Buenos Aires: a city tasting tour with Germán Martitegui
This year, Buenos Aires is basking in the glory as Ibero-American Academy’s gastronomy culture city. And with good reason. While porteños (BA’s residents) almost never tire of socialising with steak, new culinary arrivals have helped set the scene alight: you can easily enjoy Peruvian ceviche, southeast Asian curries, Korean barbecue and contemporary Israeli meze, supported by to-be-expected Italian, Spanish and Armenian eateries (and, of course, steakhouses).
Throw in big-time food fairs such as Masticar and Raíz, an abundance of food trucks and a World’s 50 Best Restaurants establishment in Tegui, it’s fair to say that Buenos Aires is going through a foodie renaissance that extends beyond beef.
In between travelling to – and cooking in – every Argentine province for Proyecto Tierras and co-hosting dinners with the likes of Boragó’s Rodolfo Guzmán, chef Germán Martitegui of Tegui (number 49 on World's 50 Best Restaurants list), shares some of his favourite spots so you can eat like a local in his city.
“Bidou is a classic place that takes you straight back to the 1960s. The décor is wood, the waiters are career waiters, the glassware and dinnerware have been the same from day one; a similar place would be La biela in Recoleta. Bidou has a big old coffee machine, staff squeeze your orange juice then and there, and they serve classic Argentine medialunas (like croissants) that are yellow and shiny. A total classic – as is Florida Garden. For more contemporary spots for coffee, I like going to LAB or Yeite.”
“I often eat at the Mercado Central (central market) and this morning I had a choripán (sausage sandwich) with bacon and egg. Market sellers start work really early so they’re ready for lunch by 10.30am or 11am. There’s an array of parrillas (grills) outside the market where some people really work their magic, and there’s one lady who makes stews in a vast single pot, covered with a sheet of cloth. It’s really tasty. Plus, the Mercado de Belgrano was revamped in August so that’s set to become a good place to eat.”
Comida al paso and minutas (fast food)
“While I do enjoy a choripán from Nuestra parrilla, a hole in the wall that’s tucked into San Telmo market, my go-to fast food is pizza at La mezzetta. I always order a slice of muzzarella with fainá. We love pizza in Argentina and I’ve grabbing a slice on the hop, kind of on the sly, since I was a kid. At some places, eating it standing at the bar and mopping up greasy cheese with useless, almost transparent napkins, is the tastiest way. Thick dough and plenty of cheese is the Argentine tradition.”
“When I go to El Pobre Luis I order a pamplona, a sausage made the Uruguayan way. It’s a typical neighbourhood parrilla that became very successful, and is now known for extremely good quality. I always appreciated Luis’ work, and a lot of chefs eat there. Sadly, Luis is no longer with us but his recipes continue to live on at his parrilla, which is important.”
“At Miramar, a Spanish bodegón on a Boedo corner, they’ve been preparing frog’s legs, rabbit stew, rabo (oxtail) and octopus using the same recipes since 1928. The tortilla is incredible, as are the bread pudding and flan (crème caramel). Artists and locals go there: I always order tortilla and rabo. Back in Palermo, Proper and Gran Dabbang are pretty trendy right now, while I’ve been going to Sarkis for Armenian food for years.”
“One of Buenos Aires’ tasting menu pioneers is Gonzalo Aramburu of Aramburu, and he’s done it for 10 years in a difficult neighbourhood - the restaurant is due to move to Recoleta by yearend. The price-quality ratio has always been good and he’s always managed to surprise. One dish I really like is prawns cooked over a stone and served in a copper saucepan; it’s been on the menu since he opened. As for classics, head to La Bourgogne at the Alvear Palace.”
“For contemporary cocktails, I go to Florería Atlántico; I really like owner Tato Giovannoni’s interpretation of Argentine ingredients and traditions. It’s something that we have in common and, in fact, sometimes I’ll try one of Tato’s drinks and it’s just like one of my dishes! He might have mixed turmeric and orange, which I just used in a stock. In my opinion, though, the most beautiful bar in Buenos Aires was Bar Plaza, but it’s undergoing refurbishment. A piece of history, it had mahogany walls and plenty of brass, retaining a 1950s ambience. The waiters and the cocktails were in sync – elegant, perfect and classic. The perfect combination for me was going there at Sunday lunchtime, starting with a Bloody Mary then tucking into puchero (Argentine stew).”