I rented an apartment in Buenos Aires so I could get the feel for living here. Every morning I prepare breakfast, pretty much the same stuff I have in L.A. I go shopping at a supermarket, Disco, and at small vegetable stores. Today I had half a white melon, very much like a honeydew, stuffed with blueberries, strawberries, pecans, lemon juice. I also prepare my own lunches. Dinners find me going out to try Argentine restaurants. When I get home I'll do a whole story on the health food scene and on the vegetarian restaurants I found-- and I´m pretty sure I've found 'em all. But today I want to write up a review of a haute cuisine restaurant my favorite concierge suggested. It's new and not in any of the guide books yet.
In fact, the whole area isn't in any of the guide books yet. The restaurant is called Chila and the area is Puerta Madera. It is the newly gentrified docks region and, man is it ever gentrified! No old word charm here, except there were two three-mast naval schooners docked along the bank and a full navy band playing a concert. The area looks real snazzy and upscale and with a grotesque combination of TGI Friday and Hooters on one side of the river and glistening highrises, complements of ABN-AMRO, Hilton, Nextel, LG, and lots of construction cranes dominating the other side, it's just the kind of area I'd steer clear of. But then I would have missed Chila.
The concierge had helped me trick the rotten Brazilians out of a visa and I wanted to celebrate with a wonderful dining experience. She said she had just eaten at Chila and that it was brand new and a secret that no one knew about yet. She said it would be empty. It was. Lucky me.
The Argentine dining scene, beyound the empañadas and parrillas is pretty sophisticated. And there are nouvelle Argentine restaurants everywhere. Chila's chef is preparing bold and exciting meals, combining delcious and unique, if not traditional, flavors. The waiter suggested a cold avocado cream with shrimps sauted in cayenne pepper. It was completely delicious and I would have liked three of them. So much for the old canard that you can't get any spicy food in Buenos Aires. As a main course I had a Sole farcí. It was stuffed with mushrooms and shrimps and in a lime juice and coconut milk sauce; served with a simple green salad. I'm glad it was a couple of miles from my apartment because I needed the nice long walk to help digest such rich food.
The restaurant is impeccably designed and would get highest grades from Zagat in the decor and service categories, two things I never care about. (I'm just in it for the food.) I do care about prices though, and here they are great-- at least for Americans. The meal cost me 75 pesos ($25) and it would have been a $75 meal in NY or L.A. Exchange rates used to work that way for Americans in Europe too. Now they work against us in the same way in Europe. Here, as long as you go to places specifically catering to locals, your dollar stretches triple.