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Cuisine: New “modern urban” Argentinian.

Visit: December 2012

Price: High (Casa Cruz is a legendary hotspot for anyone who is something in the Argentine celebrity scene).

Wine wall at the back of the restaurant

Wine wall at the back of the restaurant

Atmosphere: Dark, modern and chic. Entering the restaurant trough a giant polished brass doors resembling a hot nightclub can fool you. But as you swim inside into an elegant sea of colors with red finishes resembling the hues of corals, where waiters swirl handfuls of tingling plates around the merry diners, you know that you are at Casa Cruz. The round bar in the forefront is the place of action. Here just around or after midnight the manly representatives of sharks with mind-enravishing cocktails in their hands and hungry for a feminine pray circle around looking for the “tastiest” lady from all. Depending on your mission wear something elegant to be thought of as sophisticated or smart-sexy to attract the appetite of the right ‘shark’. Just keep in mind fashion trends that do not stray too much into extravagance as you might startle the business diners that frequent Casa Cruz today. Men are advised to wear long sleeve shirt, trousers and closed shoes. Women just be beautiful and you are the most properly dressed even though this is one of the most luxurious restaurants in Argentina. Beware “babies are not allowed”, which says a lot about this place.

Food: Casa Cruz gained its fame for an original take on Argentine ingredients blended with Italian cooking. Starting with a Provolone cheese souflé with red onion compote or a lighter Organic Greens Salad with goat cheese and crispy nut bread, both underline the modernity of the food at the restaurant. The naughty looking cheese souflé, was not too heavy as it sounds. It was rather fluffy, soft and not stinky (smelly) cheesy because Provolone is rather delicate compared to its generally more ‘aromatic’ French siblings. In the Organic salad the colorful lettuce was made more interesting with a crisp slice of hazelnut bread that was in a perfect synergy with the fresh goat cheese.

Salad with crispy nut bread

Salad with crispy nut bread

The main courses turned to be a bit more exotic for some of us. Half of our table ordered the Baby Goat served with rustic potatoes, lemon and dried tomatoes. Well, I got a bite of all of it, but must say that goat meat is not in my Top 10. It was too dry so dipping it generously into an accompanying lemon sauce and dried tomatoes paste saved the dish. Luckily, I went for the Grilled Octopus, Corn cake and Tomato Compote. The octopus was superb! I prefer a meaty texture of this tentacled sea creature, crispy on the outside and juicy inside. The corn cake was like an Italian polenta, the dryness of which was moistened with the succulent tomato compote.

Goat meet

Baby Goat

Do not skip the deserts here if you have a sweet tooth. We indulged in the Vanilla Créme Brulée and the exquisitely delicate Flan with Dulce de Leche. Pears with champagne also looked seductive, but perhaps we felt we had enough wine already, we did not ordered the ‘sparkling pears’. I am curious how it might taste. Let me know if you try them so I can sleep easy without the recurring dream of ‘fizzy pears’ I might have tried there. If your mood does not need ‘sweetening up’ then you can get various cheeses from Argentina and elsewhere as your “postre” ( in Spanish: dessert, the last meal or after the main course).

Flan with dulche di leche

Flan with dulce de leche

Drinks: The restaurant’s back wall decorated with full bottles of wine gives a good hint about the wide selection of wines at Casa Cruz. The Argentine wine fans will like this place. There are 250 labels and 20 wines by-the-glass. If you want wine from the old world then you might be disappointed, but why not trying an Argentine Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec this multi-rooted country does so well? After all most of the winemakers are descendants of the Italians, French and Spaniards that once made wines in Europe. On the top of that the Argentine Torrontès can bo so aromatic that it blows up most white wines made from this grape anywhere else!

Opening hours: Only for dinner from Mon-Thurs: 8:30pm-midnight, Fri-Sat: 8:30pm – 1:00 am.

Address: Uriarte 1658, Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Contact: Tel: +(54) 11 4833-1112

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Cuisine: Argentine steakhouse

Visit: December 2012

Price: Medium to high (La Brigada is “the” steak house, that any local will send you to if you have only one day in Buenos Aires so its fame allows it to price higher).

Slicing tender meat with spoon

Slicing tender meat with spoon

Atmosphere: Authentic, traditional and has a rustic gaucho feel. The restaurant’s wooden walls are lavishly decorated with anything that is Argentine. From the local football teams’ flags to the pictures of celebrities who dined at La Brigada over decades of its legendary stardom. Dress code is not very strict although I would not run in straight from a training in sneakers and sweatpants. Wear jeans or a dress, but not too formal so you don’t feel like a Martian on the planet Earth.

Food: Generous, authentic and top quality. Starting with the crispy empanadas – either filled with beef, ham and cheese or a vegetarian version with corn cream – we knew that this place has an insider knowledge of authentic Argentine cuisine since the turnovers were crisp yet fresh because of their succulent stuffings. A bit more “exotic” appetizer is a lamb tongue or a pork feet or why not to relish the beef testes savored with vinaigrette?? If you do not want to risk then go for Sopresatta sausage, Grilled Red Sweet Peppers or the superb Grilled Provolone cheese as we did and loved them all.

Empanadas

Empanadas: Argentine turnovers

When you move to main courses, the your choice is not made much easier as the selection is wide. Kidneys, tripe, sweetbreads, steak, just name any part of an animal body – including the tail – are on the menu. All of them are of a great quality and cooked to a precision. Ideally find a group of like-minded friends and share a number of the cuts, slices and chunks of superb meat and inner organs (for some of you it may sound a bit “Middle-aged”) so you can find your favorites. After all each of us has a different boundaries in terms of food we can eat so with a plate of everything one can stick to them like a bee on a candy or extend the boundaries beyond one’s savage imagination and eat something inconceivable to date.

There are some salads too, but if you are a vegetarian I would advise to skip this restaurant with a kangaroo jump otherwise you might suffer a dietary shock. The salads are a refreshing companion to the meats although the french fries are crisp and generous inviting you to be slightly more naughty.

At La Brigada the desserts are not overlooked. Choose from ice-creams, melting chocolate cakes to fresh fruit for those of you who ordered too much meat before peaking on the  sweet delicacies menu. The selection is better than at most cafès, patisseries and sweet shops. If you are a fan of the local sweet, gooey, condensed milk-based thick liquid called “dulce de leche” (translated as “the sweet from milk”) then the Dulce de Leche Pancake is the one to go for. I personally fell in love with the Chocolate Vulcano. I have to warn you before though as this cocoa bomb blast is insanely addictive and can turn many of you into chocoholics, which I must admit I am.

Drinks: With a flank of meat a sumptuous and big wine is a choice of many wine drinkers. The wine needs to have enough strength to put up with the fat and intense flavors of the meat. Fruity and “corpsy” (big-bodied) Argentinian Malbec is excellent with any red meat. We went for a D.V. Catena Malbec-Malbec 2010 from Bodega Catena Zapata, which was exquisite. Complex with red fruits, touch of wood from barrel aging and concluding with an invigorating, long finish. The wine list at La Brigada is exuberant in South American wines so you do not need to limit yourself on Malbec, white and sweet wines from Chile and Argentina feature on the ‘Carta de Vinos’ as well.

Address: Estados Unidos 465 , San Telmo neighborhood, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina.

Contact: Tel: +(54) 11 4361-5557

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Cuisine: Peruvian, modern blend with Japanese – Nikkei cuisine.

Visit: December 2012

Price: High (this is one of the most fashionable restaurants in Buenos Aires).

Osaka has spread across America from Lima, through Santiago, Mexico DF, Saõ Paulo to Buenos Aires, where in 2012 this luxurious chain of peruvian/japanese restaurants opened its second offshoot in the fashionable district of Puerto Madero.

Bar upstairs at Osaka

Bar upstairs at Osaka

Food: Creamy and quite rich sauces accompany most of the Japanese cuisine-inspired dishes. Traditional Peruvian staples such as potato causa and ceviche got a modern revamp and some of the items were made intentionally to impress you with their unconventional presentation.

The Salmon tiradito – “Vietnamito” – is the culinary illustration of the Osaka’s enriching take on Japanese cuisine. The fish was of a great quality when we dined there, yet the sauce was just too sweet for our tastes. Imagine a raw salmon with marmelade – that is the lemon grass flavored chili jam sauce, red peppers and fish sauce on the fish. Served with grated coconut brittle it was indeed quite vietnamese in its own Osaka way.

Salmon tiradito

Salmon tiradito

I preferred more the “Nikkei” tiradito. Nikkei in this tiradito is a blend of Peruvian ingredients: lemon, cilantro and chili peppers with Japanese: shoyu and wasabi. It was more pure and simple yet delicious.

We went for the Osaka Maki roll of King crab, seared scallions, and shrimp furai splashed with au gratin king crab “chupe” on the outside. As you can see on te picture below it was all-too-much. Flavors fighting over each other rather then enhancing its tasty properties. Rich chunk of rice with creamy sauce and hardly detectable crab would be my summery of my palate’s experience from this roll.

Tasty roll at Osaka

Tasty roll at Osaka

We loved the causas at Osaka in Santiago de Chile a year ago, yet as we were slowly realizing that the Osaka at Puerto Madero was far from the excellency its sister restaurant could take pride in, so we skipped them and moved to warm dishes. Causa is based on a potato puree (Peru has over 3,000 types of potatoes) seasoned with diverse savory condiments such as garlic and rich toppings. Its name refers to a fight for the same “cause” of the peruvians.

From the warm dishes we tried the Peruvian classic of flaming scallops. The Parmesan Scallops had its own Osaka touch. Again we loved the scallop dish in Santiago, but here in Buenos Aires we were very disappointed. The scallops were just too chewy, not moist and soft as they should be. Although there is nothing to spoil about melted parmesan so that one saved the dish together with the impressive flame in the middle of the plate that the scallops are presented with. In a similar fashion are made Mariscos al Fuego, which is a seafood mix in Japanese butter, again presented on fire.

Scallops on the fire

Scallops on the fire

Atmosphere: Fashionable, dark and rather party feel like at Zuma, the globally acclaimed chain of Japanese restaurants. Dress fashionable yet do not worry about your attire too much as the Argentines are mostly casual. Upstairs there is a bar and a couple of tables so it can get a bit wild later in the evening (around midnight) and downstairs it feels a bit more like a buzzing restaurant.

Rutini Chardonnay

Rutini Chardonnay

Drinks: Pisco-based cocktails are popular as well as other mixed drinks. The wine selection is quite wide, although not overwhelming. There are many wines suitable for the restaurant’s food and a sommelier eager to recommend you something your palate desires. We went for Rutini Chardonnay 2007 from Argentina. It is made by Felipe Rutini at Bodega La Rural high in the hills of the Andes. It was oaky, rich, complex and worked perfectly with the intensely flavored food at Osaka.
Address: Juana Manso 1164, Faena Arts Center, Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Contact: Tel: +(54) 11 5352 0404

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Pisco sour

Pisco sour

Cuisine: Peruvian, modern blend with Japanese – Nikkei cuisine

Visit: December 2012

Price: Medium to high (by many diners in 2012 it was “the best ceviche in Buenos Aires so it does not come cheep, yet not too crazy).

Intimate yet buzzing atmosphere in the back room

Intimate yet buzzing atmosphere in the back room

Atmosphere: Young creatives, buzzing and quite low-key considering that it is located at a fancy neighborhood hotel Palermitano. The service is off-beat but effective. Wear anything you want, although anything youthful looking would fir in the most.

Ceviche

Ceviche

Food: Ceviche is a must here and was refreshing, juicy and intense as it should be. The white fish was fresh, corn kernels crisp, onion invigorating and the lime-based “Tigre di leche” sauce the server poured over it just after laying the plate on our table was not too sour, just right to add even more zest to the dish.

From the starters we got the Spicy shrimp, that were to our taste a bit over-flavored. The shrimps were sautéed in sundried chilly, garlic and yellow pepper sauce, served on fancy spoons to slip easily into your mouth at one bite. Unless you had a mouth of a whale you ended up hardly chewing the contents of the spoon as there was almost no space to chew in your mouth. I found it easier to grab each shrimp with my chopsticks and dip it in the rich sauce if needed, but to my taste not much of it was necessary.

Spicy shrimps

Spicy shrimps

The Tiracuya Salmon tiradito (thinly sliced fish) had a perfectly delicate texture, yet it is better to share it with at least three people other wise you might end up a bit “over-salmoned”. It was served with passionfruit sauce bringing sweet and sour tone and with a crispy thin noodle-like topping, that was a bit tasteless yet fun to crunch on.

The Sipan roll looked superb, yet the super-sweet home-made teriyaki sauce made it more of a dessert rather than savory roll with shrimp, salmon tartar, cream cheese and avocado.

Sipan roll

Sipan roll

From the warm main courses we went for Seared seafood with vegetables that we saw our neighbors were having. We though that they could not finish it because of the portion being too big for them, yet, as we tasted in just a couple of moments later, it was too salty that eating it all might cause you a heart attack. The seafood was of a great quality and well cooked, just someone had to add an extra pinch of salt each time he stirred the veggies with the seafood.

Seared seafood

Seared seafood

Overall, I would come back to this restaurant as it was better than the legendary South American chain of fancy peruvian eateries Osaka, but I would order just pisco sour and all kinds of  ceviche from the menu.

Drinks: I had one of the best – if not the best – Pisco sours in my life here. Go for it as an aperitif before your dinner or sip this refreshing cocktail based on a grape spirit pisco, egg-whites, lime and sugar during your meal. Pisco sour works wonderfully with the modern peruvian dishes. Wine is an option too. Alsatian Riesling, steely Pinot Gris or even the spice-bomb of a Gewurtztraminer are my favorite choices with this type of food. Although Argentina makes some of the later as well. We got a bottle of Gewurtztraminer from Rutini and liked it, except it was a bit more sweet than we craved for, so keep it in mind.

Address: Hotel Palermitano, Uriarte 1648, Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Contact: Tel:+(54) 11 4897-2100 or +(54) 11 4311-6875

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