We recently returned from a holiday in South America and thought it blog-worthy to give an overview of the food and wine experiences (in 3 parts, see part 1).
Our time in Argentina was spent entirely in Buenos Aires (BA) and we were there for 10 nights. We believe it takes time to soak up the ambiance of a big city, and often a couple of days of hectic site seeing does not do it justice. We therefore had enough time to tick off the highlights, and as well soak up the vibe of the place; relaxing into the flavours of BA.
Argentina is renowned for its parillas, which are essentially steak joints where various cuts of meat are bbq’d over coals. This imparts a nice caramelisation onto the meat which matches perfectly with their hero wine malbec. While malbec is a punchy full bodied wine and sensibly would match with steak, it was a bit of a light bulb moment for me when I got the connection between the caramelisation on the meat and the slight sweet element that to me is evident in almost every malbec. Anyway enough of that.
Day 1 – Arrived late in the afternoon so opted for somewhere close by. We stayed in the Palermo Hollywood area which is where a lot of the restaurants and night life of BA is located, as well as being close by Palermo Soho which is an area renowned for shopping. We ate at Azema, a restaurant with a severe identity crisis as it is owned and run by a Japanese guy, is in Argentina (clearly), and serves a lot of regional French dishes. That aside it was very good and the highlights were a salmon cevice and lamb sirloin which we paired it with a ’10 Clos De Los Siete malbec, which was nicely balanced with that distinctive sweet finish.
Day 2 – Spent wandering around the local area. Lunch at an Italian eatery Cucina Paradiso which was within walking distance from our accommodation. Highlight was a spaghetti with baby octopus washed down with a ’11 Terrazas Reserve torrontes. The torrontes grape is worthy of more investigation as it is used to make a local white wine we do not get back home. The closest we could compare it with was a semillon, but kept changing our mind as the bottle level dropped. Dinner at Don Julio, a renowned up-market parilla in Palermo Soho. I ordered what I thought was a rib fillet but looked more like a sirloin and was a bit tough compared to the meat we eat in Australia, lovely flavour though. Matched with a ’10 Malbec De Angeles which was ok. Had a quick post dinner drink at Franks, a speakeasy bar you need a code to give the doorman, who then gives you a pin number which you dial into the number pad of a phone box opening a door into the bar. All a bit Maxwell Smart and the joint was packed, so we downed one cocktail and headed home.
Day 3 – Spent the day in and around Plaza de Mayo. Had a coffee and alfajores (a local wagon wheel type biscuit) at Cafe Tortoni which has been open since 1858. A lovely cafe with tango halls out the back if that is your thing. Lunch at Guerrin which serves porteno style pizza which is absolutely delicious. We are big fans of italian thin crust pizzas and a porteno pizza could not be more different, but what a revelation it was. This place was packed with lunchtime locals, a great experience.
Day 4 – Walked to Museo Evita and learnt about her politics. Had lunch in the courtyard restaurant out the back of the museo. Great cafe style food in a peaceful surrounding. Dinner at El Trapiche which was a real highlight of the trip. This is a bright local eatery where no english is spoken. Highlights were a bife de lomo (rib fillet I think) and a veal schnitzel washed down by a ’11 Alto Uxmal malbec. The steak was absolutely perfect and melted in your mouth, wow! Cannot recommend this place more highly for an authentic local observation of porteno life where the food was a lot better than the more expensive touristy options.
Day 5 – We were really hanging out for an Italian style coffee, what we call a flat white in Australia. We tried a lot of coffee and could not get our fix which was surprising given that most of the population are of European origin. We also read that coffee is often roasted with sugar in Argentina which might account for the unusual taste. We walked about 5km to Full City Coffee House which we had read served excellent coffee; only to find it closed. Today was election day in BA so no alcohol was served from midnight to 6pm, very strange seeing restaurants full of patrons drinking mock-tails and water. Had dinner at parilla Miranda where the steak was again a nice flavour but a little chewy. Washed down with ’11 Terrazas reserve Malbec which was a lovely perfectly balanced wine, great with steak.