Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Americas’ Category


Oaxacan cuisine in general was new to me—I can’t think of a single restaurant in NYC that serves it—but Istmeño? I knew absolutely nothing about the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the skinniest part of Mexico with the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico on its sides.

Zandunga exterior

And I only got an abbreviated taste during lunch at Zandunga, one of the many seemingly rustic but concertedly stylish open-door restaurants that line García Vigil.

Zanduga amuses

Lightly spiced ground beef, salsa and greaseless thick-cut chips were a complimentary starter. You really don’t see much ground beef, picadillo, in Oaxcan. Oddly, ground beef came up in one of my Spanish lessons (which were basically two-hour daily conversations about food) and my teacher kind of admonished it as Tex-Mex, though she probably meant in tacos and enchiladas. She had funny food quirks, hating impossible-to-avoid-in-Mexico pork and lard, as well as caldos (one you’ll see below) because the watery soups seem like hospital food.

Zandunga empanadas

The botanas plate on the menu of nearly every restaurant I tried in Oaxaca became my enemy. Always billed as an appetizer selection for two or more, poor solo me could never indulge my urge for variety. Instead, I had to focus on one thing at a time, in this case beef empanadas, softer and more of a complete meal than the more pervasive Colombian ones in NYC. Dammit, and now I know what the botanas at Zandunga look like. It’s a good thing I didn’t see this photo before eating or I would’ve been sadder.

Zanduga pork rib corn soup

I don’t equate soup with invalids but outside the (huge, wide-ranging) Asian canon, I don’t eat the course very often. Too liquidy, not satisfying. At Zandunga a different caldo is featured each day. My day, a Monday, offered a version containing long pork ribs and toasted granules of hominy that sunk to the bottom of the bowl. The soup looks nearly content-less in this photo because all the heavy stuff is sitting just below the surface like a more appetizing loch ness monster. The broth was very simple yet it was deceptively hearty. I was compelled to eat at least 90% of it because I was the only diner in the room and felt like eyes were on me. I probably didn’t need those empanadas.

I left full and far from dissatisfied but not completely wowed with my choices. I just became Zandunga’s Facebook friend, though, so no hard feelings.

Zandunga * Calle García Vigil at Calle Jesus Carranza, Oaxaca, Mexico

Casa Mario Lombardo

1/2 Oaxaca was freeing. I could indulge in Hawaiian pizza, the love that dare not speak its name in New York City, with no shame. Ham and pineapple is revered, ok, enjoyed by Mexicans in a way that is not allowed in the Northeast but likely still holds traction in many parts of the United States (growing up a half pepperoni/half Hawaiian was a standard family-pleasing order).

Frozen hawaiana pizza

My theory is only bolstered by evidence found in the freezer case at Soriana.

Domino's hawaiian pizza in oaxaca

Domino’s are not foreign to Oaxacans. In fact, I was kind of excited to see their delivery ad showcasing Hawaiian pizza propped up on the television in the Hotel Aitana, my second of three lodgings. This one was geared toward middle class Mexican travelers, a little pricey and no concessions made to English-speakers.

Hotel aitana bathroom swan

When you get the swan towel treatment you know you’ve made it.

Casa maria lombardo oven

That didn’t mean I was going to order Domino’s, though. Casa Maria Lombardo, an Italian restaurant featuring dishes cooked in the wood-burning oven seemed like a more serious option. When I stopped in after Spanish class everyone was eating pizza and I was initially surprised at the lack of tourists, considering every relatively nice place–wines served, quirky décor like cheese grater lamps, stand-up metal purse hooks–I’d been to up until this point were inhabited by Americans.

Casa maria lombardo hawaiian pizza

So, Hawaiian it was. Size chico. The sweet-salty combination neither Italian, Mexican nor Hawaiian was transformed even further by the two condiments presented to all diners: salsa and ketchup. Clearly, there is an audience for the ketchup though the only people I’ve ever known to add the sweet tomato sauce to their pizza were Filipinos. Salsa made perfect sense, however, I always drizzle a little Sriracha on my slices. This was just a chunkier, fresher rendition. And the style at Casa Maria Lombardo was very sparing with the tomato sauce foundation. A little extra spicy tomato-based moisture didn’t hurt.

Casa maria lombardo pizza bottom

The crust had even scattered leopard spots charred on the bottom  but this is not the thin bubbly Neapolitan style appreciated in NYC. This was fork and knife pizza with enough structure to allow easy cutting. I don’t only enjoy pineapple on my pizza, I also refuse to fold, always going for the knife and fork even when plastic. Yes, I liked Mexican pizza.

Unflattering out of focus photo taken by a stranger Solo dining, I was generally invisible to all but bauble hawkers (who oddly never made an appearance in this restaurant) so I was surprised that a gentleman, one of two businessmen drinking lots of wine by the glass (they really should’ve just ordered a bottle) at the table next to me offered to take my photo. I think he felt bad seeing me by myself snapping shots of my food. Then I felt weird and explained that I actually like taking photos of my food and didn’t need a photo of myself then relented at the last minute because it might be the only one I’d have from this vacation. Unfortunately, it’s a blurry unflattering photo. He didn’t know how to use the camera and the flash was off and I have horrible blobby posture and was sunburnt. Even so, if I am to only have one photographic reminder of my Mexican vacation it should really involve Hawaiian pizza.

Casa Maria Lombardo * Abasolo 314, Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxacan Black Mole

Black mole with chicken

Mexican black mole. It really does have as many ingredients as you’ve heard—30 give or take in the version below—and yes, there can be too much of a good thing. Moles like this are reserved for celebrations because of the time involved in making them. But I think it’s also because this is some intensely flavored, seriously heavy food. I felt kind of guilty for getting completely mole’d out during my week in Oaxaca, but apparently that’s not unusual. The second cooking class I had steered clear of mole recipes because the instructor, herself, had burnt out on moles during a festival the week prior.

The first of two cooking classes I took in Oaxaca was from Pilar Cabrera at La Casa de los Sabores. I had no idea what to expect only having taken lessons abroad some time ago in Bangkok and a class in Singapore last year this very same week. Neither of these classes in Asia included market visits, though, because I can never get up early enough on vacation. It’s a miracle to make it out of the hotel before 11am

That’s one way that I benefited from traveling by myself. By having no late night temptations in Oaxaca, I went to bed before midnight and was able to report at 9am (an hour earlier than I normally show up at work) for shopping duties and chitchat with my fellow out-of-towners.

I’d already been in Oaxaca for three-and-a-half days floundering around over the weekend before taking this class. Consequently, I had already been to the Mercado de la Merced, a small market for locals, on the recommendation of my Spanish teacher. It was definitely helpful to go with a regular who knows the vendors and can explain unusual ingredients and techniques.

Taking photos of people in general, and especially in markets, isn’t my thing. Though of course photos of people tend to be my favorite subject to look at when shot by professionals. Both Dave Hagerman, the image half of Eating Asia and Austin Bush do this well, but I am not them. I just find it creepy to snap photos (especially with a flash) of people going about their business. It makes me feel more other than I already do. But I did loosen up a bit with these groups since the vendors were accustomed to it and we were instructed to ask not just start shooting. My sparing Mercado de la Merced snapshots are here.

Oaxacan chiles

I brought back a shitload of chiles. Well, not the shitload I originally was handed and had to give back because my small suitcase was already pushed to its limits. Left to right, chilhuacles, the deep brown round chiles seemed important since I was told they were native to Oaxaca. I also wasn’t convinced that I would find stubby mulatos in NYC. Pasilla de Oaxaca are smoked and also native to the region, but we used Mexican pasilla, the long skinny chile pictured. Having no sense of metric weight, I asked for medio-kilo of the chilhuacles and the small pillowcase sized plastic bag was filled to the top. Ah, no, I then went for quarto-kilo which was still a ton so I split it was a woman in class. This bag on the left contains a mere 1/8 kilo.

I chose this Tuesday session especially to learn how to cook black mole (Wednesday was Zapotecan conducted in Spanish and Thursday was tamales). My plan was to master it so I could recreate it for a dinner party the weekend after I got back to NYC. That would be tomorrow. I hope I don’t mess it up.

The full menu for my class included:
Quesadillas de flor de calabaza
Salsa de tomate y chile de agua
Mole negro con pollo
Arroz a la hierbabuena
Nieve de petals de rosas

More photos from the class are here.

Black mole ingredients
Oaxaca is often cited as having seven moles. But in reality, we were told, there are hundreds. Everyone has a variation and recipes differ by region even within Oaxaca State. Here is the recipe for the black mole we made. It certainly helps to have a group of 12-plus deft kitchen assistants to cut down on the prep time. This nice basket was already awaiting us after we returned from the market.

Black Mole with Chicken


4 chilhuacle chiles
8 mulato chiles
8 pasilla mexicano chiles
4 tablespoons lard
¼ cup almonds
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup pecans
¼ cup peanuts with skins
4 slices of egg bread (semisweet) torn in pieces
¼ cup sesame seeds
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/8 teaspoon oregano
4 avocado leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
1/8 teaspoon anise (a.k.a. fennel seeds)
3 whole cloves
1/8 teaspoon cumin
3 whole black peppercorns
2 plantains
1 tomato, roasted
3 tomatillos, roasted
3 cloves of garlic, roasted
¼ medium onion, roasted
4 cups chicken broth
8 pieces of boiled chicken
3 tablespoons sugar
½ cup Oaxacan chocolate
Salt to taste


 Clean the dried chiles with a damp cloth. Open the chiles by making a lengthwise slit down one side of each. Take out the seeds, veins and stems. Reserve the seeds.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the lard in a saucepan, and then fry the chiles. Remove the chiles from the saucepan as soon as they begin to change color and become crispy, and place them in a bowl lined with absorbent paper towel.

In another pan, heat the remaining lard and fry the raisins until they puff up and brown a bit. Remove the raisins and then add the almonds, pecans and peanuts frying for five minutes until they are a dark brown color, remove them from the pan. Then fry the pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, cinnamon, anise, cloves, cumin and black peppercorns in the same pan, until they obtain a deep brown color. Remove them and then add the dried bread pieces to the remaining hot lard for two minutes, then remove.

Roast the tomatoes, tomatillos, onion and garlic.

Place the spices, tomatoes, tomatillos, onion and garlic and one cup of chicken broth in the blender. Blend until the mixture is smooth. Put into a bowl and set aside.

Place the fried chiles and one-and-a-half cups of chicken broth into the blender. Blend until the mixture is a smooth paste.

Remove the remaining lard from the pan in which the nuts and spices were fried. Pour into a deep pot, heat and then add the blended chiles. Cook for three minutes; then add the spice mixture and cook for three more minutes. Add the sugar and chocolate and stir for five minutes. The sauce is ready when, while stirring, the fat rises to the top of the mixture.

Add the rest of the chicken broth and season with salt. Cook for three more minutes over medium heat. Add the pieces of chicken before serving.

Garnish with fried plantain.

Serves six.

Ack, I just realized this recipe never says when to add in the thyme, oregano, marjoram or avocado leaves. I really want to say that the herbs get added with nuts and that the avocado leaves would be simmered whole in the final stages. But that's just how I would do it.

Grilled onion, tomatoes, tomatillos
Plantains frying, chiles frying too and tomatoes, tomatillos, onion and garlic being grilled.

Toasted herbs, spices, nuts 

Toasted herbs, spices and nuts.

Black mole puree 

Everything pureed with chicken broth minus the chiles.

Black mole chiles added 

The chiles (also pureed with chicken broth) give the black mole its deep color not the chocolate as many believe. Said chocolate and sugar are added at the very end.

La Biznaga

I was a little embarrassed to tell anyone that I ate at La Biznaga twice in one short week in Oaxaca. (Though I was more reticent to admit I was staying at the Holiday Inn Express, an unforeseen event that occurred after not being able to get wireless internet access to work at either the cheap and cheerful B&B or the middle class Mexican hotel I moved to the second night. By the third day I began feeling isolated and crazy since this wasn't intended as a get away from it all vacation. My phone wouldn’t work either even though I saw plenty of tourists using theirs. I packed it in and headed for the Holiday Inn where you could also put toilet paper in the toilets and drink the tap water, incidentally. Only then did I realize a wireless switch had been bumped to off on the front of my laptop, likely the problem all along. As punishment I was never able to receive stronger than a LOW signal at the American chain and webpages took five minutes to load, if they did at all before the network connection died.) To the Americans it implied you weren’t very adventurous and to the Oaxacans it made you look ostentatious.

La biznaga exterior

But it’s not expensive by even non-NYC American standards and I don’t believe it was completely filled with tourists, at least not from the US. I heard plenty of Spanish being spoken by large families with little kids, dates, same-sex and heterosexual, as well as by men with slick silver ponytails, rumpled earth toned suits and white sneakers, though I was told by two separate residents that the restaurant is popular with Chilangos (Mexico City residents). Maybe this was them.

I ended up at La Biznaga my first night and it appealed instantly because I have a terrible phobia of dining alone. I don’t even like to eat lunch by myself at casual worker bee spots so I always end up eating at my desk even though I know it's healthier to get out of the office for an hour. I’ve also never traveled alone before and food-wise (the main reason I travel) it did prove tough because you can’t share and get full too quickly to experiment. I never once got to sample a postre because I just didn’t have the capacity and felt weird and decadent about leaving parts of my appetizer and entrée behind in order to try dessert.

The room is dim, at least at night. It took me a while to realize we were under open skies. Many of the nicer restaurants in Oaxaca are set inside courtyards with a retractable roof. It seems classically Mexican but I never encountered this style once in Mexico City. I wouldn’t be so conspicuous, especially since I was always given a four-seater everywhere I ate and even more opposite of NYC, the tables were spaced with so much distance a person could stand between two, jump around and not touch either with arms outspread. The were enough distractions and ambient noise to deflect any unnecessary attention to my photographing my food (I did draw curious stares elsewhere). You can also smoke, which I only engage in NYC when I’m drinking or partying, which is to say not very often. But on vacation it’s a not-so-guilty pleasure; all health-related restrictions are ignored when I’m out of town. It’s a rare, rare restaurant in the world that lets you smoke indoors so I take advantage when I can. Non-dance club type bars seemed nonexistent and I felt like sitting in a cantina alone would be asking for trouble, despite my advanced age. However, I could see myself at La Biznaga with a glass of wine (or a shot of mezcal) and a cigarette.

The power of no (gracias) became very necessary, not just while fending off troubadours and bookmark, candy, jewelry, towel and painting vendors from ages six to 80 while sitting the tourist cafes surrounding the zocalo, but in the nicer restaurants, as well. In NYC, you really only get the occasional DVD vendor, usually Asian, in casual Latino restaurants around Jackson Heights and Sunset Park. The staff at La Biznaga allowed some of the little candy-and-bracelet-hawking kids sit at the bar and eat chips, which seemed kind. No one gets gruff with beggars and in turn, those asking for pesos aren't all that aggressive.

La biznaga amuse

I think I may have been starving on my first day in Oaxaca because the seemingly nothing special tomato, queso fresco and pesto bruschetta tasted like summer in winter (technically, late November). I think it was the salty cheese, not the tomatoes. The crumbly white stuff enlivens anything.

La biznaga ceviche

Ceviche de pescado, zanahorias y challotes. The appetizers, or entradas as they say, are substantial. If you'd eaten a heavy mole-sauced lunch, a starter would be plenty for your evening meal. I didn't know that, though. The type of fish wasn’t specified, though huachinango, red snapper seemed like the most common fish served in Oaxaca. The flesh was very firm and the flavor very tart and heavy on the lime. The creamy mayonnaisey (Mexicans like mayo almost as much as the Japanese) swirls toned down some of the acid. I'm guessing the carrots referenced in the title are what colored one of the sauces orange because I didn't detect the vegetable anywhere else.

La biznaga puntas con poblanos, cebollas y chorizo

Puntas con poblanos, cebollas y chorizo. Classic Mexican, not so much Oaxacan. A carne asada dish with frijoles and guacamole. I recreated this earlier this week minus the guacamole and chorizo with nice dry-aged flank steak from The Meathook. That was some damn fine meat for a workaday cut and I cooked mine much rarer.

One of my favorite phrases I learned in Spanish class was no vale la pena, it’s not worth it, because so much wasn’t like taking a six-hour bus ride from Mexico City to Oaxaca when the flight was only 40 minutes (never mind my layover was five hours—I’d rather sit in the airport than on a bus). My teacher described a salad served at La Biznaga as expensive but vale la pena.

 La biznaga nopales ensalada

Ensalada de nopales, tomate, queso y aceitunas. Out of curiosity I ordered it on my second visit right after that class. I didn’t expect it to be so hearty; those are slabs of queso beneath each cactus paddle and the olive oil was drizzled with a heavy hand. Dressed salads and salads in general are very un-Mexican I was later told in a cooking class so this was very nuevo. Salty, rich and also refreshing (I hadn’t eaten any vegetables up until this point) from the limey pickled onions composed in the center. I would definitely say it was vale la pena. It cost 59 pesos or $4.64 as of this writing.

La biznaga shrimp mole

Camarones al ajillo y mole de tamarindo. The expensive salad knocked out any appetite I may have originally had so it was hard to focus on the shrimp. The rice was a little undercooked and the mole was way sour from the tamarind. The shrimp did have more sea flavor than you typically find in the US.

Some would call the service leisurely, others might say neglectful. I thought I might never get my check. After meeting a couple in my first cooking class from Seattle who'd befriended friends from San Francisco at their hotel it turned out we'd all (as well, as two sisters from NYC, also in the class) been at La Biznaga the night before, and they remarked how everyone on staff was high. It would explain a lot.

 La Biznaga * Garcia Vigil 512, Oaxaca, Mexico

Hi and Bye

Ack, no time to blog or even write descriptions or properly tag these vacation photos. No matter, here is some Oaxaca randomness until I get a free moment.

Get the flash player here:


There’s nothing I hate more than a straggler, so my final brief missive from last month’s Argentina vacation must be posted now or it never will see the light of day. And I know everyone’s dying to hear about Basque food in South America.

Despite speaking Español (or Castellano, as they say, you know, just to be different) Spanish food is scarcer than you might think in Buenos Aires. Italian culture is definitely more pervasive.

Burzako is near the San Telmo market, a big Sunday afternoon draw. I’ll admit that I only gave it a quick stroll through because I’m not wild about outdoor markets (I went to Brooklyn Flea for the first time Sunday and was kind of eh about the whole thing, though I enjoyed my slightly pricey Jamaica-flavored shaved ice sweetened with agave syrup from Chida).

I was expecting a more rustic restaurant, but the room was more elegant with white tablecloths and floral arrangements. Being lunch, we only ordered tapas, which I wouldn’t say were particularly Basque. The entrees leaned that way, though.

Burzako langostina croquetas

It’s hard to resist a croquette/croqueta/kroketa (American-approved French, Spanish or Basque, whichever you prefer). These non-oily fritters were filled with a gooey langoustine mixture and topped with an aioli type sauce.

Burzako cheese

I couldn’t tell you everything on this cheese plate, but I’m fairly certain the blue was Roquefort as that was by far the blue cheese of choice in Buenos Aires.

Burzako pulpo

I have no idea why the octopus was so expensive. At around $18 if I’m remembering correctly (there’s no Menupages to refresh my memory) the plate of pulpo a la gallega was pricey. I felt compelled to try it, though. It was definitely tender and I like anything spiked with pimenton.

Burzako jamon crudo

I ate a lot of jamon crudo on vacation. I also drank quite a bit of tinto, and was always surprised at how high they filled wine glasses when ordering by the glass. I’m more value-minded than concerned with my wine being able to breathe so this was a fortunate quirk to me.

Burzako * Mexico 345, Buenos Aires, Argentina

La Vineria de Gualterio Bolivar

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.

Vineria de gualterio bolivar starters

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.

Vineria de gualterio bolivar more starters

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.

Vineria de gualterio bolivar sopa en 2 tempuraturas 
sopa en 2 tempuraturas

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.

Vineria de gualterio bolivar papa huevo trufa 
papa huevo trufa

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.

Vineria de gualterio bolivar 24 weeds 
twenty-four weeds

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.

Vineria de gualterio bolivar pulpo vinagreta solida 
pulpo vinagreta solida

Chewy and tart octopus with a vinaigrette formed into a substance resembling feta cheese.

Vineria de gualterio bolivar mero jugo de paella 
mero jugo de paella

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.

Vineria de gualterio bolivar carrillera caldo de hongos 
carrillera caldo de hongos

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.

Vineria de gualterio bolivar cerdo rabanitos hongos 
cerdo rabanitos hongos

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.

Vineria de gualterio bolivar ravioli de ron 
ravioli de ron

Another ravioli, and I can remember the filling this time because it was like a mini shot of rum, tempered by a granita.

Vineria de gualterio bolivar crema catalana 
crema catalana

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:

Aristides Chardonnay
Colomé Torrontes
Escorihuela 2005 Syrah
Weinert Sauvignon Blanc

La Vineria de Gualterio Bolivar * Bolivar 865, Buenos Aries, Argentina

Bar Uriarte

I don’t know how to classify a restaurant like Bar Uriarte, which serves steaks, blood sausage and grilled pizzas, all local favorites, but French terrines and chile-spiked prawns, as well. The local online food guide Guia Olea calls this “Mediterránea” so I will take their word for it.

Supposedly, this is a sceney restaurant but on a Sunday night it was dead with just two other occupied tables and some underdressed, overtanned Brazilian tourists sitting way too close to us. Can you be bridge and tunnel if you live in South America? I don’t think puente y tunnel means anything in Spanish.

I do see how this restaurant is geared towards American tastes and pocketbooks (along with Olsen, it gets mentioned a lot in US media). They serve brunch, which isn’t common in Buenos Aires, and specials written on the chalkboard are in English. I don’t recall if the actual menu was in English or not.

Bar uriarte pancetta wrapped figs

Figs stuffed with goat cheese and almonds and wrapped in prosciutto. This was a split appetizer, decadent but not overwhelming. There was a touch of honey in there, too.

Bar uriarte sweetbreads

Grilled sweetbreads with onion rings, french fries and watercress salad. Who can argue with French fries and onion rings? I had to get a dose of mojellas (sweetbreads) in somehow. Organ meats are rampant in the city, not just at parrillas. I do appreciate the Argentine fondness for offal where it’s low-end, upcale and everywhere inbetween.

Bar uriarte ricotta cheesecake

No, you don’t have to go to Buenos Aires for ricotta cheesecake. It was still a nice dessert, and the white chocolate wasn’t completely typical.

Bar Uriarte * Uriarte 1572, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Casa Cruz

I was inclined to pass up Casa Cruz, even though magazines and guidebooks love it and it was close enough to our apartment that I could wear heels without suffering. All the descriptions put me off, especially the notion of giant gold entrance doors (not actual gold, duh—I took a photo upon leaving but it was too dark and blurry). I was picturing cold Meatpacking district, but it was more plush Vegas. The scale of everything—those doors, towering floral arrangements, well-spaced seating—was grand. Trump would feel cozy here.

Casa cruz cocktail

I didn’t encounter cocktails so much in Buenos Aires so I was intrigued by their list containing classics and unique specialties. No matter that The Cruz cost as much as a steak in nearby restaurants. ($10 give or take). I wanted to try something with Chartreuse since you don’t see it used as a mixer that often. The result was stiff, bitter and fitting for an aperitif.

This was the only restaurant we visited that had a sommelier, not that I tend to use them because I don’t like relying on humans. We chose a Torrontes, a crisp local white that I know little about and am trying to figure out. It definitely doesn’t have the same name recognition as Malbec.

Casa cruz amuse

I wish I could remember more about this amuse other than it tasted like Parmesan cheese.

Guidebooks list Casa Cruz as Italian, which isn't really true at all. I'm not sure what cuisine this is. Many of the ingredient combinations sounded wretched (Lisa’s peanut butter mashed potatoes on Top Chef immediately came to mind) but worked on the plate. You’ll see (at least hazily—mood lighting is death for furtive flashless pics).

Casa cruz black pudding figs scallops sprouts almonds 
black pudding * figs * scallops * sprouts salad * almonds…

I’m mimicking how dishes were listed on the menu, don’t blame the pretension on me. English descriptions were on the left hand side and Spanish on the right, which was interesting for comparison. I don’t think the average American knows what black pudding is or wants to know, and would probably be more inclined to order morcilla since it sounds nicer. Of course, I ordered it because I love blood sausage.

The almonds, and even the figs made sense, sweet/savory and kind of Spanish. It was the scallops that seemed weird. They didn’t clash with the rich charcuterie at all, though.

Casa cruz grilled shrimp 
grilled shrimps * potato and pear warm salad * shrimp nage

I’m a control freak and don’t like to let James take his own photos because they tend to come out as blurred as a palsied photographer’s. He also doesn’t get close enough. I didn’t taste this dish.

Casa cruz risotto duck confit truffle oil pickled mango portabellas 
white risotto *  truffle oil * duck confit * pickled mango * portobello mushrooms

I never ever order pastas or risottos. The ingredient combination must’ve grabbed my attention, the pickled fruit specifically. Garlic and truffle oil dominated a bit, but only a bit because this dish was sumptious on all levels. It’s not like you can play down cream and duck confit. It seems odd to be recounting this item now when it’s a gazillion degrees outside and the thought of this makes my stomach hurt, but it made sense for fall weather when I was craving something substantial.

Casa cruz red tuna chimichurri bone marrow raspberries potatoes 
red tuna * chimichurri * bone marrow * raspberries * potatoes

Raspberries are obviously the odd man out in this combination. James insisted that the fruit was absent and I can't detect any hint of it in this photo either.

Casa cruz amuse 2

This was a basil tomato granita. I guess that's Italian.

Casa cruz corn creme brulee black current dulce de leche 
corn crème brulee * black currant * dulce de leche * cinnamon sugar

This was a take on crema Catalan, a flatter, spread out Spanish crème brulee. The sweet corn kind of gave a rice pudding effect while the dulce de leche didn’t register at all. I was really hoping for more caramel flavor.

I expected more scene than substance from Casa Cruz and was wrong. The setting felt luxurious without being stuffy and the food was genuinely good. Of course my perception might be clouded by the amazing exchange rate and foreign locale. I wouldn’t like this restaurant in NYC at all. It just wouldn’t work.

Lion earring

At the very least, I was happy for the chance to wear my new cute/tacky Target earrings with laser cut lions (I'm a leo, I can't help it). I don’t normally wear much, if any, jewelry, and never gold-toned, so these might’ve languished in a drawer for months. Thank you, Casa Cruz for the opportunity.

Casa Cruz * Buenos Aries, Argentina


This is definitely not New York pizza. Just look at all that cheese. I only had time to try pizza once in Buenos Aires and consequently chose what I thought was the most common style: Pizza a la piedra. Pizza a la parrilla, grilled, thin crusted (and probably most to my liking) and pizza al molde, a deep dish pie, can also be found in the city.

Guerrin sells slices up front where diners stand at counters. Table seating is beyond the fray in the back of the restaurant. The multi-paged menu you’re handed lists a ridiculous number of combinations categorized by headings, some which mystified me. Roquefort had its own section, and yes, all the pizzas beneath it contained blue cheese.


The most common toppings consist of green olives (whole with pits, which are tricky to eat), morrones (red peppers) and faina, a thin chickpea cake that people just plop on top of their slices. I purchased a lovely product called Fugafaina, which I'm assuming is the chickpea flour used to make these garbanzo bean delicacies.

Guerrin olive ham tomato pizza

This is the Especial Guerrin with ham, red peppers, and those tricky green olives. The brininess and the generous cheese really get to you and demand pacing. There’s nothing dainty about these pizzas. I think Americans would really dig Argentinean-style pizza. In fact, Americans would like Argentinean cuisine across the board if they knew more about it. We have a lot in common with this meat and potatoes loving culture.

Guerrin onion peppers ham pizza

I ordered one whose name I can’t recall. This used red peppers and ham, as well as a ton of sliced onions. You had better like those onions. A generous sprinkling of oregano spruced up the pizzas.

We ordered two smalls, but really should’ve just shared one. I was inclined to just leave our leftover four slices but our waiter insisted in wrapping them to go. As I’ve mentioned before, I appreciated Buenos Aires’s no food wasting spirit. I’m a glutton but that doesn’t mean I have an insatiable appetite.

Guerrin * Corrientes 1368, Buenos Aires, Argentina