Have you ever felt like you have discovered the best-kept secret in a city?
Have you ever had a dining experience that made you feel like a famous food critic?
I have. At El Baqueano.
I do not even remember where I read about El Baqueano during my guide book research, but I was surprised I managed to live in Buenos Aires for 6 months last year without hearing about this restaurant.
Before I arrived for my dinner reservation, I knew three things about this restaurant:
#1) The concept is to introduce people to the carnes autóctonos (native meats) of the country, NOT including the cow (think llama, seafood, and furry creatures you’ve never heard of before).
#2) Dishes are prepared in a haute-cuisine style in a 7-course tasting menu with optional wine pairings.
In addition to being a wine snob, I am now a food snob and only want to eat at restaurants with tasting menus.
#3) They have received praise from international chefs and food critics, yet still remains relatively low-key.
I had been in San Telmo all day doing research, and I was tired. As soon as I stepped inside El Baqueano, the threat of rain turned into a massive downpour with whipping wind and lightning.
Since Buenos Aires is a walking/ public transportation city, this meant that I had the entire restaurant to myself for the evening. I was dining alone, and there was no people-watching to distract or entertain. This could have made for a boring or awkward meal, but as soon as I met Gabriela, the sommelier/ dining room manager, and we started talking about the tasting menu, I realized that I was in for an exciting and unique gastronomical experience.
In a city full of white linen tablecloths, I appreciated the black and red, low-lit décor of El Baqueano.
It is intimate and elegant.
Because I had the place to myself, I had the opportunity to meet Chef Fernando and have a great conversation with him and Gabriela about the cuisine of Argentina. I learned that Australia is the only country that eats meats similar to the Argentines. We talked about making food an event and bringing gastronomy to Argentina. And I was happy to find that we shared the same opinions of some of the top restaurants in Buenos Aires.
Maybe I am on my way to becoming a foodie
Without further ado…
Usuzukuri of White Salmon
After the first few bites, I thought,
“Am I eating fish?”
This was so light and delicate with both a sweetness and subtle spiciness.
This dish was perfectly paired with Amalaya’s Vino Blanco, which is a vineyard I love and visited in Cafayate.
Carpaccio de Llama
This dish had so many quality ingredients: spicy mustard, espumas of cheese, olive oil, and of course the super-thin slices of llama meat.
Ensalada Tibia de Vizcacha
When confronted with a bizarre-looking salad with the meat of an animal I have never heard of, I thought,
“Okay, here we go. This is what I signed up for.”
Once the vizcaha was described to me, I am quite certain I saw one of these critters on my tour through Salar de Tara in the Atacama Desert of Chile.
It looks like a small rabbit.
And guess what.
It tastes like chicken but with more flavor.
This dish was paired with Crios Rosé de Malbec, which is now my favorite rosé. I am not even a big fan of rosés, but I would buy this to drink at home.
Sopa Asada de Langostinas de Puerto Madryn
I was confused when this dish first came out because this is what I was presented.
I was told to lift the steam-filled bowl and then pour in the soup.
A fun touch.
I like participating in the creation of my meal, as long as it only requires a small amount of effort 😉
Gyozas de Yacare
The theme was green.
The gyozas (thin-skinned dumpling) were green. The green puff you see is a bizcocho (like an airy biscuit) of wasabi. The neon-green is actually slices of ginger.
Yacare is a species of caiman (yep, crocodile) found in South America.
I loved the playfulness and flavor combinations of this dish.
Two desserts?!! This is my kind of tasting menu.
I am a huge fan of chocolate. The Textura de Pera (textures of pear) combined a pear ice cream with a large chunk of the fruit in a pool of white chocolate and dark chocolate.
This was good, but the dessert that had me scooping every last drop from the plate was the Helado de Canela con Cayote, Queso Crema, Sopa Limon y Madera Comestible (cinnamon ice cream with cayote fruit, cheese, lemon soup and edible wood).
Yes, it sounds strange when translated, but trust me, it is one of the most perfect desserts I have ever had in my life.
My tasting notes say, “Love, Love, Love.”
Desserts were paired with a type of wine called Semillón, which is a white wine from a grape typical in Bordeaux, France, and apparently with a long history in Argentina as well. I continue to learn more about Argentine wine. For someone who does not like super-sweet wines, this was a great dessert wine with honey and apricots and a hint of herbs and citrus to balance the sweetness.
This post is over 1000 words of praise, so I will go ahead and wrap things up. At this point my gushing makes it obvious that El Baqueano is one of the best dining experiences I have had (and not just in BA). Because it is so unique, yet still specifically Argentine, I consider this to be a must-visit restaurant in Buenos Aires. The service is wonderful, and you can feel the passion and work that goes into each dish. El Baqueno is located in San Telmo at the corner of Bolivar and Chile.