À Votre Santé!

2007.Jan.23 Tuesday · 7 comments

in Restaurants

“Health is the soul that animates all the enjoyments of life, which fade and are tasteless without it.”

– William Temple, Sr.

Sante Bar - gazpacho & nachosBuenos Aires – There used to be a nice little coffee shop at the corner of Peña and Azcuénaga, called BN Cafe. I liked it, it was relaxed, comfortable, loungy, even if they did have bizarre ideas about what constituted a proper lox and cream cheese on a bagel. But it closed many moons ago, and was swiftly replaced by a place called Sante Bar, same address, Peña 2300, in Barrio Norte. It’s white. Stark white. Kind of like a dentist’s waiting room in a “B” movie. I just, simply, haven’t been able to bring myself to go in. But my friend Victor mentioned one day that he knew the owner of the place and we ought to check it out one day. Then we sort of back-burnered it, until yesterday when we decided maybe we ought to give it a shot.

We started off with a bowl of the gazpacho. Vivid vermillion… nearly glowing. I’m not even quite sure what vegetables would quite garner that color – I guess a lot of tomato and red pepper mixed with something sort of creamy (yogurt?). It was a pureed style gazpacho, I admit I prefer the more chunky style where you get bits of the vegetables, but that’s personal preference. This had lots of bright flavors, a fair dose of vinegar in it. Dried bread cubes floating atop – not toasted croutons. Definitely good, but not a wow – evidenced by the fact that despite both of us saying we liked it, we didn’t finish a shared bowl. We also ordered a plate of nachos, which turned out to be nothing more than a plate of broken up corn chips scattered around a way too small bowl of passable guacamole. Chips and guacamole, yes. Nachos, no.

Sante Bar - pesca del diaMoving on, we headed to main courses. Mine was the fish of the day, served with vegetables and a mint lime sauce. The sauce was there, somewhere – not so much as a sauce as a sort of haunting flavor that the fish might have been brushed with prior to being sauteed into oblivion. The fish, palometto, a type of freshwater bass. I’ve had fish that was overcooked before. You could have nearly cracked these pieces and heard the sound across the room – sort of fish jerky, or maybe like an unsoaked bacalao. Well seasoned…

Sante Bar - arroz salteadoThe other dish, while appalling to look at, was actually pretty tasty. It was a saute of arroz yamaní in a sort of soy based brown sauce, topped with grilled beef, and the whole thing doused in a coarse, green, leafy puree. It had a vaguely sweet, basil flavor to it that was quite good, and I couldn’t quite place it. When the owner came over I asked, thinking maybe it was a variation on a pesto. He looked at me like I was crazy and exclaimed, “it’s green curry – basil and coconut!” Ah, the elusive sweetness, but, umm, what about the “curry”? “Oh, we Argentines don’t like the flavor of curry, so we leave the spices out… just like we do for our ceviche.” Okay… so that would make it pureed basil leaves with some coconut milk… and I’ll pass on the ceviche, thanks.

Sante Bar - cheesecake and cappucino bruleeWhy we thought, after our appetizers and entrees (all flavorful, but just not right… and pricey to boot), that desserts would be a step above, I’m not sure. They weren’t. The cheesecake, again, flavorful, but with a grainy texture that reminded me of sand. I can only guess that it’s the particular cheese they use. On top of that, it could have used a touch more sugar, amazing for an Argentine dessert… The cappuccino brulee… well… hmmm… the cappuccino custard was sort of liquid, runny, and vaguely coffee flavored. The brulee, nice and hot and clearly just toasted the way it ought to be, but a very thin layer, whisper thin one might say, so it nearly immediately began to dissolve in the liquid custard below. A brulee layer ought to be thick enough to have to crack with a spoon, and hold up while you eat it.

So, overall, it’s kind of like eating expensive, flavorful food that’s just not quite right, in a clinic waiting room. We both looked at each other on leaving and said, “oh well…”


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Austin July 8, 2009 at 02:38

Really enjoyed reading this thank you!

Buenos Aires October 14, 2010 at 11:38
dan October 14, 2010 at 17:31

Umm, okay. Dolli Irigoyen likes to eat here. We didn’t. And?

bamyway October 15, 2010 at 07:33

I just found your comment and Dolli’s. No hard feelings. By the way I loved it. Cheers!

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