Buenos Aires has a heap of restaurants in the San Pellegrino Latin America Top 50 Restaurants list. Choosing one for a special meal was very difficult with the competition including Tegui (9), El Baqueano (13), Don Julio (21), Aramburu (26), Elena (31), La Cabrera (33), Chila (35) and Pura Tierra (50).
I'd already skipped Borago (3) in Santiago so this choice had to be made carefully. I automatically removed anything that wasn't Argentinean but that really didn't change much. In the end the appeal of local "indigenous meats" as is advertised such as llama, alligator and the such from all over Argentina won out. Additionally being located so close to my Airbnb in San Telmo certainly helped too.
I was sent the degustation menu via email when I made the booking. On the night itself no menu was presented (perhaps they thought I wouldn't be able to decipher a cryptic gourmet Spanish menu anyway) and simply informed it was a 9 course degustation menu (for ARS1300) and emphasised the theme of all local ingredients around Argentina. It was surprising for a Thursday night that there were so few diners in a Top 50 Restaurant but I suppose there's so much choice in BA including the other top rated places.
Apertivo Consome de Setas (Costa Atlantico)
- This dish comprised of many forms of mushroom from the coast. It started as the visuals of powder and mushroom pieces in the bowl then the mushroom wine consumé was added at the table. The textured ranged from crumbly powder (that stuck rather than dissolved), slimy pieces (not unpleasantly so) soaked in vinegar and a mild watery broth;
Aguachile de Vegetables de Estacion
- A "ceviche" of seasonal vegetables including asparagus, some kind of taro-like root, cucumber, dill and edible flowers. The carrot-looking pieces were made of egg yolk. It was topped with an asparagus sorbet (strong and unusual) and at the table with a lemon, cucumber and chilli dressing. It was very refreshing, well balanced chilli, citrus and tangy, and multiple textures;
Bread arrived after the 2nd course (a little odd for timing) and consisted of a mild garlic white, rye and a salt crystalled (and thus most flavoursome of the 3) focaccia.
Crudo de Llama, Quinoa, Amaranto (Desierto Andino)
- My favourite dish of the night was a llama carpaccio from Salta which had a surprisingly mild flavour like fish. I did expect something more game tasting. Amaranth crackers enabled picking up of the meat. The most impressive part was actually the trio of coloured quinoa, half cooked first then either fried or roasted (or both) which had a sensational crunchy texture and a wealth of grain flavour;
Pil Pil al Reves (Atlantico Sur)
- A delicious dish of translucent, soft prawns from Puerto Madryn with still a slight crunch. Tiny clear krill added extra flavour and the orange sauce (of unclear origin, perhaps prawn brains?) and olive oil were beautifully mopped up with the bread until none was left. Potato garlic crackers were there but I much favoured the bread-soak method;
Roca de Mar Mimetica (Atlantico Sur)
- This dish was identified as Camouflaged Sea Rocks and left to determine the ingredients ourselves. It turned out to be a soft but meaty and stringy white salmon coated by black vegetable colour (not squid ink or charcoal) with a delicate mild salty flavour. There was wasabi yoghurt, floret cracker of kale, and egg white and seaweed sponge. So much variety of texture and hints of flavour;
Wanton de Sudado (Dorado)
- Perhaps I have a different concept of wonton. This skin was very thick and dense and neither crisp nor soft. It housed dorado riverfish and topped with bonito flakes wilting and dancing. The consumé made from the fish had a strong umami and slight chilli edge;
Liebre Patagonica, Espuma de Hibiscus (Meseta Patagonica)
- This was indigenous meat at its finest. Delicious tender Patagonian hare glowing red. Unlike typical white and dry rabbit presentations, this was incredibly soft and tender with a mild flavour. The flavour wasn't gamey and overall flavour/texture similar to the best chicken you've never had. It was accompanied by a berry combination of fresh blueberries, red berry emulsion and dried blueberries and raspberries;
- A palate cleanser where again was asked to determine the ingredients. It was a basil, mint & parsley granita served with a citrus emulsion, green apple pannacotta, celery (looked like thin slices of onion) and bouncy pieces of cucumber. Overall sweet & refreshing;
- Yucca potato that acted like Greek loukoumades with a bready wheat middle and mild crisp shell. Two icecreams of soft sugar and delicious arroz con leche (rice pudding) flavours accompanied.
Finally petit four of peanut brittle, biscuit with dulce de leche and a small piece of meringue finished the procession.
After many months since the last fine dining meal, it was nice to briefly return to this realm. I couldn't say it was the best meal I've had but it certainly a creative tour around Argentina with dishes I could never make from ingredients I could never access, and that's something I'm happy to pay for. I had hoped there would be more "meats" as such and the dishes that showcased this - llama, prawn, hare - worked exceptionally. If you add white salmon and dorado I suppose 5 out of 9 for meats isn't a low ratio to complain about.