Aipim – The Last Brunch

One of the places that kept coming up when I asked locals where to go was Aipim.  They also specifically mentioned brunch being the time to try it so that became the plan for Sunday brunch.  Using a handy, OpenTable like system, I booked a reservation for 1PM.  I was slightly concerned about that time as I knew I would be having another epic meal the night before at OchoOnce.  However, when I woke up on Sunday, I was surprisingly hungry again so off I went.

image(138)

The restaurant was tiny – 30 seats but very nice and homey.  There was no menu and the only thing to order was the multi-course brunch with came with fresh squeezed orange juice and coffee for $120 pesos.  The very friendly host/server/bartender explained the concept and noted that it’s only two people running the entire place.  He gave me a glass of delicious orange juice and said he’d be back shortly.  In the meantime, a large group consisting of a multi-generational family came in and now the restaurant was full.  It turned out to be a very wise idea that I made a reservation as the host had to keep turning away hungry looking patrons saying there was no space.

image(137)

Having been in Buenos Aires for over a month, I had long become accustomed to shall we say less than optimal service.  However, even by those standards, after about 40 mins with no food, I was becoming a bit annoyed.  This turned out to be my fault as I had forgotten that the reservation had said 2 and the server was simply waiting for my other party to show up.  Ooops.  Finally, the food started arriving, first with a basket of fresh bread – a buttery, sweet croissant and some interesting bread with pieces of dried apricots in it.  A nice way to kick off the meal.

image(141)

Since I was a bit behind the rest of the people there, the next course came out rather quickly.

image(139)

I had read that this was similar to the amazing lullo mousse I had at Hernan Gipponi and it was, just not quite as good. Still, the light whipped yogurt was nice and tart, contrasting with the sweet fruit that was layered in between.  Really good.

image(140)

Next was, natch, an egg course.  In this case, it was a perfectly poached egg with a black bean succotash and crispy bacon.  I’m not a huge black bean fan so I maneuvered around those and focused on the other elements.  This wasn’t my favorite of the bunch but still a nice egg dish.

image(142)

The main dish was the clear winner – braised rabbit crepes with walnuts and a Peruvian yellow pepper sauce.  It was incredibly rich, savory and absolutely delicious.  I couldn’t get enough of this but glad it was a relatively small size given how rich it was.  I will come back for that someday, oh yes I will.

image(143)

The final course was a bit of sweetness – mango pana cotta with sliced plums.  The pana cotta was just the right texture and given how hot it was outside, a nice refreshing finisher.

I loved this place and cannot recommend it highly enough.  Just make sure to make a reservation in advance or else face the same fate as the disappointed foodies I saw being turned away all meal.

 

Advertisements

Ocho Once

As I’ve talked about previously, puerto cerradas (closed door) restaurants are all the rage in Buenos Aires.  I had read about one that I knew I wanted to check out called Ocho Once so I set up a reservation for Saturday night.  After my usual back and forth about my garlic aversion, I was told to show up at 9PM at a place that turned out to be very close to loft.  As usual, there was no sign or any indication that a restaurant was behind the door of a typical neighborhood flat.

The restaurant was spread out into a series of small rooms, including what I believe must have been the garage at one point.

image(131)

It was nice out so I opted to sit in the patio.  The only problem with that as I soon discovered, was that the light was very low, making my usual food porn shots tricky.  It also prevented me from getting a decent shot of what the patio actually looked like.  They invited me into the kitchen and explained the concept of the restaurant – a mix of French techniques with South American ingredients and traditions.

image(132)

The menu – 5 courses – was only $200 pesos along with $25 pesos for a glass of really good Malbec – a steal.  Unfortunately, due to the low light, the first course, which was a very nice play on ceviche, was not to be documented.  However, the chef, seeing my difficulties trying to get my pics, graciously allowed me to use a flash for the rest of the courses.

image(133)

Next up was a lemon risotto with grilled sweetbreads.  I’m not a huge sweetbreads fan but these were quite good.  The acid from the lemon was much needed to cut through the richness of the sweetbreads.  This wasn’t my favorite course but I could appreciate the technique and effort that went into it.

image(134)

The 3rd course was a bit of a palette cleanser – brie with warm strawberries, arugula and balsamic vinegar.  The chef explained that this was to “reset” our mouths, which it did quite nicely.

image(135)

The main course was an organic steak with chimichurri with a Malbec jus and humita (a local corn and potato mash that is used in locro, an Argentine staple.)  The steak was very juicy and tender.  The humita was a nice twist on the usual potato accompaniment with a steak.

image(136)

Finally, for dessert, the chef brought out a frozen mango cheesecake, grilled peaches and and smear of blackberries.  The cheesecake was a bit tough to eat as it really was frozen – making a loud CLANK every time I tried to cut through.  That sound was heard echoing around the restaurant so I wasn’t the only one having trouble with it.  While I’m not really a mango fan, in this form, it was delicious and the warm peach was delicious as well.

It was another superb meal at any price let alone one this inexpensive.  I will definitely miss being able to have such quality food at a fraction of what I would be paying back in the States.

A night stroll through the ‘hood

To break up my various food porn posts, here are some random shots from a lovely, long late night stroll around my ‘hood.

Crazy gym near me where I always hear various grunting and yelling as I walk by.

Crazy gym near me where I always hear various grunting and yelling as I walk by.

image(126)

El Bonpland parilla - check out the dumb waiter in the corner.

El Bonpland parilla – check out the dumb waiter in the corner.

 

High end bakery near my loft.

High end bakery near my loft.

image(130)

This building cycled through various colors - pretty cool

This building cycled through various colors – pretty cool

Busy Beaver

Busy Beaver

 

Chic boutique hotel

Chic boutique hotel

Some chicas all dolled up about to go into an "aphrodisiac restaurant."  Cheezee

Some chicas all dolled up about to go into an “aphrodisiac restaurant.” Cheezee

 

Hernan Gipponi Restaurant – Lunch of the Gods

Since I’ve been staying here, a restaurant has kept coming up when asking various servers, chefs and people I’ve met as to a place I needed to go before I left – Hernan Gipponi Restaurant.  I decided to change things up a bit and have my big meal for lunch and combined with the perfect weather, it seemed like a great time to try it.

The restaurant is part of the boutique Fierro Hotel, built 3 years ago and labeled as a “hotel for gourmets.”  It’s also only 4 blocks from me so it was a very easy walk.  The building was pretty easy to spot with a bright red sign and sleek glass doors.

image(114)

I walked through the small but sleek lounge and lobby to the back of the main floor, which led to the restaurant.  It was a fairly typical restaurant layout – banquets, comfortable chairs with the nice touch of a large glass window, behind which was the kitchen.  Gipponi was there along with his staff busy working on dishes.  Given the weather was so great, I asked if I could sit outside in their small garden patio.  It was a tad windy but the sun was too inviting not to sit there.

image(115)

There were several options for lunch, 9, 7 and 5 tasting courses.  While both the 9 and 7 looked good, I opted for the 5 course.  I had already informed them of my garlic allergy, which they had assured me was not a problem.  Like everywhere else I’ve eaten, the meal started with bread – a nice assortment, pipping hot along with an herb butter.

image(116)

I declined the wine pairing option given that I did have to work after this and went ala carte from their pretty extensive wines by the glass.  Presented to me on an iPad, I selected the champagne made with a 80/20 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  It was nice and cold – a great way to start my meal.

image(117)

The first course soon arrived, which was different than the one on the menu due to my garlic issue.  While I have no idea what I missed with that course, my course was amazing.  The picture below doesn’t really show the main component – a perfectly cooked large prawn – nor the fantastic “24 hour cooked” tomatoes that really enhanced the flavors.  This was surrounded by arugula and other field greens along with some almonds – very Spanish, which made sense given that Gipponi had been a chef there in the past.  If this was how good every course was going to be, I thought, then I was in for a truly special lunch.

image(118)

The next course would have made my dad very happy but it made me quite happy as well – Eggs 62 with hummus and crispy bacon.  For those not familiar with the egg 62 technique, this is a cooking method where the egg is cooked at precisely 62 degrees C, at which temperature there is no difference between the white and yolk.  It’s extremely difficult to pull off correctly but this version was excellent.  I’m not a big fan of hummus normally but mixed with the eggs and the crispy bacon, it made for a nice textural change.

image(119)

Next up was the Catch of the Day – in this case, white salmon.  Underneath the salmon was the same delicious tomatoes cooked 24 hours along with a very unusual sauce made with mussels.  There were also two mussels along side.  This was probably my least favorite course but it was still very good.  The salmon skin was nice and crisp, and the tomatoes once again brought me back to Spain.

Before the next course, it became a bit too windy to stay outside plus there was a stubborn wasp that wouldn’t leave well enough alone.  I picked the table closest to the garden so I could still get some of the al fresco feeling.  As it turned out, the guy sitting next to me with his laptop was the Director of the hotel.  He told me how the restaurant had taken awhile to get going as the chef wasn’t known locally but that it now had become quite popular.  They do regular wine tasting events with a DJ and are about to shift the tasting menus to be changed every 2 months vs. 3-4 times a year.  He also gave me some suggestions for places to try before I left Buenos Aires.

image(120)

Since the next course was loin of lamb, I switched to a Mendoza based Malbec, which the Director suggested as a nice pairing. The lamb was on a bed of risotto along with a Cabernet sauce and some pickled vegetables, which added a nice acid note to the pretty rich dish.  This was definitely a winner too.

image(121)

I had read about this famous dessert and while not a big cold fruit fan with my sweets, I was still curious to see what it was like.  Oh my goodness was this incredible.  Strawberry granita with mixed fruit and lulo mousse.  The Director told me that lulo is a Colombian fruit that they then turn into a whipped yogurt-like mousse.  Every bite had different textures and flavors.  One of the best desserts I’ve ever had.

All and in all, it was a truly spectacular lunch, one for the ages.  Two hours plus after arriving, I staggered out of the hotel and headed back to my loft for a much needed siesta.

Rey de Copas

I’m a sucker for a great cocktail lounge and having read about the new Rey de Copas (King of Cocktails) in Palermo Soho, I knew I had to check it out.  The plan was to initially go to another newish hot spot Aipim for dinner then head over to Rey de Copas.  Unfortunately, I was victim once again to the summer schedule and the restaurant was closed.  I had read that Rey de Copas had a small but supposedly excellent bar menu so decided to do both dinner and drinks.

image(107)

The lounge was located on a quiet part of Gorriti, a street that is home to many top bars in the area.  It was a bit after 9PM so pretty early for cocktails but it was apparently Ladies Night (no legal issues here I guess for that) so there were already some people there.  Most were hanging out in the patio section so I selected a table there.  Amazingly, the table was both fairly high and had the blessed padding underneath it so I was very pleased, particularly given that I had walked about 2 miles in very hot, sticky weather to get there.

image(113)

I knew I was in good hands when I was presented a shot of their fruit rum punch as a welcome.

image(106)

The cocktail menu was massive, with a lot of very interesting drinks, including 8 different variations on gin and tonic, and 7 different types of juleps.  Since it was so hot, a julep sounded like the way to go.  Since this was clearly a local place, there was no English menu and I had to work with my server a bit to interpret some of the items on the menu.  Finally, I just asked her which julep she liked and she told me to go for the Marrakesh Julep, which had 20 year old aged rum, spiced simple syrup, mint, black sugar and lime juice.

image(108)

I once again relied on my server to suggest a couple of the tapas style dishes from the small food menu.  She recommended the chicken skewers and the shrimp tapas.  Sounded good to me.  The chicken skewers came out first paired with some delicious patatas bravas.  However, since that contains garlic, they graciously put the sauce on the side.

image(112)

The citrus marinade was superb and the chicken was perfectly cooked, moist and juicy with nice wood grilled charring.  They went surprisingly well with the slightly spicy julep.  Next came the shrimp.  I had no idea what to expect but these were delicious too, very large prawns, lightly fried with Panko crumbs and just a pinch or two of salt.

image(111)

Given that it was a school night, only one more cocktail would be imbibed so I turned to my handy server to recommend the one drink she has above all others there.  She eagerly said that would be the Amada.  From the extensive and intriguing list of ingredients, it seemed like a great choice.  The Amada consisted of: Ginger infused vodka, aged rum, Campari, pineapple, grapefruit, lime, spiced simple syrup, Ricard Pernod and lemongrass – whew!

image(109)

This was one seriously complex cocktail, with a mixture of sweet, sour and bitter combined to somehow work together.  Each sip had different elements to it but overall very thirst quenching, which was certainly appreciated given the hot weather.  I plan to come back here before I leave to try other cocktails that looked very intriguing, including at least one that uses what they call the “perfume” of various scents – which is achieved by burning that scent next to the cocktail.  Perhaps a bit much but when cocktails are this clever and delicious, I’ll let it slide.

FAQ

Since yesterday was a relatively quiet day/evening, I thought I’d do an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions for those not in the know) well, for the hell of it.

So given all of the pictures of food porn you’ve posted, how are you not like 1000 pounds by now?

While yes it’s true that I haven’t exactly been in everything in moderation mode, the food here for the most part is fairly healthy.  Plus, given that it’s a big walking city, I’ve gotten a lot of exercise that way as well as actually scheduled exercising.  I will be curious though to see if I gained any weight when I hit the scales upon my return.

It seems like you do a lot of stuff just by yourself.  Are you lonely?

Not at all.  Buenos Aires is a great city to meet a lot of interesting people.  Given my height and the fact that I’m clearly not a local, many people just come up to me and strike up a conversation.  I’ve also established a few hangouts where I’ve gotten to know people.

So does that mean you’ve gone out with other women besides that hellspawn you wrote about?

Yes, but to respect their privacy, I haven’t mentioned them nor included them in any of my reports.

Speaking of that hellspawn, was she really THAT bad?

Worse

Wow, she really was evil eh?

Ayup

What’s your favorite thing about Buenos Aires been so far?

I love the concept of the puerta cerradas (the closed door restaurants)  They have all been superb so far and substantially cheaper than if I had the same menu at a real restaurant. The personal touch and care of everything makes them so great too.

Favorite dish?

Probably the single best thing I’ve had so far was the wood oven roasted chicken at Local – heaven on a plate.  I will be going back there later this week to have it again.

Favorite beverage?

I’ve actually been really impressed with the Argentine whites.  Since it’s been so hot, sometimes a white wine is what is needed more than the tintos (reds)  I’ve had some superb Malbecs too but to be expected.

Surely you have some complaints, right?

Well, one thing that I don’t exactly like is the fact that I have a crazy woman living across the way with her 4 dogs, 3 cats and a parrot that won’t shut up.  Their feeding time seems to always coincide with my siestas too, which is slightly annoying.  I’m also not exactly a fan of humidity so some days have been rough at the peak heat index.  Fortunately, it’s been a lot drier lately though.

What’s left to do?

Lots. I still have several restaurants I want to check out.  I also want to give the Las Canitas late night scene a try given how early I bailed last time.  I may do some more exploring of different barrios too.  Time is running short!

Adventures in Cooking – The Final Chapter?

While I am by no means a chef or even a real cook, I have acquired enough skillz to know my way around pretty much any kitchen.  Of course, the problem when dealing with another person’s kitchen is that you are at the mercy of how much they enjoy cooking too.  It is now clear that the owner of this loft or even the people who rent it, must use the kitchen to make coffee, tea and maybe nuke some sort of frozen meal.  Combined with truly the lowest range ever, my enthusiasm of cooking has waned considerably since being here.

Earlier in the day, things were a lot more promising. I had found some ginormous carrots at a cool vegetable stand and some farm fresh pork chops to pair with them.  The weather was perfect – high 70s with a nice breeze – and I was looking forward to having my meal.  I thought about using the building’s parilla but for one person it was a bit much as well as needed to provide all of the items – charcoal, kindling, etc.  So, back to the stove for me.

My first problem occurred when I discovered there was no peeler.  Well, there must be at least some kind of pairing knife…nope.  I was left with 2 options – try to hack away at it using a regular knife or use the large kitchen knife.  I chose the latter, with slight trepidation given the potential for cutting myself.  In addition, trying to peel carrots this way makes a mess as well as reducing the pieces considerably.  Still, I somehow made it through unscathed.

image(103)

Next up was the pork.  Since it was so fresh, I figured it only needed a bit of salt and some Worcestershire sauce that somehow happened to be on hand (the only seasoning in the cupboard.)  The next challenge was the pan (the only pan) I could use to cook the chops. It was really more of a shallow wok than a sautee pan but it would have to do.  One plus with my range is that it can get pans hot very, very quickly.  This would be critical to making this work so I could sear the sides with enough heat to make up for the uneven surface of the pan.

image(104)

Did I mention that range is really, really low?  While I didn’t have to attend to the chops too much, every time I did, I could feel my back complain.  It was about this point where I wondered if this would be the last thing I cooked here.  Of course, there were no tongs, only a pathetically small spatula which looked like it belonged with a Fisher Price kitchen set.  Still, in the end, despite all of these challenges, the meal turned out to be pretty damn tasty.

image(105)

Not the prettiest girl at the dance but got the job done.  The carrots turned out to be delicious too.  I’ll see if I’m up for it at least one more time but the amount of effort and patience required to create even a half-decent meal in that effin kitchen is considerable.