For Stu's last meal in Argentina, we went to Providencia.
I texted my friend Lelis with the address and told her to meet us there. She was running 45 minutes late when she called and said she couldn't find the place. I had neglected to mention in my text message that the restaurant has no sign — no indication that it's a restaurant at all, really. Just a note on the door that says "Knock hard."
Lelis came in, sat down and didn't know quite what to make of the place. After a while, she came around and said she liked it.
"Está buenísimo ¿no?" I said. "Tiene onda." (It's great, isn't it? It's cool.)
"Sí, tiene onda ... lo que no creo que tenga es habilitación." (Yeah, it's cool ... what I don't think it is is licensed.)
I grudgingly conceded that they were closed by the city for several months a year or two ago. Probably for not serving beef.
Providencia is in the middle of a move and has closed off half the restaurant. We sat on the side with large communal tables and the open kitchen. They had two plates on offer that day — a sandwich duo and a salad. We went with the sandwiches. I had seen other people getting them and they were grilled panini-style. When we got them, they were not.
But if you go to Providencia expecting consistency, you're in the wrong place.
Providencia is where this coffee came from. When we finished lunch, we ordered cortados. Unfortunately, we ordered them from a woman I hadn't ever seen working there before. I knew right away they weren't going to be the four-layered, picture-perfect cortados I'd had before. Still, what are you supposed to do? Demand that someone else make the coffee? No.
Stu took the photos of Providencia, mostly because I couldn't take my eyes off the chef, even to snap a photo. He was just so good looking. I mean, good cooking. Good at cooking. HE WAS SO GOOD AT COOKING.
Moving right along. . .
Providencia is in their current space until the end of the month.
Their location now is cavernous and unfinished, with stencil graffiti on the walls, impossibly high ceilings, and an open kitchen. It's definitely part of what has made going there a unique, unpredictable experience. Of course, the food is the other element — simple, seasonal and sometimes inventive without being pretentious. The menu changes constantly and you can tell from eating there that they're actually interested in making the food.
Restaurants have life cycles and sometimes you catch one at just the right time.
I don't know what's going to happen after they move. From what the woman told us, the new space is much smaller. I don't know if it has an open kitchen or not. I doubt it.
It might be that Providencia's arc coincided with mine here.
The relatively light fare at Providencia was all but a necessity considering the meal we had eaten the night before at El Trapiche.
We sat down to dinner at 11pm and ordered steaks, french fries and beer.
A few people reading this have known me for years and probably never seen me consume any of these things, let alone all three of them in one meal.
But I've come around to the idea that there are times for steak, fries and beer. And the last evening of a friend's three-week trip to Argentina on a hot summer night is definitely one of those times.
As we sat at a table by the window, lightning flashed, the skies opened up, and the heat finally broke.
We walked home at 1am, hopping over puddles and dodging raindrops.
Stu got on a plane the next day. I had an amazing time when he was here. We were on the move a lot, so I didn't have a lot of time to think. Now I've got nothing but time to think.
I'm moving back to the States on March 31. I'm determined to make the most of the time I have left here, but first I have to figure out what I mean when I say that.