine style pizza” places it still tops the list, and when friends who are visiting want to find out what exactly “Argentine style pizza” is all about, it’s generally the spot I take them to. And so it was, with a couple of visiting friends from the wine biz who were in town last week. We chomped our way through a large calabresa, along with introducing them to fainá, the near ubiquitous chickpea flatbread that I’ve learned to love along with my pizza almost as much as locals do.
Much ink, mostly electronic, was spilled recently over the demise of the once bakers’ dozen of Nac & Pop (“nacional & popular”) 24-hour-a-day sandwich stands. Then, rumblings started, as it turned out that not only were workers more or less being paid slave wages (apparently about 6000 pesos a month for 40+ hour work weeks, well below minimum wage), but they weren’t even being paid those (which I suppose is in keeping with slavery traditions), as the owner, Alex Daniel Gordon (apparently a friend of many high placed government officials) of the chain was simply pocketing the money – or so it has been surmised, as he has disappeared to parts unknown, along with months’ worth of gross income, leaving workers and creditors high and dry. In line with an Argentine tradition of beleaguered workers more or less revolting and taking possession of rudderless businesses, many formed cooperatives and simply took over the spaces, sort of squatters’ rights restaurants. One hot, sunny Sunday, I simply needed sustenance to continue a walk, and poked into La Pausa, Av. Juan B. Justo 3400, Villa Crespo. Who can pass up a “bacon sandwich”? Well, after that abomination, I can – one, count it, one, slice of barely warmed bacon laid inside a far too large for the bacon length of miñon – the cotton ball texture sandwich bread that no expat has ever come to love here in BA – a single slice of white cheese, and a couple of spoonfuls of tomato that had been blitzed in the blender. The only saving grace, the putissima sauce, a chili puree right out of any good Peruvian restaurant – I slathered the bacon and cheese with it, rolled them up and ate them, tossed the bread, ate the reasonably decent fries with more of the same sauce, and went on my merry way.
I’ve been hearing rumors of this hot new Venezuelan sandwich and arepas shop in Palermo, and one day recently was walking down the street and ran into my old buddy Grant, of What’s Up Buenos Aires?, whom I used to write for, these days his attentions are on his successful record label, ZZK, and its associated Zizek Club. He reminded me of the place, Panachef, Sanchez de Bustamante 1470, actually in the far reaches of Recoleta, not Palermo, having just come from there, and the timing was perfect to give it a shot. It’s a cute little hole in the wall, with a daily changing selection of sandwiches. Arepas are officially Saturday only (though the owner “found” some arepa dough for the two cute young Cordobese girls who stopped in right after me and flirted madly). Grant’s recommended “La Reina” chicken salad sandwich was not on the board, but a barbecued pork sandwich with avocado, red onions, and a choice of mild to semi-hot sauces (the “muy picante” is not, though it is “muy” flavorful) was. And a delicious sandwich it was too. Enough to knock the current pork sandwich top trio off The List? No, but a very close fourth, and making it a place worthy of going back and checking out again – for more sandwiches, and perhaps even an arepa.
For probably well over a year we’ve noticed La Catedral del Pisco Sour, Av. Corrientes 3126, just down the block and across from the Abasto Shopping, though we’ve not stopped in. Yesterday, Easter Sunday, seemed a good day to hit one of the always open Peruvian spots in the area and we grabbed a table for three – not that it was hard, no one else was there when we arrived, and maybe a dozen people came in over the lunch hour, in a cavernous place that seats probably around 125. And, with good reason. It’s just not very good. Service was inattentive and haphazard – it took 20 minutes for our waiter to bring us a trio of pisco sours that he made himself as there was no bartender, barely cooler than room temperature (and containing a bare minimum of pisco, being mostly sugar syrup and foam), and during the time, neither he nor the other waiter, who was talking him through it, spent even a moment in the dining room. Then he didn’t want to take order, though we’d long been ready – wanting to leave us to drink the cocktails and then come back. We insisted. Prices are high for the Abasto area, with main courses running from roughly 150 to 200 pesos, more in keeping with some of the high-end Peruvian spots in town. Unfortunately, the food doesn’t rise to that level – it’s a lot of bland filler – the arróz con mariscos was a whopping mound of rice, probably a half kilo, with little flavoring, and a single ladleful of some more or less tasteless shellfish over the top. The tacu-tacu con picante de mariscos was much the same – a huge ovoid of rice and beans mashed together like a leaden paste, under a completely devoid of picante sauce, three prawns, six calamari rings, and one mussel on the half shell. Likewise, the seco de cordero, more or less a big chunk of lamb bone with almost no meat on it, a lake of flavorless white beans with an island of equally lacking in flavor white rice. A nearly 800 peso debacle of a lunch.