Wine, food and nature: an Argentine Tasting Tour
The world’s eighth-largest country, Argentina, has very much to offer fine dining lovers hungry for meals also outside of the capital Buenos Aires and also beyond steak. Fine Dining Lovers has checked out Córdoba, wine-producing province of Mendoza, Patagonia and Puerto Iguazú – home to the awe-inspiring waterfalls – for meals worth travelling for. As the Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants are getting closer, discover with us the best places to explore Argentina and where to try the typical delicacies of the country.
Mendoza city and province
With a profusion of wineries offering epic lunch tasting menus and plenty of orchards and local products to draw from, it’s difficult to make a wrong eating move in Mendoza. After an 18-month hiatus, chef Pablo Del Río reopened Siete Cocinas in February, ditching his previous tasting menu format for à la carte. Drawing inspiration from seven key regions, standout dishes include kid goat slow-cooked for 15 hours in a clay oven.
Also try his other spots, casual Italo-Argentine spot Fuente & Fonda for the abundant pasta to share, and Zampa for small plates such as bone marrow on toast. Mendoza city is also home to María Antonieta bistro led by Vanina Chimeno; her culinary B side is Orégano that she runs with another half Francis Mallmann: go for the clay-oven roasted pizza topped with goat’s cheese, pesto, and broccoli. The Netflix star continues to wow diners with his fiery skills at 1884, housed at centenary bodega Escorihuela Gascón.
As for those winery options, lunch musts in Malbec heartland Luján de Cuyo include the tasting menu starring tomato textures and braised fillet at Fogón; lap up the four steps at a table next to 70-year-old Malbec vines. Osadía de Crear, meanwhile, whips up a fantastic braised veal cheek, while the roasted pear and blue cheese at Rosell Boher Lodge is moreish. Over the motorway in Maipú, Soledad Nardelli keeps matters local at Tapiz, sourcing many ingredients from the bodega’s organic garden. On a winery dash? Tuck into an enormous home-cured Serrano-style ham sandwich from Ezequiel’s food truck on the road to Chile in Ugarteche.
As for Uco Valley, Piedra Infinita is an epic affair dealing in local ingredients such as slow-roasted kid goat, while Mallmann pops up again, this time at Siete Fuegos housed at The Vines of Mendoza; groups should book the communal table for a smoking meal, close to the seven fire pits. For a relaxed experience, grab a sofa under the weeping willows at La Azul and tuck into succulent beef empanadas followed up with braised pork.
Córdoba City and Province
Housed in the most narrow of spaces in Córdoba city, chef Javier Rodríguez taps into experience honed at Noma at his own El Papagayo. Don’t miss the pork belly with baba ganoush and miso, or the excellent wine list curated by sommelier Mariano Moreno.
Tucked into the rolling hills of La Cumbre, an hour’s drive north of Córdoba city, an ultra-local nine-step tasting menu and stunning views await at Gapasai. Santiago Blondel forages for local products such as carob and paico (a local herb): a must is the smoked wood pigeon. Bonus track: eat and drink the evening away, then stumble upstairs to stay at the three-room B&B.
In San Javier, three hours southwest of Córdoba city, DeAdobe deals in organic and biodynamic ingredients, many sourced from its own orchard and the surrounding Traslasierra valley: goat’s cheese comes directly from its on-site herd. Wash down with the biodynamic in-house Malbec-Cabernet Sauvignon-Tannat blend made by star winemaker Matías Michelini.
In popular skiing destination San Carlos de Bariloche, Butterfly offers up spectacular lake views; sample a souped-up breakfast featuring locally picked mushrooms and egg cooked at 62ºC then dusted with bacon powder. A more personal experience, given that Cassis is based at her home, Mariana Müller – who produces her own vinegar line – concocts a delectable seven-step tasting menu: try the fillet of hare with borage.
In La Pampa, Pampa Roja, helmed by sommelier-and-chef, husband-and-wife team Mariano Braga and Flor Borsani, stands out. This dynamic duo focuses on regional produce such as chard and thistle snacks teamed with crude cow’s milk aioli. Braga’s creative wine list has picked up several awards, too.
In Neuquén city, Mauricio Couly has a passion for cheese-making, using milk from his own herds to make Patagonzola, his version of Gorgonzola. Sample that and others at his establishment La Toscana.
Puerto Iguazú, Misiones
Small town Puerto Iguazú in Misiones province is one of Argentina’s most popular tourist destinations and while many restaurants churn out food for the visiting masses, there are some gems.
Aqva makes a concerted effort to use ingredients from Misiones such as surubí river fish, yerba mate tea and manioc. Order the grilled dorado, closing matters with mate crème brûlée. While La Rueda mainly deals in beef, the steakhouse has a strong line in fish: try the abundant pacú, a meaty river fish offering up white and dark meat. Over at El Jardín, sous chef Cristián Lugo’s autumn 2018 menu tips the wink to Misiones: mbejú starch cake with freshwater shrimp, avocado and peach is one example, while caramelized pineapple – teamed with lime cream and maize crumble – deceptively looks like a fillet steak.