Wandering Bites

2011.Sep.24 Saturday · 5 comments

in Restaurants

Inala ayihambi, kuhamba indlala

Usually translated as: Plenty sits still, hunger is a wanderer.”

– Zulu proverb

A few short notes on worthy spots I’ve stopped at to grab a quick bite….

You might remember Arévalito, Arévalo 1478, Palermo, from when it was called Providencia and was located around the corner. Back then it was a large affair, with a dozen picnic tables that people shared, another couple of dozen small tables in another room for those who wanted separate tables, and a half dozen huge deck ovens firing on all cylinders and cranking out not just interesting vegetarian food, but a constant stream of loaves of bread for their restaurant supply bakery, Los 7 Panes. The bakery is now elsewhere, and the restaurant has been relocated to this quirky little hole in the wall space that seats around a dozen people total, plus the occasional outside table in nice weather.

Arevalito - sandwich popeye
The menu has likewise been reduced, though remains vegetarian and reasonably creative. Not quite as much as it used to be and no sign of Carmen nor Juan, presumably over at the bakery, and the staff who were there the day I popped in seemed only vaguely familiar with the history. But, at least the quality is still very good, and I was completely satisfied with this sandwich popeye (pronounced here as “Po-pay-eh”), delicious fresh olive oil bread, thick cut and toasted, filled with spinach, tomatoes, caramelized onions and gooey, melted cheese. A great little spot to stop in – Arévalo is becoming quite the lineup of foodie spots – and very convenient to the studios of our local food channel, El Gourmet, if one were, to say, be interviewing and auditioning for their own cooking show on next year’s schedule. Hypothetically speaking.

El Banco Rojo
In a whole other part of town, San Telmo, El Banco Rojo, Bolívar 914, move to Bolivar 866 in 2016, is serving up lamb döner kebabs, chicken shawarma (is there really any difference between a döner and a shawarma?) and salads out of a little storefront with just a few stools at a counter for dining. The owner, according to the young man showing off his company t-shirt here (love it!) is apparently from Kentucky.

El Banco Rojo - doner kebab
Fairly ordinary commercial pita is made up for by generous shavings of charred, well seasoned lamb, lettuce, tomato, onion, red cabbage, a sort of tzatziki of yogurt and cucumber, hummus, and optional hot sauce (which isn’t all that hot, but at least has some kick). One of the better shawarmas, err, umm, döner kebabs, I’ve had in quite awhile.

So Bagels
For some time now I’ve been hearing about a bagel operation out in Villa DeVoto with a storefront. Haven’t been, don’t know where it is exactly. But, suddenly around two weeks ago this little counter opened up at Uruguay 879 just off the corner of Paraguay, called So Bagels. Chatting with the counter guy and the woman back in the small prep kitchen, I gather they make their own bagels, muffins, brownies and cookies out in Villa DeVoto and bring them in daily to stock this lunch counter. [I’m later informed by others that the bagels are made by The Buenos Aires Bread Company – which seems at odds with what the counter-guy claimed, unless they’re branches of the same company.] [Closed]

So Bagels menu
With just eight sandwiches to choose from, you pick your filling combo (each “named after a park in New York City” – I’m pretty sure “Lox” is not a park – neither, as far as I know, are Allen nor Bowery – but we’ll leave that aside), your type of bagel – plain, whole wheat, and a couple of different topped ones of varied seeds. They’ve also got Lavazza coffee ready to brew up. You can stand there and munch away on your bagel sandwich or, as the majority of folk do, take it away.

So Bagels - lox sandwich
Going straight for the New York comparison, I went for the “Lox”. Whole wheat bagel – decent, not great – the kind of bagel you’d find at a diner in any part of Manhattan, better toasted than not, could use a little more “chew”. Decent schmear of cream cheese, good smoked salmon (not lox, not that anyone here seems to know the difference), and even a decent number of slices of it. Some arugula and capers. Could have used a slice or red onion, which I added at home after trying it without.

It’s no:

Tal Bagels - bagel, lox, and creamed herring
But it’s a start.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jed September 24, 2011 at 19:58

Haha! Does that guy’s shirt say “Fuck you, We’re from San Telmo”??

Great find Dan! I’m heading there next week-

dan September 25, 2011 at 01:25

It does, and it’s apparently the “team uniform” for the shop. Gotta love it!

Ryan Hayle September 26, 2011 at 11:50

I noticed you added El Banco Rojo as #7 in your shawarma/döner list… It caught my eye because you said they actually serve *real* (lamb) kebabs, not these (in my opinion) awful, inauthentic all-beef ones that only Argies could come up with. Does Medio Oriente serve lamb (or beef/lamb mix, as is traditional)?

I just tried the “shawarma” at Demask and found it incredibly awful, which is what lead me to your website. It was just like a steak fajita sandwich! Luckily the chicken shawarma was incredible–possibly the best I’ve had.

I realize I have rather specific tastes in döner, which developed in Turkey, Germany, and the U.K. I wouldn’t claim to be an expert, but I know what I like, which is authenticity, so I get really upset when I go to restaurants here in BsAs that I feel have “modified” the food to more accommodate Argentinians beef-obsessed palette.

So, who gets your vote for the best lamb or beef/lamb kebab? I’m loving your website so far, and am eager to check out many of your recommendations!

dan September 26, 2011 at 13:48

Ryan – as far as I know, there are only two or three places that even offer lamb shawarma. Most of them are just beef or chicken – no lamb involved at all, not even a mix (including Medio Oriente, which, good as it is, is just beef – probably simply economics – lamb here costs anywhere between two and four times what beef does). And, one pork, which could very well be the only pork shawarma in existence (probably not, but it was a surprise). So it’s actually kind of easy as, as far as I know, the only offerings that include lamb are Arabian Food, the little takeout stand on Lavalle, which isn’t that good, and Dody Doner Kebab – which it’s hard to say what they offer, since they claim both beef and lamb options, and then carve off the same rotisserie regardless of which one you order (and it’s that press-board style meat that I hate). So El Banco Rojo wins simply by being the only good spot that offers lamb at all. Is it as good as you’d get in the middle east? Not remotely. None of them are.

In terms of “getting upset” – why should you? We’re not in Turkey, or anywhere else where shawarma is traditional. Of course it’s going to be changed for local tastes, be it the seasoning or sauces, or choice of meat. The same is true about every other ethnic cuisine that’s here, or anywhere else. Local tastes always end up prevailing, it’s a simple fact of business necessity. Authenticity is a great thing if you have a client base to support it. It’s sheer stupidity as a business person if you don’t.

As to Demashk, sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy it. On the other hand, the reviews of most of these were written in a series three years ago – places change. I have been back since, though it’s been at least two years, and it was, at that time anyway, still one of the best. Again, beef only.

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