Buenos Aires is no stranger to Mediterranean flavors. With a history of Middle Eastern (mostly Syrian and Lebanese) and Armenian immigration, each with culturally active communities, it’s pretty easy to find your face nose deep in shawarma. But this one Almagro hole in the wall a few blocks away from Parque Centenario stands out from the rest with properly made hummus, eggplant dip, shawarma, and falafel — all done the Israeli way.
I ate real Israeli food for the first time two years ago, in Israel, and it was love at first taste. Even though I basically grew with a bagel in my mouth and Jewish deli meats jiggling alongside my thighs, I never really discovered the magical wonders of Israeli cuisine until my first trip to Israel: high quality market fresh produce, colorful salads, tahini rich creamy hummus, fluffy pillows of pita, the shawarmas, the lamb kebabs, the falafel, the soups, the breakfasts – my eyes opened to a culturally rich cuisine I never really knew existed. And although I was ready to move to Israel for the food, I instead stayed in Buenos Aires, with starry eyed dreams of one day eating the real deal in my transplant city.
And that day finally came thanks to Teamim (טעמים), a name which translates to flavor in English and sabor in Spanish, and delicious in taste buds.
Walk into the minimalistic (?) space blasting an Israeli radio station and you’ll see the open kitchen to your left, and a few wooden picnic tables ahead, and that’s pretty much it. It’s a small operation — generally a two-three person team making dishes (all fresh) to order, frying falafel, prepping vegetables, taking orders, serving customers, all at the same time. There’s no menu, just what’s displayed on the chalkboard outside on the window (although they offer more dishes that appear on that menu). Most of the customers are ordering food to take away, but there are some that plop down on the benches and eat in house, all served with plastic plates, forks, and knives.
Time to break it down, eggplant style, starting with the babaganoush family and some mutabal, or smokey eggplant dip. This creamy eggplant dish deserves some sort of award: eggplant with that rich charred smoky flavor, puréed with what seems to taste like yogurt, tahini, lemon and salt. I hear Jesus ate this goodness all day long.
Simple. rich. creamy. might tasty. It’s the type of dip you want to put on everything. Or just dunk your dirty finger into.
Falafel is one of those foods common to find in BA, but so often made completely wrong. Luckily these lil’ bad boys were just the fried mouth poppers I was looking for – bite size (smaller than traditional falafel), but with a wonderful crisp fried crust and soft herby-spiced middle. Whether served al plato or in a sandwich, these are Middle Eastern nuggets of pure happiness.
General falafel rule: Eat it right away (just like most fried foods). Falafel ain’t the hotness after it cools and sogs down.
OH real hummus, how I’ve missed you so. This city certainly does not know how to do hummus (the kind with lots of expensive tahini), and so many times it’s disguised as a puré of chickpeas with oil, chickpeas with sesame seeds, or, the insanely blasphemous and utterly silly, chickpeas with peanut butter (I’m talking to you, SARKIS). But this hummus was TAHINI-ed to the moon, creamy with a rainbow bright lemon squeeze. (Although it could have done without the heavy pour of oil on top when served in house, I’m just sayin’)
Don’t you hate it when your tabbouleh comes out with tiny bulgur wheat specks, unsalted, unlemon-ed, and filled with sad soggy vegetables that do not belong? No? Well you should. Teamim’s version was one of the better types I’ve had in BA – obviously super fresh, seasoned just how me likes, and packed with a good ratio of tomato-onion-parsley to cracked grain. The OCD in me wished the onions were chopped smaller and in uniform pieces, but I’ll let it slide and stick to washing my hands every time I see the number 7.
SHABBAT SHALOM, SHABBAT SHAWARMA. It wouldn’t be an Israeli feast without some shawarma. And some mighty fine shawarma might I add. Super flavorful meat nicely spiced and thrown into a massive lavash flat bread with tabbouleh salad, red cabbage, hummus, yogurt sauce and some nice picante heat. Totally sensual shawarma eating experience, I highly recommend you jump on that wagon. *You can also buy the lavash bread separately, which makes great chips for dipping when spread with garlic oil and lightly baked in the oven.
Even though it’s not really Israeli, it’s hard to pass on an ensalada belén when on a menu. Ever since I first tried this roasted eggplant, roasted red pepper, raisin and nut salad back in my early Buenos Aires days, I instantly became hooked. Teamim’s version is probably the better renditions I’ve tasted, eggplant perfectly smoky and seasoned, each vegetable roasted to his or her own potential, seedless white raisins for some sweetness (raisins usually ruin everything, but this time it works), and upon serving it’s topped with toasted cashew nutz. Querida Belén, You don’t know me, but I think I have a major girl crush on your salad.
Since all the food is made fresh daily and to order, if you head there too late it’s not uncommon for them to run out of popular items, or if you go too early the dishes aren’t quite ready yet. My tip: Even if Teamim is out of your Palermo way, call in advance, order a bunch of dishes for takeaway, go pick it up and also order a falafel sandwich to quench your immediate Middle Eastern hunger pains. In the meantime, I’ll still be praying to Hashem for more Israeli food in Buenos Aires: Israeli breakfasts, salads, shakshouka, THE WORKS.
Teamim – Sabores del medio oriente, y más…
Av Diaz Velez 4431, Almagro/Parque Centenario
Mon – Wed: 10am – 3pm, 5pm – 9pm. Thurs – Fri: 10am – 3pm, 5pm – 10pm.
Average price: 60 pesos
*If you aren’t familiar with Israeli food, you should be. Check out these resources to learn the basics on Israeli cuisine:
BIG thank you goes to Lauren from Acupuncture Buenos Aires for the hummusy tip off — she not only has healing Chinese Medicine hands, but knows her stuff when it comes to falafel.