Aipim no longer exists, but Naiara Calviño has reopened CHOCHÁN in San Telmo.
Relatively new to the Palermo Soho restaurant scene, Aipim is one of those special gems where everything on the menu looks like something you’d want to order. All the factors that make a restaurant great are there: attentive service, a keen eye on presentation, and of course, banging food. It’s the type of place where you instantly feel welcome, treated by the owner like a regular, and begin planning your next visit before you have even finished your meal. Open for dinner four days per week, and midday only one, I brunched it up Domingo-style with an impressively elaborate six course meal.Owned by the young and talented cocinera Naiara Calviño, this Latin American-influenced menu offers dishes inspired by the chef’s travels, using only fresh and in-season ingredients. An intimate cozy space with only about 20 covers, the underground converted loft-like style has bricks covering the high-walled space. It’s like a puerta abierta kind of spot, where although you are actually in a real restaurant, there is still the onda that you have just stepped into the chef’s apartment, decorated with photos and books from her South American cooking travels.Aipim, the Portuguese word for mandioca (or yuca), has not only a Brazilian influenced menu, but also Latin American flavors and ingredients from Argentina, Peru, Paraguay, Chile, Colombia — and even some sprinklings of Asian flavors. The dinner menu changes seasonally, but you can expect dishes like pork with black beans, fried plantains and a salad of red onion with orange, mango and cilantro — or duck bread with sopa paraguaya and caramelized peaches.The brunch menu changes weekly, but always starts off with the best way to start the day: a bowl of fresh-baked breads. Packed with carbolicious wonders, a homemade high quality panera is the ultimate litmus test that sets the tone for the rest of the meal. And expectations were mighty high since Naiara was in charge of pastelería at one of my favorite Buenos Aires restaurants, Urondo Bar.This bread basket passed the test, it was the type of bread basket you’d like to stuff what’s left into your purse and save for later, but your fatty ass eats it all before you can begin the purse stuffing. Served with a grapefruit butter and raspberry marmalade, I could have eaten the focaccia and rye bread (with honey, oats, raisins and apricots) all day long. The croissant-like medialuna might just win the award for top 5 medialunas in the city – flaky, buttery, warm, with layers of doughy insides – butter me up.It seems like 2012 has been the year of yogurt casero. The capital city of Buenos Aires is demanding their yogurt, and demanding it homemade. This version is made with granola, fruit and brown mascavo sugar – simply creamily delicious. Next up an egg dish, which varies from week to week. This was a scrambled egg on top of a crispy sweet potato croquette, in-house cured salmon, asparagus and cherry tomato confit. Possibly a bit too much going on, it didn’t really matter because each individual component was well seasoned and very tasty on its own (especially the croquette and salmon).I wasn’t a huge fan of the consistency of the ultra-creamy puré-like scrambled eggs, but the flavor was on point.This might have been my favorite course of the meal – bondiola CASERA (homemade strips of pork shoulder) served with caramelized mango and a few hojas of arugula silvestre. I wanted to pop ten more of these mango-bondiola bites into my boca. Sweet n’ salty, I really hate it when people use the lame term ‘party in my mouth’ – but it really was a fucking fiesta on the tongue, dancing away on MDMA all over my taste buds. Ooooo how lovely and refreshing it is when a cook can actually tempura properly, perfectly, in a juicy yet non-greasy way. This Asian-influenced white salmon tempura-ed, roasted corn and pickled cucumber and radish with a hoisin sauce really made a beautiful dish. It’s a dish I’d like to eat again, but didn’t think it meshed together with the rest of the brunch. Fried food is my BFF, but being quite full from the other four courses + bread basket, and eating the sweet potato croqueta that was also fried, I wanted something a bit lighter.Remember what I said about fried being my BFF? It was welcomed with open mouths for this pre postre: a little cylinder filled with guayaba, and served atop of a piece of brie cheese. The good? I wanted more, many more. The bad? Although pre-warned about the temperature, it was way too hot to eat as served.
One of my favorite Buenos Aires desserts of all time – this vanilla bean panna cotta was topped with a passionfruit granita and a nuggety crumble. Vanilla bean specks galore, the maracuyá shaved ice and sugary buttery crumble, not only had incredible flavors, but all the textures went together like a happy Polygamist family.This dish totally reminded me of my other favorite Buenos Aires dish: the lulo mousse from Hernán Gipponi restaurant in the Fierro Hotel. And it makes sense, Naiara used to work in the kitchen at HG.
New restaurants always have a few kinks to work out. But luckily Aipim offers great food with interesting inventive flavors, beautiful presentation, a comfortable ambience and friendly service — where the chef/owner makes sure to set the tone with her pure buena onda presence in the front of the house.
Thames 1535 (Palermo Soho)Villa Crespo
Friday & Saturday: 8pm – close
Average price: AR$230 (dinner)
**NOTE: This review is from 2012 and since Aipim has closed but has reopened with a similar concept: Chochán in San Telmo (Piedras 672).