Slow clap it up because 2013 was a helluva year, pushing Buenos Aires closer to that culinary destination in the sky. Let’s reminisce and gush over master bartenders paying homage to their aperitivo Argentine roots, while also giving an erect salute to the eclectic mix of restaurant openings that have continued to show that Buenos Aires is oh-so-much more than parrilla, pizza, and empanadas. As we enter into 2014, with full stomachs and even higher blood alcohol level, let’s do what every other publication does and round up the whole year in one article listing the best top new restaurants, bars and cafés of dos-mil-trece.
The Top 10 New Restaurants
Antonio Soriano’s long anticipated restaurant Astor wins my fork’s award of the best new restaurant of 2013 and here’s why: the seasonal menu that changes weekly brings a fresh face to Nueva Cocina Argentina in a relaxed and unpretentious setting. Ideal for a quick lunch sitting at the bar that overlooks an open kitchen, or perfect for a romantic multi course dinner on a special occasion (that still won’t leave you with an empty wallet), Astor is the type of place where you want to become a regular to try many things on the innovative menu, and can actually afford to do so.
It’s hard not to have mad love for a wonderland that offers an excellent wine selection, great strong coffee, insanely tasty baked sourdough breads, stomach orgasming sandwiches + lime tart, and ultra friendly service from owners who have a passion for what they do. Pain et Vin, thank you for existing.
If I had to choose my favorite type of joint that is unable to light a spark, burgers would probably be involved somehow. You know it’s meant to be when a cool spot slings bomb burgers, banging fries, homemade condiments, hates Bieber and the Kardashians and shows crazy amor for Seinfeld. It may not be the original NYC burger joint but BJPalerrrrmo4life. 2014 news flash: The jizzoint will now be serving homemade buns. Put that in your bun and smoke it.
OMG, could it be?! Pork buns, ramen and Momofuku Milk Bar style cookies and sweet milk have slurped into Palermo for the city’s first ever noodle bar. Everything is homemade, down to making the noodles by hand, slow cooking the flavorful broth for hours, and fresh baking the cereal candied cookies.
A retro bistro boasting a modern Argentine-French menu, El Perlado makes for a tiny gem in Congreso that’s a great date spot, especially for those who want to impress but are on a budget. Day time executives head for their lunch special while the nighttime crowd can get down with good cocktails and killer appetizers. Tip: since it’s right next door to (and partially the same owners as) Chan Chan, it’s a solid plan B for when the wait at the Peruvian powerhouse is fuera de control. (Photo: Buenos Aires Connect)
Homesick Brits now have their fryer prayers answered: a real fish n’ chips shop splashing big in BA. The fish always comes out perfectly cooked, juicy on the inside with a crispy fried crust, something that is difficult to attain in the overly greasy fried world we live in.
Peronistas, Kirchneristas, Anarchistas, Anti-istas, no matter what you align with politically, there’s one thing that everyone can agree upon: you’ll want to give sweet long sensual besos to Peron Peron’s ossobuco empanadas. The Peronist themed bar/restaurant has an entirely new face in the kitchen, with the chef Gonzalo Alderete Pagés launching a totally revamped menu.
We have all heard of Casa Cruz. Perhaps we visited once back in 2007 when it was a fancy pants restaurant costing a hefty price and dishing mediocre food, but never really had a burning desire to return. But fast forward to this year, Aldo Graziani (of Aldo’s Vinoteca) and Inés de los Santos (of the rockstar bartender that she is) come back to join forces and offer something completely different: true Argentine bodegón classics, kicked up a notch, served alongside special house cocktails (by the glass and even by the jug), impressive wine selection, and all in a luxurious comfortable setting. Start with some tapas like the tortilla española and pickled eggplant and continue to gorge on the entraña marinada with puré de papas. Also, be sure to take lots of selfies in the impressive wine cava bathroom.
With a new lime tattoo on his forearm, Jose Mendivil Castro (chef who brought us Sipan, Osaka, Mullu) is back with his latest Peruvian fusion creation. Olaya isn’t just another Peruvian-Japanese nikkei experience with sweet maracuyá sauce on top, instead it combines Peruvian food with other worldly cuisines: Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, French, and Italian. The space is crazy cool and extravagant, with massive wall paintings, pisco bottle displays and a whole fish on ice next to the open kitchen. It’s where big spenders meet trendy Palermo scenesters meet elaborate Peruvian flavors.
Both Elena Restaurant and Pony Line in the Four Seasons hotel premiered late last year as a winning restaurant-bar couple, and now, a year later, Nuestro Secreto comes flaming in for a meaty kill. Held in an impressive space, NS is all about fire: using different types of wood to cook locally sourced meats on the parrilla and wood-fire oven. This photo above is of the ice cream line at Four Seasons, Dolce Morte, which alone merits a visit: Chokotorta and Dark After Eight — allz you need to know, hijo.
The Top 10 New Bars
What happens when two Buenos Aires drink lords join forces and put together an all star staff of top bartenders, cooks, and sommeliers? From the creator of 878 Bar, Julián Díaz, and the brains behind Principe de los Apostoles gin (and really, all things good drinks-related in BA), Tato Giovannoni, Florería Atlántico is one of the best things that has happened to Retiro. In just one year of existing, it has already won the top spot for best bar in Latin America, and that’s not even why it rocks: the design makes you feel as if you accidentally wandered into a magical cocktail bunker, where upon embarking you have entered into Florería’s Lion, Witch and Cocktail Wardrobe – creative (masterfully mixed) drinks bountifully flow while all the food proudly parades and sizzles atop an INDOOR PARRILLA.
Fede Cuco, the pride and joy of all porteño tenders of bar, shakes it up with a winning cocktail club, paying homage to the great poet Jules Verne. First class drinks become the star of the show, innovative and original, jetsetting around the coctel globe to put a modern twist on classics (including an ABSINTHE fountain brought specially from France, which is highly recommended for those nights when you’d like to make bad decisions and have foggy memories about said decisions). The bar itself is quite an impressive futuristic construction, as is the massive Kraken that rises behind the bar shelves, creeping alongside bottles of beautiful alcohol. If you are a lover of cocktails made by a pro, aperitivos, and gourmet hot dogs (the food menu is basically a pancho fellator’s dream), Verne Club should become your watering hueco.
The Villa Crespo vermouth bar has made the move to open up a second location in Palermo Hollywood, offering the same sampling of tapas plates and simple aperitivo classics. Head upstairs to the terrace which has become one of the hottest spots to beat the heat, especially when you order a spread of gambas, tortilla española, and burrata, alongside a cinzano and soda, all topped off with maracuyá pie for dessert.
What more could you want in a bar than a bunch of hot hipster chicks in retro dresses carrying around hand-held blow torches to inflame delicious drinks? Sexy, I know, contain your cocktail hard on. Climb up to the rooftop bar, tell the bartender what you’re into, and have them whip you up a refreshing summer drink. (Photo: Leitmotiv)
Ditching its small location on Bonpland, Boteco has moved a few blocks away into La Maison’s beautiful space for more sungas, samba, and caipi fun. Their patio is ideal for either a romantic date night or group eating-drinking action (just make sure to reserve).
With only a handful of options in Palermo for true beer aficionados, The Temple Bar is welcomed with open chilled cerveza arms. They serve a substantial offering of beers by the bottle (from over 15 countries) and a solid selection of artisanal beers. Head for happy hour (2×1) or with a group (they offer good promos for groups with pizza libre), and watch your beer panza expand before your eyes. (Photo: Temple)
Not many hotel bars are actually cool for locals to visit, but Pony Line breaks that rule, busting through the hotel-bar stereotype and becoming just “bar.” You can bet that any drink you order will be good, especially the mate inspired tereré and other seasonal creations. And yes, yes I know, Pony Line technically opened at the end of 2012, but it’s worthy of a mention anyway because I do what I want. (Photo: Pony Line)
The makers of Frank’s, Palermo’s favorite (and only?) speakeasy, are back at it again with another Prohibition Era 1920s inspired bar. Part sushi restaurant Nicky New York, part secret password protected cocktail bar, it’s the type of place that’s kinda so pretentiously trendy you don’t want to like it, but the bartenders know how to concoct insanely good drinks (the menu was designed by the capo of cocktails Seba García) and space is really awesome, so you don’t want to miss out. (Photo: Viaresto)
It’s not common to find a spot that serves both great food and awesome cocktails, but BASA manages to make that seamless crossover and keeps Buenos Aires classy with a new take on a trendy restaurant and lounge. Ludovico de Biaggi, who has generations of cocktail juice running through his veins, takes over the bar serving top notch drinks with style.
The Top 5 New Cafés
The New York style café that took Villa Crespo by storm has now opened a second location in new culinary hotspot Palermo Botánico. English muffins, fast WiFi, and a beautiful patio overlooking the open kitchen / baking factory. Go for the bakery goods and freshly made breads, stay for the weekend brunch, fri-ta-tas and bruschettas.
It’s a little piece of NYC in Botánico – insanely good coffee (especially the cappuccino and iced coffee) and a killer brunch that offers unlimited refills of that wonderful coffee. Birkin is a total winner.
Retiro can now have some good New York style café loving too. The two level spot is run by the same owners of BASA and Gran Bar Danzon, but this time with a relaxed coffee shop feel serving sandwiches, meriendas, brunch and coffee. (Photo Grand Cafe)
And it wouldn’t be a year in review without presenting an award for Mr./Ms. Argentina Culinary Master 2013. This fabricated award goes to someone who has made a huge impact for the bright future of the Argentine gastronomy world. Martín Auzmendi – journalist, writer, Argentina’s Campari Ambassador, and all around swell guy – receives my golden blonde fork for helping to bring the food scene in Buenos Aires into the spotlight. Every food event he touched this year became an instant success: an integral player in organizing Festival Raiz at Tecnopolis, #MAPA (the Argentine aperitivo movement), the Mozzarella pizza 5k marathon, The Tales of the Cocktails, and authoring the hit book Cocteles en el Camino, stories that chronicle his personal journey through bars that span across the globe.
Other new restaurants on the list to visit in 2014: Mesa 524, BOW, Oporto Almacén , 180 Burger bar, Kensho, Nolita, Chira, Partenope, M Palermo, Rocco, Nana, Peugeot Lounge, Primafila, and Dogg.
Buenos Aires Best New Restaurants, Bars, Cafés 2013 Hotspot Quick Facts:
- ASTOR · manduque porteño - Ciudad de la Paz 353, Belgrano. Tel. 4554-0802
- Chipper - Humboldt 1893, Palermo Hollywood. Tel. 4777-6760
- Pain et Vin - Gorriti 5132, Palermo Soho. Tel. 4832-5654
- Burger Joint - Borges 1766, Palermo Soho. Tel. 4833-5151
- Fukuro - Costa Rica 5514, Palermo Hollywood. Tel. 15-3290-0912
- Peron Peron - Carranza 2225, Palermo Hollywood. Tel. 4777-6194
- Casa Cruz - Uriarte 1658, Palermo Soho. Tel. 4833-1112
- Olaya – Humboldt 1550, Palermo Hollywood. Tel. 4843-1751
- El Perlado - Hipólito Yrigoyen 1386, Congreso. Tel. 4382-8689
- Nuestro Secreto - Cerrito 1455, Recoleta. Tel. 4321-1552
- Floreria Atlántico - Arroyo 872, Retiro. Tel. 4313-6093
- Verne Club - Medrano 1475, Palermo Viejo. Tel. 4822-0980
- La Esperanza de los Ascurra - Fitz Roy 1818, Palermo Hollywood. Tel. 3533-7122
- Leitmotiv - Cabrera 5696, Palermo Hollywood. Tel. 4777-0743
- Boteco do Brasil - Honduras 5774, Palermo Hollywood. Tel. 3979-2970
- The Temple Bar - Costa Rica 4677, Palermo Soho. Tel. 4831-5430
- The Harrison Speakeasy - Malabia y Costa Rica, Palermo Soho. Tel. 4831-0519
- BASA Basement Bar - Basavilbaso 1328, Retiro. Tel. 4893-9444
- The Steve Bar - El Salvador 4968, Palermo Soho. Tel. 6056-9099
- Pony Line - Cerrito 1455, Recoleta. Tel. 4321-1552
- Malvón - Malvón 3275, Palermo Botánico. Tel. 4774-2563
- Ninina - Gorriti 4738, Palermo Soho. Tel. 4832-0070
- Birkin - República Árabe Siria 3061, Palermo Botánico. Tel. 4843-7470
- Full City Coffee House - Thames 1535, Palermo Soho. Tel. 4833-6774
- Grand Café - Basavilbaso 1340, Retiro. Tel. 4893-9333
Disclaimer: I am aware that the majority of these recommendations are based in P-town (because we all know Palerrrrrmo is the capital of the Buenos Aires universe). I graciously invite you to send me your favorite new restaurant-bar-café. Especially in Colegiales… because that’s where I live.