Monday, March 26, 2007

Secret food

I could tell you where we had dinner last night, but I'd have to kill you. The restaurant was so secret, we didn't tell ourselves where the hell it was.

My modish dinner companion and rakish man about town Joel thought I would bring the address and I thought he would. Oops.

There are not many food trends here in Buenos Aires, as Joel pointed out the other night. Everything seems to be chugging along on the same meat-potatoes-pizza-pasta formula that has served them well for so many years.

But if there is a nascent trend of any sort, it might be the closed-door, "secret" restaurant.

One of my favorite places to eat here, Providencia, was a closed-door restaurant. But after it was mentioned a few months back in a NYT travel article, I feared an influx of TimeOut-clutching hordes jabbering in English, so I haven't been back.

Finding a restorán de puertas cerradas is tough. You can't ask anyone, especially when it's only been open for three weeks. We did have it narrowed down to one block. So we examined all the houses on the block and tried to peer through windows, reasoning out the likelihood of each one being the restaurant. We also briefly reasoned out the likelihood of our getting arrested for appearing to case people's homes. But whatever.

We got nowhere, so we spent 45 minutes walking around the Palermo neighborhood trying to find someplace with Internet so we could get the address off of an email account.

At one point I asked a cop if he knew where there was Internet in the neighborhood. Before he said no, he made sure to express his displeasure that I had not first wished him buenas noches before I started in.

Fortunately, being churlish is not an arrestable offense.

Joel finally hit upon the idea of going to a so-hip-it-hurts-no-REALLY-hurts hotel several blocks over and asking if they knew where the restaurant was. They did.

We got to the place at least 45 minutes after our reservation and I was afraid the party would have started without us. Yeah. . . . not exactly. We pretty much were the party, being the only ones there, except for two friends of the chef.

At 10.30, we sat down to a seven-course meal and a night of general asshattery.

Welcome drink: Shot of melon, rosemary honey and cachaça
Amuse: Nigiri causa topped with a halibut tartar, on marinated mushrooms and a huacatay ailoli
Salad: Spinach, figs, Paraguayan peanuts, goat cheese and arrope de chañar vinaigrette
Appetizer: Fried Neuquén oyster mushrooms and yellow plum chutney
Intermezzo: Lemon verbana granita*
Main course: Wild mushroom and goat cheese gallete in a corn and yucca humita with a pipian salsa
Dessert: Pear, coconut and red wine mousse tart with milk chocolate bits

A future blog entry will return to the subject of this menu.

For a good while after dinner, we sat and talked with the chef about peyote, his lost years in Mexico City, his MacBook, and Lord knows what else.

About 2.30am, we stumbled out into the street and headed home.

* The chef brought this out and told us what it was. My response: "Oh, wow! I just got some lemon verbana in my produce delivery earlier this week." Joel's response: "I think it's in one of my shampoos."

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