Sometimes you have to ask yourself if you want to travel over 5,000 miles to eat shot glass and soup spoon food; modern fine dining, molecular gastronomy, whatever you want to call it. Even chef Alejandro Digilio, himself, didn’t have a preferred label when I asked him how he describes his cuisine. He simply said, “contemporáneo.” But yeah, I’ll bite. I mean, you have to temper all that steak-eating somehow and you won’t find a tasting menu like this anywhere else in Buenos Aries.
This was our most expensive meal on vacation, and if you didn’t know what you were in for you might not have high expectations based on the bare bones San Telmo storefront. The small, concrete, high-ceilinged space is in the heart of the tourist district. I don’t find talking about money in relation to dining to be gauche, especially when espousing value, so we spent 320 pesos. $105 dollars for nine courses of creative food plus wine pairings for two is pretty remarkable.
You can order a la carte but that’s not the preferred way to dine. Once we opted for the tasting menu we were presented with a jumble of appetizers. The spoons contained a liquid “ravioli,” whose flavor I have completely forgotten, cheese croquettes topped with a tiny jellied tomato square and ceviche.
The granules on the left were a tomato powder. You dipped flatbreads in olive oil and then the tomato essence. The almonds in the center were spicy and sweet, but only spicy by Argentine standards. Candied nori sheets were were wedged atop apple cubes like crackly wind sails. Sugared seaweed should be a new Jolly Rancher flavor because these were good.
You would probably be fine just sharing a bunch of fun amuses while sipping a glass or two of wine, but the more substantial dishes are definitely worth trying.
This pea soup is pretty, well, if you like shades of pea green like I do. I’m still not sure how I feel about contrasting temperatures. They were also playing around with this sense when I dined at Moto last year, and I wasn’t crazy about it then either. James was kind of accurate when he said it’s like when you microwave a bowl of soup and there are still cold spots in the middle.
This is the dish I kept thinking about later because it simply tasted good. You’re supposed to crack the shell (they’re good at that candied lacquering thing) swiftly with your knife so you don’t mush and the potato and the runny yolk comes out cleanly. I destroyed mine. The starchy, garlicky, creamy and truffled flavors were actually similar to my risotto at Casa Cruz. Maybe these are components are more Argentine than I realized.
They called this assemblage of vegetables, herbs and flowers weeds. Pretty and flavorful, it was almost like something you might find at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. I’m always surprised how much I enjoy dishes like this because, not because I dislike vegetables but because I’m scared of eating flowers. I realize that makes no sense coming from an intestine-and -blood sausage-lover.
Chewy and tart octopus with a vinaigrette formed into a substance resembling feta cheese.
Paella juice isn’t the most appetizing description. I was more interested in the Rice Krispie bits floating in the broth around the sea bass.
I’d never had beef cheeks before and certainly wouldn’t have known what they were. They were rich and just fatty enough, kind of similar to short ribs. Ack, those flowers showed up again.
Despite the name I don’t recall any mushrooms or radishes with this tender pork. This dish was served with a skinny perfume sampling paper scented with smoke. Inhaling and chewing at the same time created the sensation of barbecued meat, something that would seem to appeal to both Americans and Argentines. I enjoyed it. Toying with temperatures hasn’t wowed me, but manipulating scent and taste is kind of impressive, and fun too.
Another ravioli, and I can remember the filling this time because it was like a mini shot of rum, tempered by a granita.
This was deconstructed, obviously. Soft, foamy, powdered and creamy all mixed with hot espresso poured in tableside.
James took wine notes, which is weird because he’s not into wine. I only have surface knowledge, myself. Well, they weren’t tasting notes, just what we were served. I don’t have the same brain/memory for wine as I do for food, which is the main reason I don’t tend to discuss it here.
We were served a sherry first. His notes read "malo malo," which make absolutely no sense. First off, no one would call their wine malo because that’s bad. I can’t even come up with a homophone that would be accurate. The order of the rest are as follows:
La Vineria de Gualterio Bolivar * Bolivar 865, Buenos Aries, Argentina