Bite Marks #55

2018.Feb.04 Sunday · 0 comments

in Restaurants

You would think, given that it’s two blocks from home, that I’d have checked out what is, as far as I know, the only kosher restaurant here in Recoleta by now.

But, somehow, I hadn’t. I mean, it’s right there, Luba, Ayacucho 1412, just off the corner of Peña, I can literally walk there in 3 minutes.

Just off the street, it looks like a cute little cafe, with half a dozen tables and a pastry counter. Out that door to the left and down the hall, there’s a larger dining room. I got some odd looks when I walked in and sat down – there had been a woman working on her laptop at that last table, and another behind the counter, and a third walking around, and when I came in and sat down, none of them greeted me, they all kind of huddled up, and then left the room. I sat at the corner table for almost five minutes before one of them came back and walked over and silently gave me a menu. The other two drifted back in over the next minute or two. This didn’t bode well, it’s just odd behavior.

I ordered the smoked salmon sandwich on a bagel, along with a mint-ginger lemonade. By this time, at least the waitress was talking to me, though not in much more than monosyllables. When she delivered this, I asked, “I thought this came on a bagel?” She replied that it was a bagel. I suggested that it didn’t seem much like a bagel, but more like a sandwich roll or hamburger bun. She avowed that this is what a real bagel looks like. With finality and conviction, turned on her heel and walked away.

It’s a seeded hamburger bun, it’s soft and pillowy. It’s got decent smoked salmon on it, though no more than two wispy slices that don’t quite cover the bun, even side by side. It’s got several leaves of iceberg lettuce, a couple of pickles and some red onion, a schmear of hummus, and a veritable mound of unseasoned scrambled egg. It’s got a nice salad on the side that almost dwarfs the sandwich.  The lemonade is quite good. Respectively they cost 189 and 69 pesos.

Though I’m disappointed by the sandwich, it wasn’t awful or anything, and the pastry case is calling my name. There are two different chocolate cakes in the display, and both are sending out cocoa tendrils in my direction. I ask the trio for their opinion, they’re split on which is a favorite, but note that all cakes are available in… half portions. So, I get a half portion of each. I’m split on which one is my favorite, but probably leaning towards the denser, fudgier one. They run 60 pesos apiece in half portion, which really is half the regular price. Add in an espresso. And add in the dreaded cubierto charge, here 24 pesos. Add in a tip, and lunch comes in at just shy of 500 pesos, or about $25.

I’m not happy about the bagel. Not so much that it wasn’t a bagel, but the insistence that felt like they were telling me I didn’t know what I was talking about. Service at this place is weird, even if it got friendlier later. I’d go back for pastry and a coffee.


 

How about a trio of places dedicated to meat?

A relatively new shawarma spot, Erebuni, La Rioja 998, San Cristobal, just off the corner of Carlos Calvo. Erebuni is the name of a quite famous 8th century BCE fortress in Armenia, now a museum.

I chat with the young man running the place while he makes my “electric shawarma”. Apparently he feels the need to make the point that it’s an electric rotisserie, not gas, and that the meat won’t have that lightly charred flavor from the flames. (He’s right.) It’s a slightly strange spit of steak – I’m used to seeing fairly thin sliced meat sort of all stacked together so that it can be shaved off into fairly fine bits as it rotates. This is a stack of maybe 3/4″ thick steaks on a spit. He doesn’t carve off thin shavings, he cuts off large chunks of steak, then dices it up, and kind of moves it to the back in front of the coils, turning it over and over to cook it through, which it clearly hasn’t. It takes a solid ten minutes to make a shawarma.

He asks me if I’ve ever had shawarma before, and I aver that I have. He asks me if I’ve found anywhere else in Buenos Aires that offers shawarma and I suggest that I’ve tried close to a hundred places. He seems stunned. He tells me that he thought that he was the first, or at least there were no more than a couple of places, hard to find. I consider pointing out that he was able to find a shawarma rotisserie in a restaurant supply shop, but decide against it.

My assertion of near to a 100 turns out to be an exaggeration, as I’ve only got 63 prior spots, now to be 64 and counting, on my map.

He holds up the flatbread vaguely near to the electric coils to warm it, then jam packs it with the now cooked meat. He scatters some lettuce and a couple of pieces of onion. He squiggles a yogurt sauce and a hot sauce over it. The latter turns out to be some sort of tomato and bell pepper sauce. The shawarma is so packed that there’s no real way to roll it up and eat it, it’s more like lifting a U shaped sling and attempting to bite in. The meat is tough and gristly. The sauces are reasonably tasty. The scant vegetation offers nothing to the mix. It runs 100 pesos, just a shade over $5.

It looks nothing like the picture he has on display of what his shawarma look like:

Now that’s a shawarma I’d love to dig into. The real thing at Erebuni, of which I don’t even eat half of it, not so much.


 

Continuing my vaguely outlined almost semi-project for checking out steaks along Carlos Calvo, loosely titled Steaks with Bald Charlie, I made my way to a couple of spots over the last weeks. It’s been a way to start checking out more steakhouses, something that it turns out I haven’t done much of over more than twelve years here in BA. What? No, it’s true. I don’t often just decide to go out to a steakhouse on my own, and Henry’s not a big fan, and so most of my parrilla ventures tend to be when people visit, and most often, we just go to one of few places I already know and like, rather than somewhere new.

It’s very sparse, this map. And very localized. 45 spots and counting, and many of those aren’t actually steakhouses, but just places where for one reason or another one of us ordered a steak.

 

First up, La Pausa, Carlos Calvo 1700, corner of Solis, in Constitución. This is another that’s not a parrilla, despite that they have a grill in the place, and among other things, they list parrilla on the outside wall. They don’t have a menu. They have some paper signs in the window each touting a dish – a couple of pastas, some chicken, a milanesa, and, “carne al horno con papas”.  So their “steak” isn’t even a steak off the grill, but, turns out to be, “meat from the oven with potatoes”. The older man in the kitchen and the woman in the dining room seem to be both owners and comfortably attached to each other, and she’ll reel off the half dozen dishes to you at the table.

Can I count it as a steak? Not really, it’s actually slow braised tapa de asado, what amounts to boneless shortrib meat – the cut is the flap of meat that covers over the ribs. It’s two whopping pieces, very little fat, no gristle, and braised to spoon tenderness in a tomato and onion gravy. The mashed potatoes are buttery and rich, though maybe slightly thick, they could use some milk to loosen them up, and a touch more salt. With a bottle of water and a generous tip, this whole lunch comes in at 200 pesos. I’d happily eat it again. And I’m still adding it to the map, and the “project”.


 

A few blocks, well, twelve, down the road, back in San Cristobal, and I decide to check out La Parrilla de la Esquina, at Carlos Calvo 2900, corner of Dean Funes. (Dean Gregorio Funes was a clergyman who was active in the revolution, and became a statesman, even becoming the trade ambassador to Colombia.) The place has a certain cafeteria feel to it. Service is a bit rushed, but reasonably friendly.

The waitress suggests the vacio, or brisket, and asks how I want it cooked. I ask for rare, figuring on medium rare, it arrives in mere moments cooked near to well done. This is one of those spots where everything is precooked, sitting on the back of the grill keeping warm and more or less drying out, and you get it the way they cook it. Period. It’s seasoned well, it’s just way overcooked for my tastes. The mashed potatoes are excellent, buttery and smooth, and likewise well seasoned. (130 pesos with fries, 140 pesos with mash or salad.)

The best thing here, however, is the amazingly good chimichurri, which is near to being solid chilies – it’s spicy hot, with a hit of some herbal notes. I slather it all over the steak and add it to the potatoes and it makes up for some of the sin of the temperature. Would I go back? Probably not.

 

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