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Friday, December 01, 2006

EATING OUT IN BUENOS AIRES-- CHILA, A GREAT NEW ARGENTINE RESTAURANT

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.

4 comments:

Joe Max said...

Hi Howie!

I just got back from South America myself, touring with Daft Punk. B.A. was the greatest! The three-to-one exhange rate certainly is nice. I had dinner at one of those resturants in the Puerta Madera, with reminded me a lot of Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco (without the crabs). I just had to go to a Argentinian steakhouse and try the Chimichurri sauce. I had Filet Mignon to die for, and it cost me (along with good wine) about 90 Pesos ($30). Muy Gusto!

It's not the same in next-door Chile, though, where the prices are much the same as in the States. I had noticed that in California, we get a lot of Chilean produce during the winter months. So I asked a local (the promoter's translator) if the same was true about Chile -- did they see US produce in their winter? No, she laughed, they were lucky to get CHILEAN produce in their own autumn! Most of it gets exported to the US and Japan, making it quite high priced in the country of its origin. She shrugged and said, "well, it's good for the economy, I suppose" with that air of accepting the inevitable that is so common in S.A.. And arguably, it is, since in all of S.A. it seemed Chile had the most "robust" economy going on.

I met nice folks from Uruguay (right across the way from BA), but never got there.

Enjoy your trip! Watch out for the ice cubes in the local drinks, by the way...

Daniel said...

You should give try a very nice veggie restaurant at Florida Street # 167 Guemes Galería, Granix.

DownWithTyranny said...

Daniel, I did eat at Granix. It's a lunch-only cafeteria style veggie restaurant. Relatively inexpensive and all you can eat. The food is decent, although a little old fashioned by current health food standards (over-cooked, starchy, etc). But overall, a great place for a hungry vegetarian to get lunch.

xavier said...

This is incredible because Argentine people use to prepare their meals and recipes adding generic viagra, I think I'll go there because it sounds so good.