Argentines take great pride in their food. Besides
wanting to know if you are for Boca or River (arch rivals on the Argentine football
scene), the most common questions a traveller might encounter include: "Have you eaten a steak yet"? "What’s your favourite empanada flavour?"
"Have you tried malbec?" "Do you
know what mate is?"
A trip to The Argentine Experience will
make answering these questions a breeze.
What started out as a closed-door
restaurant in a small apartment in 2011 has evolved into a 28-seat restaurant
and bar in the nightlife hotspot of Palermo Hollywood. The three-hour "interactive
dining experience" is a gourmet three-course meal with a twist – guests prepare
some of the dishes themselves while learning about Argentine culture and
Led by two English-speaking hosts, one foreign and one
local to provide different perspectives, guests convene in the ground-level
lounge and bar where they enjoy a Malabeca cocktail (malbec, pisco and apple
juice) and mingle with the other diners. Once seated at the upstairs dining area,
where the walls are adorned with mate gourds, participants
are taught to fill and wrap their own empanadas
(pastries) with pre-prepared gourmet ingredients of their choosing, including red
wine-marinated beef stew or caramelised onions and cheese.
While waiting for the empanadas to cook, local favourites
such as provoleta (grilled provolone
cheese with herbs and spices), Argentine-style pork chorizo, and homemade chimichurri (Argentine salsa made with onion,
garlic, olive oil, oregano, paprika, basil and olive oil) are served.
Empanada making and eating is followed by a main
course of thick cut
fillet steak, mashed potato
and roasted vegetables. Argentina has one of the highest consumptions of beef in
the world, and the owner of The Argentine Experience,
Englishman Leon Lightman, travelled for six months through the country,
visiting cattle ranches to find the best sources of grass-fed beef. On his trip
he also learned the trick of leaving the steaks uncovered in the fridge for 24
hours to allow the outside of the meat to harden, locking in 100% of the flavour and resulting in the juciest steak possible.
After the main course, guests assemble their own alfajores, traditional Argentine
desserts that consist of two biscuits joined by dulce de leche, covered with
chocolate fondant and coated with coconut shavings. The feast is concluded with
a lesson how to formally prepare, serve and drink mate, a traditional tea made from the dried leaves of yerba mate, a
species of holly native to subtropical South America.
Throughout the meal, guests are served glasses of malbec
from Argentina’s famous Mendoza wine region, while the hosts share anecdotes about
Argentine history, cuisine and culture.
The cost is $85 per person and reservations can be
Tim Fitzgerald is the Buenos Aires Localite for BBC
Travel. He also writes gringoinbuenosaires.com.