Unorthodox Eating in Buenos Aires, from Crispy Pasta to Morning Ice Cream
Sure, you can always find imposing, way-above-average hunks of meat on the charcoal-lit grills of Buenos Aires, plus a little bowl full of chimichurri sauce at the table. But things change, and if all you end up doing on your next visit to Argentina’s capital is parrilla-hopping, you'd be missing out on an exciting new restaurant scene that goes far beyond steak and empanadas. Here are some highlights from a recent trip—put them all together and you have an extremely packed, but quite possibly perfect food day:
It doesn't seem like there's going to be a sweet little restaurant on this dingy industrial street, with its wet pockets of cement (be careful!) and yawning garage doors. But walk on, and you'll find Yeite, Pame Villar’s charming coffee shop and all-day cafe connected to a designer clothing store next door. The coffee is good, the food is comforting, and the crowd is chic. A recent daily special involved the simplest cannelloni: two thin crepes filled with ricotta and spinach, with a web of crisp grilled cheese on top. But Villar is a pastry chef, and it would be a shame to miss her best work: At the counter, grab a few slices of cake, fruit-filled pastries, and tender alfajores to go. Yeite is at Humboldt 298, Buenos Aires, Argentina; +54 11 4855-6777.
Gonzalo Aramburu made his name with a fine dining restaurant, Aramburu, but his new bistro, Bis, is a more casual delight. At lunchtime, people might take their time over the six-course tasting menu—cast-iron skillets of South Atlantic shrimp and mushrooms; ravioli filled with kabocha squash and fresh cheese. Others stop in for a quick special of the day, bistro-style, like a pile of fresh pasta, or some roasted meats and vegetables, and call it a day. Either way, the first thing you should do when you sit down is gulp the chilled aperitif at the table—a little bit of sweet Italian vermouth. Aramburu Bis is at Humberto Primo 1207, Buenos Aires, Argentina; +54 11 4304-5697.
Italian immigrants, who first started landing in Argentina in large numbers around the 19th century, brought their ice cream know-how with them. The city is now packed with shops, many of which open pretty early in the morning (and all of which serve dulce de leche). These hours seemed slightly ridiculous to me, until I tasted the fine flavors at Jauja, in a posh corner of Palermo: lemon-elderflower; Andean raspberries; blackcurrant; and maqui, a Patagonian berry they call a superfruit, but which is right at home in a cup of extraordinarily rich ice cream. The next day, at 8:30 a.m., I was back for more. Jauja is at Avenida Cerviño 3901, Buenos Aires, Argentina; +54 11 4801-8126.
Yes, I know, there are tourists filling up this Buenos Aires tango institution. And sure, the giant portions of outdated food won’t be the most exciting you find in town. But when the lights go down, and the violins pick up, and your tuxedoed waiter brings you some vitello tonnato, or a massive pork chop doused in honey sauce, you’ll be happy. And if a heart beats in your body, you’ll be moved to tears when the woman with the gorgeous, powerful voice starts singing Don't Cry for Me Argentina, and the tango dancers wave the flag. La Ventana is at Balcarce 431, Buenos Aires, Argentina; +54 11 4334-1314.
Italian aperitifs seem to dominate the cocktail scene, but Ludovico de Biaggi's modern, sleek, well-balanced drinks are a draw at this spacious basement bar in Retiro. And the refined snacks—fresh blood sausage smeared on toast, a skillet of fried eggs with mushrooms, and cured trout with pickled onions—are just the thing at midnight when your appetite kicks back in after a few drinks. Basa is at Basavilbaso 1328, Buenos Aires, Argentina; +54 11 4893-9444.
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