Maybe I’m spoiled, hard to please, or just turning into one of those irritating food snobs, but rarely do I encounter a truly memorable restaurant dining experience. I’m talking about the big L, the big O, fireworks, a big brass band mind parade, the whole shabang. So imagine my delight when I found out that the capo in the kitchen, famed Argie chef Hernán Gipponi, began organizing a new way to dine on Monday nights at his restaurant in the Fierro Hotel: Hernán, one table, wine flowing like beer, and a feast inspired by seasonal market ingredients. Sign.Me.Up.Porfis.
So here’s the deal: it’s called One Table, and there is.. yes, you guessed it, one massive communal wooden table that sits 12-16 people. It’s like family style meets a fine dining tasting menu meets a closed door restaurant meets a top Argentine chef meets a top Argentine sommelier, meets a lot of meetings.
Each week the menu changes and isn’t confirmed until the last minute. The menu includes a welcome drink (bloody Mary!) and fried baby squid skewer. Seriously, how can you not feel the welcoming love when given those two lil’ joys upon arrival?
Next up the starters. Four of them. Served by Hernán himself directly from pan to plate, with the leftovers laid out family style to share on the table.
Dear Provoleta, even though you give me stomach aches, you can still do me no wrong. Especially when made with goat cheese that’s perfectly crispy on the outside, gooey melted cheesy insides, and topped with a sweet and tangy kumquat chutney. FLAVA Flaaaaaaaav in da houz.
A basket of fried tempura vegetables – like broccoli, onions and snow peas served with a wasabi lime mayo. There was something about the tempura batter that came out bitter, but somehow it worked once you doused it in the wussssssabi mayonnaise.
You know when something tastes so good that mid bite you realize your manners are so horrendous it’s like you were raised in a zoo? Yeah. I shouldn’t gush too much, but these lil’ Puerto Madryn prawns came out beautifully, especially when served with a creamy herbed garlic mash on the side.
I didn’t think anything could top the other three starters (yeah, we are just starting), until Hernán pops out with a pan of txistorra a la sidra, a Basque sausage (kinda like a longaniza), drenched in meaty cider flavored gravy juices.
Look at that table side service, definitely a crowd pleaser. Hernán sure knows how to please the ladies.
And the gentlemen.
And the me.
The starters were paired with Sidra Pülku, an awesomely refreshing dry cider made in Patagonia. Next year, this will be my drink of the summer.
I also have to mention all the little details put into the night that makes everything extra special and can’t be overlooked: insanely delicious fresh baked bread baskets along with homemade flavored butter and crystalized sea salt, and the massive pickling jars casually placed on the table so diners can scoop and pass around as much of the pickled vegetables as they please: pickles, onions, carrots and beets.
Oh shit, we haven’t even gotten to the first main course yet. An egg cooked at 63 degrees C, served on top of lentils with panceta and cuartirolo cheese. I’m sure any smart food obsessor would agree, that the best part of a grilled cheese sandwich is the gooey cheesy bits that make its way to the pan for that cheesy crispy crunch — well that’s how the cheese in this dish was cooked before being table serviced (again) with a pouring of vegetable broth.
Hernan’s whole kitchen crew came out for the next course. Kinda awesome witnessing the line of cooks in action, plating and serving in real time.
Sauce. Plate. Garnish. Serve –> Puff. Puff. (extra) Puff. Pass.
Hernán Gipponi has been coined a local rice expert, so even though by this time my stomach was slowing down, I had to try the next course: a vegetable risotto-like seasoned rice with a tender piece of lengua de cordero. The ex-vegetarian in me can’t quite write it in English. I’m sorry, little lamby.
Just as I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, vowing to only take a bite of the next course, out came the magret de pato, duck breast with a wonderful browned crispy sear, served on top of a pear puré with a roasted sweet potato and a shaving of turnip. Salty, sweet, tangy, fruity, earthy – yup. All the taste buds have been hit.
The dinner was paired with a selection of killer wines, all chosen by Mr. Sommelier Argentina aka Andrés Rosberg. Andrés is not only an international all star sommelier, but he’s the president of the Argentine Sommelier Association and happens to be head sommelier at Hernan Gipponi Restaurant.
So it wasn’t surprising that the wines chosen were all great pairs: Lorca Poético Viognier, Vicentin Blanc de Malbec 2012 (White Malbec!), Inédito Bonarda Pura Passionate Wines 2012, Escorihuela Gascón Pequeñas Producciones Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, and Saint Felicien Sémilion Doux. (Photo of wines by HG)
By the time dessert came around, I knew I was in trouble. Hernan’s yogurt mousse is one of my favorite things to eat of all time. He’s made other variations for HG brunch, but something about this one was extra special: airy fluffed yogurt, passion fruit granita, lychees and candied pumpkin seeds — all the flavor and texture combos were a total MJ slam dunk.
HG One Table is not for picky eaters, anorexics or bodegon-only traditionalists… it’s for lovers of food, chefs, cooking, communal tables, restaurant details, and for someone who can put their stomach’s trust entirely in Hernán’s magic-working hands.
Hernan Gipponi Restaurant - Fierro Hotel
Soler 5862, Palermo Hollywood
Tel. 3220-6820 – Reservations required
One Table is Monday nights only
Price: AR$380 pesos (welcome drink/bite + 4 tapas + 5 courses + wine pairing)