Nueva Peruana, Once Again

2010.Dec.07 Tuesday · 10 comments

in Restaurants

“Fish don’t fry in the kitchen;
Beans don’t burn on the grill.
Took a whole lotta tryin’,
Just to get up that hill.
Now we’re up in the big leagues,
Gettin’ our turn at bat.
As long as we live, it’s you and me baby,
There ain’t nothin wrong with that.

Well we’re movin on up,
To the east side.
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin on up,
To the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.”

– theme song from The Jeffersons

Some folks just can’t seem to settle down, settle in, or settle, period. Over the last few years we’ve found ourselves following the career of one of the better Peruvian chefs here in Buenos Aires, Marco Espinoza, first at a lecture on Peruvian food when he was the chef at the Peruvian Embassy, then at Moche, then Ceviche, and then we kept planning to visit Bardot Loisir when he opened it in Palermo, but by the time we actually got around to doing it, he’d moved on, unfortunately not here in BA, but in Brasilia, where he is bringing his nueva peruvian style to his new restaurant, Taypa, if my info is correct. This was a recent move, and chef Dennys Yupanqui has taken over the reins, the restaurant has been renamed as simply Bardot, Honduras 5237, Palermo, 4831-1112 – no one seemed sure what the Loisir meant anyway.

The space was formerly occupied by Eliot Restó & Otras Pasiones, a place that I enjoyed the food, but not the room. Thankfully, it’s been completely transformed into a semi-dark, slinky lounge type space that somehow avoids feeling like a place where only 20-somethings slugging back Jagermeister shots (well, here, likely to be Fernet and Coke) would hang out, and indeed the crowd seems well-heeled, and clearly there for the food. We plopped ourselves unceremoniously at one of the lounge tables in the rear (there are also plenty of regular dining tables for those who prefer), and started in on the menu – which has separate sections for “classic” dishes and “nueva cocina” dishes.

Service, right off the bat, friendly and efficient, helpful, cheerful, it was almost like Peruvian Boy Scout camp, only with grownups. I like that the chef is out in the dining room – he has a small open “pass” to the kitchen facing the end of the bar, and every plate passes through his hands to be checked for detail, plus he adds the finishing touches. It does create a slight slowdown in the serving of dishes, as he’s only finishing one plate at a time, and so food arrives staggered at the table, first one dish, then the next, whisked from his hands to your table by a waiter, without awaiting the next plate. But it’s only a 30 second or so gap between them, and once you realize what’s going on, it’s fine.

Bardot - Tiradito of Lenguado

Henry started off with a tiradito of lenguado, or sole, essentially a ceviche with the fish cut more like sashimi, and with a dash of oil added to the curing mix. It was absolutely delicious, though in need of some serious picante, which was provided within seconds on request.

Bardot - ceviche of octopus and scallops

I went with a ceviche of octopus and scallops with the same results – beautifully balanced, fresh seafood, delicious, and, in need of picante. I understand. We’ve gotten used to it here. The automatic assumption in local restaurants is to leave off the hot stuff and provide it on the side when requested.

Bardot - aji de gallina

For our main courses, Henry went with one of our favorites, the ají de gallina – served up very elegantly, and tasty to boot. A little more hot sauce had to make it to the table, but we were golden. (We should have asked if for the next time we come in, and we will, we can order things spicy upfront.)

Bardot - smoked potato and seafood pizza

I went off the nueva cocina menu and thought I’d try their smoked potato and seafood pizza – sounded delicious, and I’m a sucker for a good pizza, so why not? Pizza turns out to be a misnomer, and I have to admit, I don’t quite get why they even picked the moniker – neither did our waiter – it’s just what the chef wants to call it. Turns out, however, to be a stunningly good dish of diced smoked potatoes ladled over with a mix of fish and shellfish (sea bass, squid, octopus, shrimp and mussels, and a gooey delightful cheese sauce all melted in and amongst it all. It may not have been a pizza (though I may make a pizza based on the idea…), but it was our favorite dish of the evening.

Bardot - passionfruit mousse

The dessert selection, after all the creativity of the main menu, was disappointing, limited and average – molten chocolate cake, suspiro de limon, ice cream, and a passionfruit mousse – it really seems like no one gave it much thought. We went with the last to share, and weren’t overly excited by it – first, it wasn’t stated that it was a frozen mousse, so pretty much, well, ice cream. And second, we couldn’t taste the passionfruit, rather it tasted like vanilla ice cream with a bit of some sort of herbal liqueur poured over it. Not a super ending, but…

…not enough to stop us from wanting to go back. And, I have to say, that we enjoyed food, service and ambiance more than we have at most of the other new Peruvian spots like Astrid & Gastón, Libelula, Sipán and Francesco that we’ve checked out over the last year or so. We decided that, while very different in style, it pretty much ties it up with PozoSanto for our favorite fancy Peruvian spot.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

tom Roth December 9, 2010 at 04:47

Hi Dan, What are prices like?

dan December 9, 2010 at 08:18

Reasonable given portion size, quality and neighborhood. With two appetizers, two main courses, one dessert, a 60 peso bottle of wine and bottled water, we spent under 300 pesos with tip. It’s not a cheap night out, but about 25% less than most of the other nueva or fusion peruana places that have popped up over the last year or two.

dan July 31, 2011 at 23:56

When the cat’s away…

First time back in awhile, been back a couple of times in between. A Sunday night, chef not there, and the experience couldn’t have been more different than our previous visits.

Attitude from the waiter from the moment we walked in – the place near empty and we got the “do you have a reservation” routine twice before he decided we could have a table – not one additional person came in the rest of the night, so it was just us and the dozen people who were already there. He would have had to work at it to be less friendly, more condescending and less attentive. The last particularly since he spent half the night standing at the bar sharing plates with the cashier that it appeared they were just ordering for themselves.

Drinks – he hadn’t a clue what the two specialty drinks we ordered were, despite them being on the specialty cocktail list, and the bartender didn’t know how to make them, had to look them up – and, they were poorly made. That and the bartender spent half the night knocking things over – perhaps he’d been sampling the liquid wares? Oh, and the drinks didn’t arrive until after we’d nearly finished our appetizer.

Food – we ordered a ceviche to split, way too salty, and no spice. When we asked for some sort of chilies our waiter told us that there weren’t any in-house, so he brought us what seemed to be mayonnaise with some ají amarillo powder in it. That the ceviche arrived within 2-3 minutes of our ordering would suggest that it was all pre-made and maybe even pre-plated. Not a promising beginning. Asked for bread, since it hadn’t been served, waiter brought a basket of slices of cake…? When we asked, he said, “they haven’t gotten around to making the bread, if you want to wait an hour or so, I’ll bring you some” as he turned on his heel and walked away.

Main courses, a seco de cabrito with goat the texture of a steel-belted radial – it was actually so tough we couldn’t force a fork into it. The scallop dish, five little porcelain spoons with a couple bay scallops in each, was miniscule, and again so salty – a mix of soy, parmesan, and extra salt. Manager stopped by the table and asked how things were – we told him. He shrugged and walked away without comment.

All told, an obviously very disappointing evening, and now, stupid prices. For the same price that a mere half year ago we had two appetizers, two main courses, a dessert, two drinks, a bottle of wine and two bottles of water, this time we had one appetizer, two main courses, and two drinks – and they still only take cash, no credit cards, after two years open. Needless to say, at least the tip was less this time.

dan April 21, 2013 at 11:19

So, we hadn’t been back since the fiasco nearly two years ago detailed in the above comment, and had no plans to return, except that I was having lunch at Astrid & Gastón for a re-review and the chef introduced me to the new chef at Bardot, who took over quite recently. We talked briefly and it sounded like he was doing some interesting stuff, so Henry and I decided to make it one of our date nights. I didn’t have a camera along (part of our deal for date nights, we didn’t even bring cellphones).

Arrival, much the same, we were the only people there, but completely warm and welcoming on the part of the staff. Within about half an hour others started to come in and by the time we finished dinner the place was packed. At no time did service dip other than things took the waiters slightly longer to get done, but that’s to be expected logistically. If there was anything that I found slightly off it was that given that the chef had asked us to come in and check out what he was doing, and we both made sure that he knew we were there and asked to talk to him, he never stepped foot out of the kitchen, even when it wasn’t busy. Maybe he’s shy.

The menu has been completely overhauled and in many ways mirrors more the style of both Astrid & Gastón and La Rosa Nautica, with a variety of ceviches, causas and tiraditos to start, along with sampler plates, and then mostly seafood dishes, with a few not. And all, for the most part, modernized versions of classic Peruvian dishes.

We tried two of the tiraditos, a classic version and one with ají amarillo, caramelized rocoto and some huacatay – both were good, but not exceptional, and in the latter, there was so little of the rocoto and huacatay they made no difference to the dish other than as a visual sprinkle. No spice to either. We should have asked for hot sauce, as, later on we thought of it with the main courses and they brought out a really great chili puree. Still, particularly for the latter tiradito it would have been nice to have enough of the rocoto and huacatay to taste and make a difference. Both were served “sashimi style” – the fish had clearly just been laid into the curing liquid, so we let them sit while we had our cocktails so that the fish would cure.

Main courses, we had a seafood and bean stew, quite good flavors though again lacking in spice. One problem, the beans were inconsistently rewarmed – some forkfuls were warm (none hot) and some were near refrigerator cold. A slow cooked (“12 hour”) suckling pig, absolutely falling apart tender with a crispy, crackly skin, that was supposed to be served with a lucuma puree – which it was, but only about a demitasse spoonful as a schmear along one side, mostly it just sat on a somewhat boring sweet potato puree – it was kind of dull, honestly, and that was the point we asked for hot sauce, which completely perked up both dishes.

And, desserts, a “maki” of a chocolate cake (sort of jelly roll sheet cake) rolled around a very subtle passionfruit mousse – needed more punch but tasty. The other, another shot at lucuma, this time in crisp fried tubes sort of like mini-cannoli, with almost no filling, and a chocolate sauce that just sort of drowned the whole thing. Lucuma puree isn’t that hard to get here, there are restaurant suppliers… and it’s not expensive, so I don’t quite know why they’re being so stingy with it.

Overall, service, far better, and like it had been the first couple of times we went. Redecorated room, far nicer. Food, creative and flavorful like it had been in the beginning, but a bit, can I say, “derivative” – for the most part it was a repetition of what the other Peruvian fusion spots in town are doing, and, we didn’t feel done as well, and the spices were far more muted than is necessary even for the mythical porteño spice-averse palate. Given that Bardot is charging prices equal to or higher than the others, in what is still basically a bar and lounge, while I’d still keep it on the recommended list, it isn’t likely it’d be our choice over some of the other spots that just do it all better.

Very nicely, even though we never saw him, the chef gave us a 10% discount on the check, which still, with tip, brought us in at 800 pesos for date night (we did have a round of cocktails, a bottle of wine, water, and coffee as well as the food).

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