Buenos Aires - Day 2
Hugh had arranged for a car, driver and guide to spend Saturday morning with us to give us a sense of the city. Useful exercise, particularly with as fluent and as knowledgeable guide as Maryanna was. Got a good sense of the city and am beginning to create a mental map, a sense of where things are in relation to each other.
The afternoon was spent walking and in anticipation of our coming dinner. We had made a reservation at a "closed-door restaurant" described in an article here: "The secret to accessing some of the most memorable meals to be had in Buenos Aires is a bit of insider knowledge and a reservation. Puertas cerradas, or closed-door restaurants, are where some of the city's best chefs are at work, often in the comfort of their own homes, creating mouthwatering, multi-course meals. Lately, more and more of these closed-door restaurants have been popping up, leading to a new variety of cuisines and dining styles, and they're quickly becoming the most sought-after tables in town."
The concept of private restaurants, usually in the chef's home and as a result very small with few tables, is a trend that has been around for a while but is growing quickly. We were lucky enough to get a table at Casa Coupage, one of the originals whose emphasis is on wine pairings, not surprising as it is run by a couple of sommeliers as well as by a first-class chef. We arrived for our 9:30 reservation a couple of minutes early, rang the door bell and were welcomed by one of the owners to select a table in one of couple of charming rooms, the original living room and dining rooms of the house which had been re-organized and decorated for their new incarnation as a small private restaurant.
We were welcomed with a glass of local sparkling wine and were given our menus; we both decided to go with the 7 course tasting menu and I chose a flight of 7 wines to accompany it while V chose a 5 wine flight. Our host for the evening, the owner who had welcomed us quickly got the game started with a couple of whites from Patagonia. The restaurant handles the wines in an interesting way; my 7 wine flight consisted of 2 whites with the first 2 courses, 3 reds for the 3 courses to follow and a couple of desert wines for the cheese and desert courses. Instead of bringing a wine with each course, our host poured both whites at the beginning of the meal and later when we moved to reds he poured all 3 reds at once, suggesting that as we ate our courses we should play with the wines a little and try different wines with different foods to see how they behaved, great fun!
Our whites were a reisling-styled wine which we really liked but the second white we sent back after tasting it as it was a chardonnay with all the characteristics of a chardonnay which for some is heaven but for us an actively unpleasant experience. We were instead rewarded with a wine that we had not heard of, a Torrontés from Salta which was funky in the extreme but very compelling. A hugely floral nose, dry and fruity with a dusty finish with an overtone of nail polish remover; weird and wonderful.
Reds were fabulous, three variations on Melbec from Mendoza, ranging from a cheerful, light fun wine to a very serious, structured, heavily tannic wine that needed protracted aging from a vineyard that only produces 3,000 cases a year, so very hard to come by, and concluding with a Malbec Cab blend that was a very serious wine indeed and my favourite. Wine was poured freely and while serious attention was paid to the tasting and food-matching, when it came to drinking there was no fooling around; glasses were well-filled and more arrived when the levels dropped.
Food matched the wine, and so a wonderfully organized, well-planned and well-served meal. We finally staggered out of the restaurant at 12:45, adrift on clouds of wine and arrived back to our hotel after 1:00. When we left the restaurant there were still occupied tables finishing their dinners. Argentines, like Spanish culture everywhere, like to dine late.
V. says: The city tour was great, and Maryanna was a font of knowledge. The city is truly beautiful right now, all the wide boulevards are lined with jacaranda trees, which are in full bloom...a glorious light purple. Looking down a street it is clouds of purple. We saw all of the major sights, including wandering around the Recoleta cemetery, which is just as amazing as everyone had said. It really is like a subdivision...with accomodations cheek by jowl and smaller than usual! For example, the tomb/house beside Eva Peron has a for sale sign in its window...too much traffic, apparently. Fascinating to see some of the art deco monuments, and the occasional excess. We didn't love the La Boca area, way too artificial and touristy, but the various official buildings, including the pink palace, are impressive indeed. Totally moving to see the area where the bereaved mothers have continued to protest and mourn their lost children. It's also interesting what we don't see...hardly any American chain stores for example. The currency restrictions make it very difficult. Somehow Starbuck's has figured it out, however. We drove around the port district as well and were struck, once again, at the size and diversity of the city. So glad we did this.