Barbecues Galore!

Robin Boyle Barbecue, Latin America, Travel

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Click here for: Buenos Aires – The City!

One reason for going to Buenos Aires is to eat!

There is a definite Argentinean cuisine, with many of the dishes and customs duplicated in some form or other in neighbouring South American countries. The Spanish and Italian influences on the cuisine are clear, though there is less of an indigenous impact in Argentina than in other countries. Whatever the influences, they have all been melded, welded, blended and transformed, evolving into something quite distinctive. In Buenos Aires you are certainly not eating in Paris, Rome or Madrid.

Argentinean cuisine is largely based around meat and barbecues and cooking with fire and over fire especially in the huge southern region of Patagonia. Buenos Aires has perhaps the world’s greatest concentration of steak restaurants. Look for restaurants mentioning asado or parilla. Many will have extravagant grills or barbecuing set-ups that can be seen from the street.  They generally serve other meats besides beef: lamb, pork, sausages, sweetbreads, chitterlings, … And they might offer grilled cheese. Served with the barbecued meat you will generally find a small bowl of chimichurri, a tart sauce based on green herbs. (Click here for our earlier post: Chimichurri.)

Don’t be surprised to see an individual or maybe two or three tackling a platter like this one.

There are other dishes and ingredients we don’t often see in Australia. We only mention three here, two of which, empanadas and dulce de leche, are as ubiquitous as the barbecue.

Empanadas are pastry parcels with all sorts of fillings (see next blog post). They come in different sizes, are made from different pastries and can be cooked in different ways. They are sold everywhere and are the equivalent of the pie, pasty or sausage roll in Australia.

Dulce de leche is like a thick milky caramel, based around reduced (condensed) milk, and appears in all manner of desserts, biscuits and confections.

A surprisingly delicious and reasonably common dish is the cazuela, a hot pot type of dish based around the Spanish word for casserole or cooking pot. We give our version of this dish in our next blog post.

There is also a wonderful Argentinean wine industry that goes somewhat beyond the Malbecs of Mendoza. We cover that in later posts too.

Research is essential to eat well

You will find food outlets everywhere, from street food to fine dining. So many of the Buenos Aires restaurants are very smart, with inviting decors, well-laid tables and sophisticated, old-European style service. Many will entice you in by their colour and flamboyance. But often you will feel a little let down by the food experience.

Thus it is necessary to do your research well. There are endless sources of information about restaurants, cafes, food outlets and bars. However, you won’t always come up trumps, and you might find some of the barbecue meals fall short of the best in Australia. Check the obvious Internet sources for restaurant recommendations: we often find the brief versions of the Lonely Planet city guides give reliable pointers, especially with their “top picks”. But ask around as well, anyone you think might have some insight, for example, friends or travel agents who have been there before; someone your come across; we often find that the staff at museums, galleries and bookshops have sophisticated tastes and suggest interesting places to eat.

Below we mention some of our experiences.

On the flight from Melbourne we sat next to a lady who lived 50 km outside Buenos Aires. We asked her where to eat in BA. She had one recommendation, a barbecue restaurant called Calden del Soho in Palermo, the restaurant that she and her husband go to every time they visit the city. Six of us had a delightful evening there. The restaurant is very smart but relaxed at the same time, with great old-fashioned service.

In 2009 we visited Cafe Tortoni, near the city centre. It is a tourist magnet because of its lovely interior and style. A group of us went back this time and had a thoroughly satisfying lunch.

We went to restaurant Cumana in Recoleta on our first visit to Buenos Aires in 2009 and loved it. We wanted to go back again this trip. Firstly for their excellent empanadas and secondly for their cazuelas – delicious casserole stews – which we also discuss in the next blog post.

Las Cabras is a barbecue restaurant in Palermo with seating both inside and out. We visited it there in 2009 and enjoyed it so much that we had to return this trip. It has a very relaxed, almost bohemian feel with diners covering all age groups, enjoying large platters of grilled meats and vegetables.

Another restaurant we returned to was Restaurante La Barrica in La Boca. Tango of the highest standard is the attraction but the food is very pleasant, with some in our group giving a high rating to their steaks.

If you feel like eating somewhere that is prestigious and frequented by the well-heeled, have tea or dinner at Hotel Alvea in Recoleta.

For fine dining, try Roux in Recoleta, a small restaurant serving modern fusion cuisine with South American hints.

Walking the streets will show up many places and foods you just want to try.

Click here for: Cazuelas and Empanadas!