LUGARES MAGAZINE Nro. 95
By: Silvina Pini
Photos: Andres Blasina
PATAGONIA IN BUENOS AIRES
Buenos Aires' gastronomy offer is also taking advantage of the excellent current tourist promotion offer in the south of the country. Here we show three very different suggestions that invite one to "relive" this experience that is based on the common denominator of mutton.
For some time now, a group of young chefs, together with breeders and some government bodies, have been working to define the typical southern cuisine, with its rich raw materials -many of which, though not native to the area, have been nationalized- and its modern recipes that imitate neither the dishes of its european immigrants nor those of the natives.
Andean products such as trout, salmon, venison and wild boar, berries and fungi, products from the steppe, particularly mutton, and from the Atlantic, ranging from Fueguian crab to the shellfish from San Antonio Oeste, are the essential ingredients of a modern cuisine that is still taking shape.
Three Patagonian cooking restaurants recently opened in Buenos Aires. Their small-scale production and almost home-based distribution makes southern products still expensive, and this fact is reflected in menus.
Divina Patagonia, a store-cum-restaurant in Palermo
Here everything is thought out in detail. Mariano and Eugenia Harguindey, enthusiasts of South Argentina, have achieved a "Palermo Hollywood" atmosphere, through the use of wall decoration based on typical wildflowers to remind one of the mountains and the lakes: the theme flowers are chochos (lupines), mutisia, amancay, retama and quiaca. Their colors are repeated on the chair covers.
With good judgment, they have just renewed their menu to balance the succulent main courses of venison and wild boar with side dishes such as fresh salads, smoked salmon and other light entrees, for example, brochette of shellfish or fungi stuffed with crab. The hot dishes are divided according to the origins of their main component.
Thus there are "forest" and "steppe" dishes, the latter being the case of the "mutton a la menthe with crunchy green risotto" or of the wild boar with green apple chutney. There are also "Patagonian Lake" dishes, based on trout, and "South Seas" dishes , based on crab or black hake. Due to the irregularity with which they receive the meat, duck and hare are not included in the menu, although these dishes can be prepared on order.
The desserts are also within the southern concept, and offer an original mousse of ewe-milk caramel cream, or cheesecake with berries.
There are also highly varied boards of smoked cold-cuts prepared by the Weiss family, that are accompanied with spiced cream cheese, fungi and pickled eggplant, and may be eaten together with "southern tapas", which include "seafood toast", "forest toast" and rabas (fried breaded squid rings), that are ideal accompaniments for the "picada" (snack).
All the meats are obtained exclusively from Patagonia, and Eugenia offers to show the certificates, if there is any doubt. However, a taste of the mutton is enough to show that it is a far cry from that obtained in Tandil or the other sheep farming areas in Buenos Aires province.
The wine list is composed mainly of specialist wines from small wineries, two of them from the Patagonian region: Tierras del viento, from Bodegas Estepa and those from Bodegas Newen, in keeping with the restaurant's home-style image. At customers' request, the Harguindeys opened a store in the anteroom where many of the products they serve are sold: Burton ceramics, Meliquen liqueurs (malbec with raspberries, and others), wines and smoked meats, the ewe-milk caramel cream El Santacruceño, and even spicy olive oils produced by manufacturers from the area who are patrons of the restaurant.
From Mondays through Saturdays as from 6 p.m. Average cost per person around $35. Address: Honduras 5710. Phone: 4771-6864.
Trotamundos, a Patagonian bistro in San Telmo
Maria Eugenia Igarzabal and Matias Lutteral, two of the owners of the hotel/restaurant The Paradise in Puerto Piramides, decided to land in Buenos Aires with a venture very similar to that of Valdes Peninsula: a warmly rustic decor, with no pretensions to be fashionable. One can breakfast on an exquisite authentic Welsh cake from Gaiman that is served with warm raspberry sauce, or a typical cream and raisin cake, or else have lunch or dinner. This gastronomic ritual is completed with the viewing of rotating samples of Patagonian art and, shortly, ancient maps of the coastline.
If there is one thing the Igarzabal Lutteral duo has organized to perfection, it is their supply of fresh produce, such as the shellfish that come alive, the fish that arrives cooled but not frozen, and the raw frozen shrimp, which keep their original crunchy texture when cooked. These products are all served in ceramic dishes: the shellfish in white wine with parsley, the jumbo shrimp with a mild sauce of lemon and red pepper, and the fresh fish with lemon and a vegetable sautee.
The Trotamundos cuisine is consistent with its decor; it offers the simplicity of well-made food with first class raw material, the right cooking point, so important for fish and seafood dishes, and no-nonsense presentations.
And despite the dedication of this eatery to the Patagonian Atlantic, there are also some land items available, for example the dishes with mutton (brought from Chubut) and venison, plus the classical Cordillera smoked meats that Maria Eugenia recommends be accompanied with the Kohler craft beer, from El Bolson. The menu makes some concessions to oriental cooking, such as Japanese giozas and yasaitame), that they intend to eliminate soon in order to reinforce their Patagonian image.
Cost between $20 and $30. Every day from 7 a.m. to the last guest. Defensa 683 (almost Chile), San Telmo. Phone: 4343-8342/4342-2679.
Aires de Patagonia sophistication in Puerto Madero
Recently inaugurated, it is in keeping with the level of investment required by Puerto Madero. Behind each of the areas (kitchen, architecture, decor) one sees the thorough research of a business enterprise, the Patagonic Group, that inaugurates their venture with this first restaurant. Everything is from the south, from the chefs and produce to the slate on the walls, the crafted cypress tables encrusted with limestone, the Mapuche craft items on sale and the individual leather place mats.
The executive chef of the Llao Llao Hotel & Resort, Martin Repetto, helped design the menu offered by Iñaki Goldin, a brash internationally seasoned chef who until a short time ago worked in the restaurant on Victoria Island.
It is mainly built around Andean dishes, but soon there will also be seafood options at midday and in the evening, as well as the day's special ($20, including entree, main course, pudding and glass of wine). The choice of entrees is gazpacho of red fruit with grilled shrimp and basilicum seasoning, textured partridge, orange powder, grilled tomatoes and grape puree, or salmon roulade and smoked trout with green salad.
The main courses are also original and delicate: trout grilled on a hot plate with braised leeks and Andean mini-potatoes on the side; tortelli with mutton or fresh venison stuffing, accompanied by potato mille feuilles and pears with asparagus, among others. The desserts are up to the standard of the rest of the menu: there's an excellent blueberry pie and an orange frangipane, a musk-rose coulis and an orange sherbet. With coffee, you can have "five star" petit fours 8or take them away in your purse).
The restaurant opens in the afternoon to offer some special blends of tea, thought up by the "Tea Queen", Ines Breton and her "tealosophy", a perfect accompaniment to Goldin's pastries. The "happy hour" includes sandwiches, tablas and tapas, with smoked wild boar sandwich and mascarpone with dry tomatoes and rucula. The wine list is interesting, featuring mostly the small wineries, and including really worthwhile Patagonian wines, i.e.: Pinot Noir by Canale and the Infinitus line by Fabre Montmayou.
Goldin's cuisine is really good: these aren't simply dishes all "dolled up" for a photo - they are tasty preparations at perfect points of cooking, using high-priced raw materials that have been carefully distributed, stored and prepared. The helpings are moderate, so those who enjoy a huge Neapolitan "milanesa" breaded veal cutlet (Wiener schnitzel), for example, should abstain from coming here.
Cost around $40. Every day as from noon. Alicia Moreau de Justo 1798 (on the pedestrian thoroughfare), Puerto Madero, Phone: 4315-2151.