It’s only the first half of 2014 and the city has already exploded with new places to eat out. There seems to be a common trend with this Freshman class of newbies that I’m totally digging. It’s a general theme that is setting a new tone for the future way Buenos Aires dines: cooks and chefs as owners, involved in small yet unique passion projects, mostly opening outside the Palermo Soho bubble to serve a limited *and affordable* menu that simply focuses on great food. Here are the highlights of best new restaurants (cafés and bars) in Buenos Aires during 2014 (in no particular order).
DABBANG is DA BOMB. When a banging cook quietly opens a restaurant where Indian and Southeast Asian comfort food meet in Buenos Aires, a total taste bud orgasm follows. Gran Dabbang knows what’s up when it comes to downright bold and balanced flavors: Dal Makhani lentil curry, swiss chard pakoras with raita and carrot chutney, roasted pork belly, and a terrine with caperberries and pickled fruit and vegetables. DABBANG is da type of place where everything on the menu you try is good, and it instantly becomes da spot you want to visit at least once a week for a poppadom top off. Scalabrini Ortiz 1543, Palermo Viejo.
LA ALACENA CAFE Oh, finally a café that does something different, and just gets it totally right. Alacena makes me happy for the following reasons: inviting space with modern open kitchen, friendly staff, outskirts of Palermo location, and of course the super interesting menu that masters understanding flavors, texture and ingredients. Think pressed sandwiches on chapa bread, hearty (and well rounded) salads, specials that focus around a different daily protein, pastries, weekend brunch, and a bomb postre game – like this dark bitter chocolate mousse tart topped with sea salt. Get at it. Gascón 1401, Palermo Viejo.
What do you get when you combine a cook from New Orleans, a beermaker from Buenos Aires, and a big ass chicken sketch named G? After running a successful puerta cerrada, NOLA switches up the cards to bring a truly unique concept to this city. It’s easy to instantly fall for NOLA and like a junky on a chicken binge, keep coming back all cracked out for a spicy pollo frito fix. Welcome New Orleans southern comfort food, Cajun flavors, with fried fuckin’ chicken and great artisanal Bröeders beer (with a 25 peso happy hour everyday). Querido Buenos Aires, this is what a real gastro pub actually looks and tastes like. Gorriti 4389, Palermo Viejo.
Chochán, lunfardo for chancho (pig) in Argentine Spanish, is all about pork. Naiara Calviño is in the kitchen pumping out killer oinking dishes like pulled pork and braised panceta sandwiches, homemade ham and purple pickled eggs, head cheese, and morcilla-potato croquettes. The best part of all? The orgy of sauces that are dropped off at the table. Full review here. Piedras 672, San Telmo.
I selfishly want Alo’s to move from San Isidro to capital. A true cook’s restaurant, Alejandro Féraud leads a talented team that just know what’s up when it comes to eating well. Everything is made in house – breads, pastas, pastries, ice cream, etc. – and Alo’s offers a range of interesting dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s obvious the space was created by a chef: garlic and chili peppers hang from the open kitchen, cookbooks with jarred spices line shelves, and there’s even an organic herb and vegetable garden in the patio. Favorite dishes include the fish burger with mandioca, plantain and sweet potato chips; handmade triangolini pasta filled with meat and served in a mushroom sauce; and braised pork shoulder with butternut squash. Hot tip: sit at the bar overlooking the kitchen and have Ale dish out a special (and very well priced) bar-only tasting menu. Here’s an awesome video that shows the culinary artwork going on at Alo’s. Blanco Encalada 2120, La Horqueta, San Isidro.
Pura Tierra’s Martin Molteni, one of the first Argentine chefs who made a point cooking local, seasonal ingredients, has moved towards 9 de Julio inside the Le Dome hotel. Marieta stands alone as one of the only solid go-to spots to lunch or dinner in the microcentro. The carta changes seasonally and even though it’s been over a month since I ate it, I’m still having wet dreams about this egg in an herbed cream sauce. Cerrito 22, Centro.
In front of the Atlanta fútbol stadium, fashion designer Jessica Trosman has teamed up with chef Pamela Villar to bring this industrial style café attached to Trosman’s showroom. Serving breakfast, lunch, and merienda, the menu is all about simple and clean flavors with a style quite reminiscent of my favorite Nottinghill modern deli, Ottelenghi, with recipes that seem as if they come right out of the pages of the fabulous Jerusalem cookbook. Mediterranean-ish dishes consist of beautiful velvety soups, hearty nutritious salads, sandwiches, daily specials — all at very reasonable prices. Humboldt 243, Villa Crespo.
Ex-chef of the infamous Oviedo restaurant, Martin Rebaudino opens up a small corner bistro that specializes in refined fish and seafood dishes. The ingredients are all super fresh, and each plate shows his great skill for flavor and technique. Spinach risotto with a perfectly cooked shrimp, griviche salad with couscous, and butternut squash soup with mussels are all standouts. While Roux offers both lunch and dinner, I’d choose it more for a treatsy lunchtime jam. Peña 2300, Recoleta.
Texas native Larry Rogers, aka El Tejano, has been selling his bottled sauces for a while, and finally graces us with a small location which is part comida para llevar, part closed door restaurant, and part meat smoking chamber (which is custom made and a quite impressive novelty in of itself). The highlights? Smoked chicken, brisket, pulled pork, and pork ribs. He also makes homemade chorizos – mega choripáns stuffed with jalapeños and cheddar cheese. It’s a total fatty attack, in the best way possible. Honduras 4416, Palermo Viejo.
Huevos rancheros, arepas, patacones — that sounds like my kind of breakfast of champions. The casual Mercadito Latino across from the San Telmo mercado brings some Latin American flava with dishes inspired by Mexican, Peruvian, Colombian, Venezuelan and Brazilian cuisines. Carlos Calvo 488, San Telmo.
Joining the Nicaragua street Oui Oui and Pani café gang, Adorado has the recipe for a cool and comfortable neighborhood hangout: modern tasteful design + bakery + good food. Word on the street is that the carrot cake is phenom, bruh. Nicaragua 5856, Palermo Hollywood (Photo by Adorado)
Moving on up from being hidden on a quiet Las Cañitas street, Blanch is back – new, improved and reloaded. It’s set in a Palermo Hollywood PH (with a huge rooftop terrace) and known for dishing out eclectic plates like pork shoulder with a BBQ sriracha sauce, coleslaw and green mango, Panko crusted shrimp, and crab cakes. I’d also like to brunch daily on their scrambled eggs on toasted focaccia topped with succulent filets of CURED SALMON. Carranza 2181, Palermo Hollywood
The second installment from Gonzalo Aramburu’s team (Juan Pedro Piergentili & Agustina de Alba) with this breezy corner modern Argentine bistro getting down with seasonal lunch and dinner options. The space is open, airy, breezy, with industrial light fixtures and rustic distressed mismatched wooden tables and chairs. The restaurant is surrounded by shelves of Argentine products: pinguinos, spices, aperitivos, olive oil, and boutique wines. Full review here. Humberto Primo 1207, Constitución
Put on yo’ party pants because it’s time for a cocktail fest. The makers of Soria have moved down Gorriti to open up a younger cousin drink factory with alcoholic nectar, fun music, and a large-and-in-charge heated patio. Gorriti 5741, Palermo Hollywood. (Photo by Festival)
It’s rare to find a bar with a stunning design that also serves first class cocktails AND winning food coming out of the kitchen, but Victoria Brown has managed to tick all those check marks. By day the café in the front is known for its brunch and BBQ bondiola sandwiches, while at night the fake brick wall opens to an impressive luxurious bar setting. Bottom line: order a smoking cocktail (literally, it comes smokin’) and anything off of the extensive (yet slightly overwhelming) food menu. *Victoria Brown café was inaugurated at the end of 2013, while the bar opened in February 2014. Costa Rica 4827, Palermo Soho
On the list to hit up for part two of the new eating quest:Chiuso Ristorante, Per Se, San Gennaro, Trova, Farang Sushi Bar, Bacán, OSLO.
Buenos Aires Best New Restaurants, Bars, Cafés 2014 Hotspot Quick Facts:
- Adorado Bar – Nicaragua 5856, Palermo Hollywood. Tel. 4775-6625
- La Alacena Café – Gascón 1401, Palermo. Tel. 4867-2549
- Alo’s Bistro – Blanco Encalada 2120, La Horqueta, San Isidro. Tel. 4737-0248
- Aramburu Bis – Humberto Primo 1207, Constitución. Tel. 4304-5697
- Blanch – Carranza 2181, Palermo Hollywood. Tel. 4771-4440
- ChoChán – Piedras 672, San Telmo. Tel. 4307-3661
- Gran Dabbang – Scalabrini Ortiz 1543, Palermo Soho. Tel. 4832-1186
- Festival – Gorriti 5741, Palermo Hollywood. Tel. 4775-6733
- Marieta – Cerrito 22, Centro. Tel. 4383-3722
- Mercadito Latino – Carlos Calvo 488, San Telmo.
- NOLA Gastropub – Gorriti 4389, Palermo. Tel. 5348.4509
- Roux – Peña 2300, Recoleta. Tel. 4805-6794
- El Tejano BBQ – Honduras 4416, Palermo.
- Victoria Brown Bar – Costa Rica 4827, Palermo Soho. Tel. 4831-0831
- Yeite – Humboldt 293, Villa Crespo. Tel. 4855-6777