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La Huella beach view

La Huella beach view

Cuisine: Argentine and Peruvian.

Visit: December 2012

Price: Medium to high (La Huella is perhaps the most popular dining spot in the entire Punte del Este so it can charge what it wants, although it is not over the top and the food as well as the service end up being a great value for money).

Bar at La Huella

Bar at La Huella

Ambiance: Bohemian, rustic and trendy. La Huella is one of the most desirable restaurants in the area of Punta del Este and for that it attracts anyone trendy – from international celebrities to great vibe and food seeking tourists. La Huella is located right on the beach so I would not recommend ladies to wear super-thin heels either for the comfort reasons as well as looking out-of-the-place. Imagine St Tropez 20-30 years ago, sandy dunes and Le Club 55 – the hotspot of the rich and famous for decades and you will get La Huella. Its chill-out ambiance, rustic wooden bar with chess-pieces peaking over your head, open kitchen and grill back room and large terrace facing the beach will transfer even the sturdiest workaholic into the realm of nostalgic dreams. Beach clothes and short during lunch are fine – long pants and mosquito spray in the evening if you sit outside.

Sandy entrance to La Huella

Sandy entrance to La Huella

Food: Fresh, authentic and tasty. I have eaten at La Huella twice. After three out of three people, who know the area well, recommended me eating here, plus the answer to my question “Where would you eat around Punta del Este on your birthday?” being “La Huella”, I knew this place must be outstanding. Perhaps I look biased, (after all the bottles of wines I consumed there it is entirely possible as I tend to like everything after three glasses of this god-blessed liquid), but I am sure about one thing: You must eat there at least once when in the area. The food is a mix of Peruvian, Argentine and Uruguayan cuisines. Fresh and mostly local ingredients are used in preparation and the cooks try to make the plates look cool.

Potato causa

Potato causa

From the peruvian fare I loved the White fish ceviche s well as the Potato causa filled like lasagne with a creamy layer of salmon, mayonnaise and onions. Both were authentic, no fuss and simply delicious.

White fish ceviche

White fish ceviche

Another great starter is the Warm goat cheese salad. Bitter and limey roquette with crisp tomato balance the milky and fatty cheese with a fire burned coating served on a crunchy bread bun.  The only disappointment was the squid appetizer with beetroot sauce, the sauce was the problem as it did not match the squids at all – too much creativity can kill a dish often and my previous experience at another restaurant in Uruguay confirmed that they generally need to figure out beetroot quite a bit.

Warm goat cheese salad

Warm goat cheese salad

La Huella can do pizza very well! If you continue in a starter marathon then get the Goat cheese pizzetta on a thin crisp oval dough as it is not just a great companion to wine but also a perfect crispy snack to share. They get seasonal seafood so if they got the White clams that I have ordered try them as they are really fresh, juicy and palate pleasing. Perfect with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc!

Cheese pizetta

Cheese pizetta

Seafood as well as meat dishes are the restaurant’s strengths. From the main courses I can recommend any steak as the meat is local, without hormones, just grass-fed, wild-nature raised and above all super tasty. The wood-fired grill throws a magic spell of yumminess on each meat that passes its heating throat. The grilled fish is also good, but to my taste the meat is better. After all living in Mediterranean can turn anyone in a fierce fish critic especially if you have the privilege of eating at my friend’s restaurant in Cap d’Antibes.

Literary, the cherry on the cake are the desserts. I might not look like that but I had two desserts on my own here – the Chocolate Volcano is an absolute indulgent blast that keeps your energy fired up until early hours and I had it replayed twice. The cacao-based cake hides a liquid secret. As your spoon cuts through the cake a stream of dark chocolate runs out

Drinks: The bar area invites for a cocktail before or after your meal. The selection of wines from South America is good and the wine waiter is willing to advise you. We went purely Uruguayan with a green and fresh tasting Sauvignon Blanc 1oo Años and later a red blend of Tempranillo with the local tannic Tannat from Bouza, one of the most famous producers in the country. The Sauvignon Blanc was perfect for a light lunch drinking, the red blend was perhaps too rich and heavy, but drinkable with the steak and it inspired me to order the Chocolate Volcano twice!

100 Anos white wine from Uruguay

100 Anos white wine from Uruguay

Bouza red blend of Tempranillo and Tannat from Uruguay

Bouza red blend of Tempranillo and Tannat from Uruguay

Opening season: Out of season only for lunch, from mid-December till April also for dinner. Call and reserve a table ahead.

Address: Playa Brava, José Ignacio, Uruguay.

Contact: Tel. +(59) 8 4867 5432

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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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Cuisine: Peruvian, peruvian tapas style

Visit: May 2012

Potato Causa with beetroot

Peruvian cuisine is a big hit worldwide this year. With the world’s top chefs, including Ferran Adria (El Bulli in Spain), flying over there in search for inspiration and new ingredients, the news spread across the globe quickly. Now you find peru-influenced restaurants almost anywhere outside Latin America from Los Angeles and New York to European capitals including London. I have been to Peru and dined on incredible local dishes so I am a harsh critic when it comes to tasting this food elsewhere in the world. They do a pretty good job in Santiago de Chile, yet as one gets further away such as to LA, the authenticity and quality tends to deteriorate. It is seductive for the chefs to devise over-complex dishes, yet the peruvian cuisine is elaborate enough, so any even the slightest retouch of the dishes can spoil everything. Using high quality and authentic ingredients also makes a difference. Peru has over 3.000 types of potatoes and you cannot just use any one kind to make a causa, the traditional potato dish. The London’s ceviche though is serious about its endeavor. No wonder, since most of its staff comes from Peru and they are proud of their heritage.

Peruvian chef preparing food

Price: medium to low for central London; medium to high for elsewhere.

Atmosphere: Vibrant, young and refreshing. The staff is extremely friendly and helpful in explaining everything about your dish. You can sit right at the bar on your right side as you enter Ceviche. From here you can watch the chef with his aides preparing colorful peruvian dishes in the speed of a 100 metres world champion runner. The demands are high as the place is currently extremely popular and the nature of tapas – smaller portions so people order more than two or three dishes – creates the buzzing atmosphere. If you prefer low chairs and sitting at your own table you walk further back and sit in a cosy room full of mirrors and after 7 pm of eager diners. Below I took the picture of the room around 6pm, so early for the dinner rush hour in London.

Ceviche tables at the back

Food: Authentic in a fashionable wrap. The dishes are arranged attractively on the plates, but do not be confused, they still taste as they would in Peru! Using quinoa, potatoes, corn, onion, seafood and meat is crucial in peruvian cooking. The only think I missed was the bony and delicate guinea pig, so popular in Cuzco where all the tourists acclimatize themselves before they take off to Machu Pichu. I did not miss the surgical work inseparable from eating this tiny animal. It is a delicacy though we will not probably savor in Europe any time soon. My favorite, and now a trendy superfood, was the Quinoa salad. I can eat it day and night, on its own or with poultry, fish, seafood or even meat for its refreshing properties. Delicate quinoa paired with crunchy onions, melting avocado and mango sauce is an exotic and unique dish. I recommend starting with it.

Quinoa salad

Or you can start with ceviche, Peru’s most famous food invention. Raw fish diced in cubes, tigre di leche sauce with lemon reduction taking off the fishyness from the meal, ever-present onions and sometimes corn, mushrooms and sweet potatoes such as at Ceviches’ “Ceviche del dia” version. Nice ceviche, but this one I get better in Peru, maybe because the fish is different.

Ceviche del dia

From here you can move to something heavier. A vegetarian option, and a very tasty one, is Potato Causa with beetroot. Causa is made of a bed of mashed sweet potatoes on which a wide variety of ingredients are piled up. Avocado mash, creamy red beet chop topped with a crisp platano (big, not sweet banana used in American cooking) chip call for a glass of wine to help you digest this rich tower of ingredients. Something with higher acidity such as Sauvignon Blanc will do the job.

Chicken skewer with chicharon (corn)

Meat aficionados will devour the antichuhos – marinated meat skewers. From chicken to beef hearts and livers, the peruvians jab through everything on the stick. It may sound horrific, but it tastes good. The antichuchos are served with a corn knob and usually a slightly spicy or creamy sauce. The chicken skewers at Ceviche were juicy and supple.

Drinks: The wine list is short but suitable for the dishes. From lighter wines to more concentrated reds and sweet wines. There are lots of Chilean wines but also some from Argentina. We are at a peruvian eatery though , so pisco, the grape spirit is a must! At Ceviche they make a wide variety of seductive cocktails based on pisco, but I am devotee of pisco sour – pisco with lime juice, sugar or sirup and egg white – so I had to get one. It was excellent! Even though I am a wine buff, next time I would drink pisco sour with peruvian food instead.

Wine list

Opening Hours & contact: Monday to Saturday: 12pm till 11:30pm; Sunday: 12 noon til 10:15pm; Phone: +(44) 020 72922040

Address: 17 Frith Street, London, W1D 4RG

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