Innovative cuisine pops up in Buenos Aires
Pop up restaurant Poke is held at Magdalena's Party in Buenos Aires every Wednesday night. (Allie Lazar)
Move over puertas cerradas (closed-door restaurants), a new contender for Buenos Aires’ culinary crown has arrived.
Pop up restaurants, where a chef takes over a venue’s kitchen and offers a custom menu for a limited amount of time, have been around for sometime in cities across the globe -- but the idea only recently arrived in the Argentine capital.
"With the shaky economic situation in Argentina, the pop up model has caught on as the start-up costs are low and there is no need for a risky investment," explained Allie Lazar, a popular Buenos Aires food blogger.
Their popularity is also fuelled by the demand for diverse, creative cuisine in a city dominated by pizzerias and parrillas (grillhouses). And with the once-exciting puerta cerradas scene now getting old and oversaturated, pop ups are stealing the show.
With both expat chefs bringing new culinary concepts to the Argentine palate and renowned local chefs looking for a creative outlet, here are some of the most popular to try:
The expat scene
Determined to bring high-quality Mexican cuisine to Buenos Aires, US chef Liza Puglia has taken over the kitchen in the art gallery/restaurant Tout le Monde in the Palermo Soho neighbourhood. Based on her experience at Hecho en Dumbo in New York, Puglia is introducing the city to authentic Mexican flavours with a small menu of antojitos (mexican street snacks) that are made from scratch, including tacos al pastor (Mexican-style shaved lamb tacos), molletes (bread with beans and chihuahua cheese) and chilaquiles (fried corn tortillas). The doors open at 6 pm every Thursday night and the kitchen closes at midnight, with a happy hour until 10 pm that includes 20 peso margaritas. No advance booking is required.
Another popular newcomer is Poke, run by Californian chef Mychael Henry at the bar and restaurant Magdalena's Party in the Palermo Soho neighbourhood every Wednesday from 8:30 pm until midnight. Henry serves up an inventive fusion menu inspired by Central American, Peruvian, Hawaiian, Californian and Asian street food, with four tapas-like dishes that change every week. Recent crowd pleasers include korokke (Japanese-style sweet potato cakes), casado (a Costa Rican meal of steak, rice, black beans, plantains and salad) and chicama cerviche de mero (grouper cerviche with passion fruit, japanese cucumber, red pepper, guava, red onion and tiger milk). No advance booking is required.
The local scene
Gajo, which has no set schedule and takes place in a different venue each time, is helmed by a team of 12 young local chefs selected by Hernán Gipponi, one of Buenos Aires’ most celebrated chefs. The crew serves up six courses of exciting contemporary Argentine cuisine using high-quality regional produce, with two chefs teaming up to create each course. Recent highlights have included an appetizer consisting of crispy ham, egg, smoked rib risotto, leek and pine mushrooms and a desert of sorbet made with yerba mate. Follow Gajo’s Facebook page to find out about upcoming events.
TC Gourmet, set in the back of the restaurant Local in a private restaurant called Casa Arévalo, is another exciting concept. Here chefs from restaurants around the city take turns creating exclusive tasting menus, often paired with fine wines. The style of cuisine varies depending on the chef; recently Alejandro Digilio, head chef at the prestigious and avant-garde La Vineria de Gualterio Bolivar restaurant, served up corvina a la sal (salted corvina, a South American saltwater fish), and pan-huevo-trufa (a poached egg in soft bread with truffle oil and chicken wing stock). For information on future events and chefs, consult the TC Gourmet website.
Tim Fitzgerald is the Buenos Aires Localite for BBC Travel. He also writes gringoinbuenosaires.com.
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