I had a fabulous lunch at Oviedo Monday. Chipirones a la plancha and the unbelievably tender and delicately flavored Scottish Black Face lamb from La Biznaguita farm.
The wine I ordered was less impressive: Bodega Mendel’s Unus Mendoza 2005 (218 pesos, about US$65). It was shy on the nose and tight, with restrained fruit and slightly gritty tannins. I chalked it up to the 35 percent Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend (along with Malbec), but perhaps it was the vintage or the wine was going through a dumb phase. What I look for in Argentine wines is the lovely expression of fruit.
At any rate, the prices on the list were more reasonable than at Cabaña Las Lilas, about 25 to 35 pesos lower for the specific wines that I could compare. However, they must have been expensive as Buenos Aires goes, because I virtually had the place to myself.
Other than me, there was a table of two businessmen, a family that ate quickly and did not order wine and two individual women diners, who sat at the same table in successive shifts.
I was told that it was Monday and early, though my reservation was for 1:00 pm. The reality, I subsequently discovered at Patagonia Sur the next day, is that restaurants like Oviedo and Patagonia Sur are too expensive for locals. Rather, they rely on foreigners, either tourists or business travelers, for revenue.
Patagonia Sur was expensive, more like New York prices. Dinner for two, with a generous tip, was US$275. It was also a fabulous meal. Francis Mallmann’s La Boca outpost is a jewel of a restaurant, tiny and well-appointed. The menu is prix fixe. I had a wonderful appetizer of sweetbreads, followed by the best steak so far this week: a succulent rib eye with a chimichurri sauce.
This was washed down with a gorgeous Malbec Mendoza Riglos Gran 2005 from Finca Las Divas (205 pesos, US$61). It had effusive and pure aromas and flavors of blackberry, pomegranate and violet, with elegance and finesse, ending on a mineral note.
Did I mention we were the only customers in the restaurant?
On the other hand, Osaka was turning people away at the door on Monday night. We added a third person to our reservation earlier that day and only secured a larger table due to a cancellation.
After a few dishes, I understood why. The Peruvian/Japanese cuisine there is terrific. We put ourselves in the waiter’s hands and each tapas-like portion arrived hot, cooked to perfection and impeccably spiced. So much so, that the peppery, savory Finca La Anita Syrah Mendoza 2005 (200 pesos, US$60) accompanied everything, including the seafood preparations, with ease.
I don’t remember all the dishes we ate. But, if you like interesting flavors in a casual setting, this is a good choice. Reserve a table well in advance.
So it seems like feast or famine for restaurants in Buenos Aires at the moment. Inflation has made dining out at the best restaurants prohibitive for most except those with deep pockets. And it seems that wine prices bear no relation to cost; proprietors seem to charge what they like.
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