Due to the impending City Worker Strike in BA we had to cram a lot of touring and exploration (and meals!) into two short days. We had scored a reservation at Mishiguene mishiguene.com for our first night.
This very of -the- moment restaurant was just featured on the latest season of Somebody Feed Phil, a terrific Netflix travel/food series. It also comes highly recommended by Allie Lazar and her very well regarded food blog pickupthefork.com . It features a modern interpretation of Jewish favorites. We were warmly welcomed, and led to our table in the Kitchen! This was a treat as we were able to watch the intricate dance of the chefs in the small kitchen.
My husband and I were starving, and wanted to order many dishes, but we were discouraged by our very kind waiter, who said that the food is very rich and he didn’t want us to become too stuffed. We also relied on him to suggest a wine, which he gladly did. He chose his very favorite, a 2014 Mosquita Muerta, a Tintas Blend from Mendoza mosquitamuertawines.com which was delicious.
The one benefit of the instability in BA is that the dollar is extremely strong against the Peso. Prices are incredibly cheap.
We were served a warm bread basket that was wafting its yeasty aroma our way. Included was a sesame bagel (softer and sweeter than a NY bagel, but still tasty), raisin challah, and a delicious pita. Served along side was a jar of homemade thinly sliced pickles and a small jar of onion spread with schmaltz and fried chicken skin on top (gribenes).
We had to really pare down our order, as so much of the menu appealed. We decided on gefilte fish (really elevated to the next level), hummus (delicious) and their most famous dish- pastrami served on a tremendous latke.
The Gefilte Fish was delicious- firm and not at all fishy. It was wrapped in thinly shaved carrots and served atop a bright pink pool of beet puree, dotted with pickled vegetables.
The hummus was also colored a bright pink by beetroot and served with three generous chickpea balls (falafel) accompanied by a pickled egg and labneh. This was delicately flavored with garlic and truly scrumptious to scoop into the soft pita.
The pièce de résistance was the Pastrami, which is meant to be shared. It is cooked for many hours, and literally falls apart with your fork. It is served atop a brick of perfectly fried potatoes, topped with a fried egg and a red wine reduction.
We didn’t think we could handle dessert, but they were persuasive. We settled on the pistachio baklava which was light and not too sweet. it was served with ethereal ice cream and a crunchy brittle. We found the room!
We really enjoyed this restaurant. Each dish was a revelation, the service was very friendly and solicitous and it was a nod to the large Jewish population that has made its home in Buenos Aires.
The next day we had arranged to spend a day discovering the area of San Telmo. We planned a tour with Cande who we booked through the concierge firstname.lastname@example.org. Because it was Sunday (market day) in San Telmo we figured we could cover traditional food as well as visit the market with a guide.
Cande was knowledgable and enthusiastic to bring us around to try all the flavors of BA. We started by walking through the market, mostly stalls with all sorts of bric -a-brac. We weren’t really in the market, but just wanted to get a feeling. Our first food stop was a local Social Club where we were able to try Empanadas and Mate. Pulperia Quilapan pulperiaquilapan.com is a local spot, open to the public and not at all touristy. We ordered a selection of house made empanadas- really tasty! and a shared cup of mate (Yerba Mate) a highly caffeinated dried herb popular in Argentina. We learned the intricacies of steeping the mate, and sharing it with a silver straw from a special gourd. It was interesting, but not to my taste, though it improved upon the addition of sugar. We arrived just as it was opening, and it quickly started to fill up.
We then continued on to taste a myriad of Dulce de Leches- tremendously sweet, but also very tasty.
We stopped for a bit of wine, and then continued on to a place I had head a lot about Nuestra Paririlla for Choripan. It is literally a in a tiny corner of the market, and you can smell the smoke from quite a ways a way. It is jam packed with locals and tourists alike.
The allure is hard to resist I think this was actually our best bite in Buenos Aires. Perfectly seasoned chorizo sausage slathered with garlicky condiments sandwiched between a perfectly textured roll.
We also had a sliced pork sandwich was good, but not nearly at the same level of perfection.
We happily sauntered off down the street, and this is where we came to the low point of our trip. my Husband and our guide Cande were in front of me on a narrow sidewalk, it was a bright sunny day, and there were many people around us. All of a sudden I felt someone grab my arm from behind and start to pull me backwards. I didn’t have time to process what was happening, and started to scream. A middle aged man was attempting to free my watch from my wrist. He succeeded, but my husband was able to throw him to the ground. At this point the bystanders were screaming for my husband to let him go- it seems you should not resist. In a split second his accomplice came up behind us on a motorcycle and the thief was able to scramble aboard and they zoomed away. As soon as they were off, the bystanders came around to check on our well being and a policewoman who was standing near by was summoned. We were luck to have our guide with us who facilitated the dealings with the police. We were brought to the nearby police station to file a report and clean up our (thankfully small ) cuts that we incurred in the scuffle.
While in the police station another couple came in who suffered an almost identical fate, though they lost their camera equipment as well. The moral of the story is DO NOT WEAR ANY JEWELRY, or easily RECOGNIZABLE WATCHES while walking around Buenos Aires. I was warned in advance, but didn’t listen. I wish I did!
We spent about an hour and a half with the Police, and then decided we needed to not let this incident ruin our trip, so we went on to have some Argentinian Pizza. We also wanted to get out of the San Telmo area, so we traveled to Napoles Bar which is not only a bar and restaurant, it is also a retail spot. The restaurant is fairly new, but has been designed to look as though it has been around for ages. the pizza is an interpretation of traditional Italian Pizza. It is VERY cheesy, and while it says the cheese is mozzarella, I think it is provolone. This was our final stop with our guide. We really enjoyed our time with her (aside from the mugging)!
We took a cab from Napoles to the Palermo Soho neighborhood was was great. I kind of wish we had skipped San Telmo altogether and spent more time here. It was like the Hipster version of BA. We tried to go to a brand new American style Donut spot @donutherapy, but they were all sold out of donuts for the day!
We wandered around, looking in to shops, and sharing some wine to help us deal with the earlier events of the day. We needed a break from eating as we had a reservation at the much acclaimed Don Julio parrilladonjulio.com .
We rolled in at about 8:00 pm, early by Argentinian standards, but it was packed. We were seated up on the mezzanine over looking the dining room and grill. We were handed a very meat-centric menu, and perused it for a while before we made our choices. We went with Provoleta, a fried disk of provolone cheese which was like the best part of a grilled cheese sandwich.
We also tried a grilled chorizo sausage to compare it to the one we enjoyed at Nuestra Parrilla. For our main course we shared the Bife de chorizo mariposa, the butterfly sirloin steak. We ordered the steak medium rare. Of course we ordered fries to go with it. The waiter immediately brought out a clover shaped warm yeasty roll. It was especially tasty when dipped in the olive oil served alongside it. To wash it all down we ordered a 2014 Rutini Cabernet Franc from Mendoza (rutiniwines.com). The wine was very good.
The waiter brought us the provoletta and sausage simultaneously. Both were just ok. Neither were sublime. We were a bit underwhelmed, especially after all the raves we had heard about Don Julio.
Perhaps the steak would blow us away? Well, the fries appeared first. they were fabulous. Hot, super crispy and just the right amount of oily goodness. Things were looking up!
The steak came next. It was very very rare. I tried to give it a go, but my husband sent his back to be cooked a bit longer. The meat was very tough.
You can cut the steak with a spoon in Argentina was a refrain I heard often before we left for our trip. Not this steak! You needed a saw. And strong jaw muscles. And maybe some extra salt. The entire meal was saved by the fries. We didn’t have room for dessert.
Well, that was quite a day! Definite highs and one big low. We vowed not to let the robbery color our view of BA. We had one more day to explore before we headed home.