I used to work at Fossil, you know that shop that sells watches. Keep reading – this will get relevant to this food blog pretty soon. Fossil sold these pretty useless watches, those real fancy ones that don’t really tell the time. They called it fashion, charged lots of money for it and told everyone that they were designed by a dude named Phillipe Starck. But in all honesty, they were real pretty and I was too cheap to buy them despite having a staff discount.
Okay, I’m about to relate it to food. Buenos Aires has a ridiculous complex named Faena Hotel + Universe. It’s a hybrid hotel, restaurant, shopping, day spa and whatever else rich people like doing, sitting conveniently in one building in the super posh barrio (suburb) of Puerto Madero. The building is absolutely beautiful, quirky, bold and – you guessed it – designed by Phillipe Starck. And this place is truly an experience. There’s two restaurants contained within this posh mini complex, very simply named El Mercado and El Bistro. Both restaurants are headed by Mariano Cid de la Paz – a chef well known as the protege of Ferran Adria – considered the best chef in the world. For all of you who are like me and who haven’t heard of either dudes, Adria is apparently famous for inventing the technique of incorporating foam and air into foods to enhance flavours without overpowering the dish. Sampling the degustation menu at El Bistro really emphasised Cid de la Paz’s mastery and obsession with adding ‘air’ to everything. Every single dish came out with some sort of main ingredient in foam or air form, such as butter air, mint air, potato foam etc. To describe it simply, it’s just adds a very faint taste to the dish while looking a bit like a bubble bath. Bubble baths are fun, and so is food foam. But you gotta eat the food air before all the food bubbles burst (I’m half kidding).
The degustation menu included a surprise collection of 7 entrees/mains and 3 desserts. Each looked complex, colourful, crazy and each were very unexpected. We partnered it up with a beautiful bottle of Crios Torrentes – an exclusive grape variety to Argentina . My highlights were a wonderfully fragrant and sickly brown coloured mushroom soup with soy truffles, with a low temperature cooked egg (which made the egg poached but the whites super thin and delicate) and the shrimp tempura with rice noodles, salmon roe and shellfish puree. Both dishes displaying such excellent balance while hitting you in the face with flavour.
The food is reminiscent to molecular gastronomy even though the term isn’t really favorably used as yet amongst cullinaries. You might have seen extreme examples of molecular gastronomy in TV show Heston’s Feast. It’s not all as wanky as it seems, it’s simply a science of experimenting with food to push the boundaries of an ingredient’s physical properties. Cooking an egg at super slow temperatures does crazy things to it, one you gotta see to be impressed by. While I’m far from a fan of complexity, pretension and overly large plates at the dinner table, I give this restaurant a great exception for Alan Faena’s fantastic down to earth ability to incorporate superior luxury into hospitable informality. The staff here at the restaurant really complete the experience. All know English, all are lovely and will answer every question you have with a smile. Even the stupid ones like “what is that green thing on my plate?” and “is that a mushroom?”. This is definitely a great experience if you have the money (or the credit card) and the time in Buenos Aires, make sure you come with an open mind and an open stomach because the food here is not for the faint of heart. But if you are an unfussy eater, love bold flavours, don’t mind being stared down by red eyed unicorns and enjoy pretending to know stuff about fine dining, this restaurant will be money well spent.
Info: Martha Salotti 445, Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires
How much money to bring: USD$150-300
OK to bring a date? Yes, absolutely. Especially if you are a sugar daddy/mamma / looking for a sugar daddy/mamma.
It’s closed on: Sun-Tues
Don’t: eat lunch if you’re planning to order the desgustation menu
Do: have a flick through the super impressive wine menu and ask for friendly recommendations when it all becomes too overwhelming.
Sounds like: Fleetwood Mac – Dreams