The Buenos Aires culinary scene saw an increase in the profiles of closed-door restaurants last year – they became seriously cool and quite frankly, it isn’t surprising. Let’s say you have visitors in town and you take them somewhere with no sign on the door – ideal way to show off your inside knowledge of your adopted city. Argentines aren’t as eager as ex-pats and visitors yet but that is changing. People seek out the unique, the different, and the lesser known. As big brand names or labels begin to be far from cool – secret places and local gems are what people seek out now. The organic, the authentic, the real, the unusual. Of course as more people look for them, the more they change. If everyone is looking for the unique or the secretive how do places stay how they started?
Generally the idea behind these places is that they are in someone’s home, more and more there are places opening that are simply restaurants which choose not to have a sign, where you must reserve, which aren’t “mainstream”… I must stress that being a restaurant without a sign or in someone’s house does not make it a dead-cert success. Beware. But do not hesitate to make your booking immediately to get your spot at this gem…
Casa Felix must be one of the best-respected versions of the closed door restaurant scene on the streets of dear old Capital Federal. Diego and Sanra open their home in Chacarita on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings for about 14 people. The format is friendly and relaxed and you leave knowing you have just been somewhere particularly special. The couple has travelled around South America finding different flavours, interesting ingredients and increasing their obvious passion for nosh. They are up early and off to the markets, the set-menu depends on what is fresh that day and will almost always include something that you have never heard of.
Visitors are welcomed with a shot glass of delectable drink in the garden (weather permitting) having seen the kitchen where the action happens. Diego explains the vegetables they grow on-site and a bit about themselves. Diego is Argentine, Sanra is from the States and they know their food. The pescaterian menu is a delight – as the dishes come out the hosts point out the interesting ingredients, a Bolivian lime sauce which was delightfully sweet on our grouper sticks out. There is a strong influence from the Andean and Central American regions and grains that rarely appear on menus in Buenos Aires create scrumptious salads laced with rarely heard of flavours.
I have been on several occasions now and so many things stick out – peanut soup from my first visit was soul lifting stuff, crunchy salads and perfectly cooked fish. The five courses cost $100 per head and unlike some places with set menus you are not left overflowing – the food is healthy, the intermezzo tends to be a refreshing granita, it is not heavy or too much. It nears perfection.
The wine list is short and simple – good, well-priced wines, but should you feel like indulging they will be more than happy to accommodate your tastes. Similarly with warning they can cater to vegetarians, vegans, people with funny allergies… they are patient and willing.
You really must reserve and I suggest you do it with plenty of time. Casa Felix is ideal for romantic evenings for two but also for groups of friends. When the mercury is high and the sky is dry the tables are set outside in the courtyard of the house so that you get a glimpse of the culinary action. If not you are in the simple, homely dining room.
Oh if only one could eat that well in everyone’s casa.
My favourite dish – peanut soup
Most likely to be sitting next to – someone friendly
Some people will love – the setting