Editor’s note: we are revisiting this article, which was originally published on 18th May, 2011, as part of our food month. Some information and prices may be out of date. Please follow the links to the restaurants’ websites for up to date information
There is nothing like having a home-cooked meal. There is really nothing like having a home-cooked meal prepared by a professional chef. All over the world chefs have been opening up the doors to their hogar and preparing delectable meals from their house kitchen. Puerta Cerrada (closed door) restaurants have become particularly popular in Buenos Aires after the economic crisis of 2001. The Indy sent out one lucky journalist to hunt down five of the best and most unique closed door restaurants in the city.
1. Casa SaltShaker, Barrio Norte
For the last six years Chef Dan Perlman and host Henry Tapia been inviting strangers into their home to eat, drink and be merry. Originally from the States, Dan says it is fun for him to provide a forum for people to meet each other. With capacity for 12 guests, who sit around two communal tables, the experience is jovial, conversational and international – especially since now-a-days most guests are foreigners. They ask participants to arrive between 8.45 and 9pm so the joint adventure can begin around 9.15. You’ll be greeted with a welcome cocktail followed by a five course meal of “fancy home cooking” – as Dan describes it. The menu, that changes weekly, usually has a historical theme – based on the date. Dan keeps his meals memorable by taking on challenging themes that stretch his specialty in Mediterranean cuisine. Previous meals have been inspired by ‘Cinco de Mayo’ but also ‘Towel Day’. In his house, Dan’s cooking whims are the way – and everyone is better off because of it. The food is fresh, unique and truly delicious – throw in a group of multicultural strangers (soon to become friends) and you get one hell of a dinner party.
The five course meal is $130 with an additional $60 for wine pairings. Cash only please. For more information, click here.
2. Paladar, Almagro
After you ring the door bell, enter a candlelit escape from the typical night out. A faint red glow, soft background music, and private tables scattered through the space give Paladar Buenos Aires a romantic ‘night in’ feeling – except instead of delivery pizza and beer – you’re being served a divine meal by dedicated service, paired with the absolute perfect wine. And when I say the perfect wine, I mean the suggestion for each course takes what is already an exquisite meal into the realm of heavenly. The presentation of each of the four courses is elegant, but unlike super swanky restaurants, the servings here are hearty and full – with out being too rich or heavy. Chef Pablo Abramovsky combines fresh ingredients with an ingenious command of flavor to make an extraordinary culinary experience. His wife Ivana Piñar, usually the sommelier, skillfully connects the meal with Argentine vino to create a masterpiece. Did I mention I liked the wine pairings? Coffee and a petite cookie make the perfect finale to an enchanting evening. For a particularly special occasion you may want to reserve the table by the fireplace where you and your loved one can snuggle next to each other on the red couch.
The four course meal is $135 with an additional $45 for wine pairings. Cash only. For more information, click here.
3. Casa Felix, Chacarita
Walking into Casa Felix is so cozy and welcoming, you immediately feel at home. Chef Diego Felix and wife Sanra Ritten have created warm, intimate space – like you’ve just walked in to your best friend’s really gorgeous, antique house. You take your welcome cocktail in the garden, filled with aromatic herbs growing in every corner of the yard. This is where the chef finds his inspiration. Every course of the meal has a least a little something from the beautiful vegetation he has in the back. It could be lemon, lavender, mint, fuzzy chayote leaves – these he wrapped around a piece of Patagonian cheese to make a wonderful morsel with surprising texture. The 15 puerta cerrada-goers mill about out back, chatting and getting to know each other – but once it is dinner time, everyone is herded through the bustling kitchen, to individual tables. Sanra’s professional photography decorates the white walls and gorgeous multicolour paper chandeliers hand from the high ceilings. Diego makes food for the more adventurous palate – willing to move beyond they usual Argentine fare – the meals are pescatarian – and create mouthwatering surprises like an ‘exotic mushroom empanada’. By the end of my dining experience I felt so at home, I felt like hugging Diego like an old friend.
The four course meal is $150, with an additional $75 for wine pairings, or order a bottle from the list. Cash only. For more information, click here.
4. Casa Mun, Palermo
The newest puerta cerrada on the scene, Chef Mun has already made a name for himself in this world of clandestine restaurants. Their loft home is minimalist and modern. Clean lines, complete with bamboo in the patio. The Asian inspiration continues with the food – fused with some California influences. The May menu includes crispy tempura, melt-in-your-mouth sashimi, sushi rolls, Chinese curry and (my favorite) Korean bibimbap with a quail egg! Chef Mun likes his spice, but is sensitive to Argentine vulnerability, making room for less tolerant taste-buds if necessary. Perhaps the part of the evening, besides the meal, was Chef Mun’s description of each course, his passion for food and love for entertaining are obvious as he beautifully explained each impeccably designed plate placed in front of you. Arrive at 8.30 for a champagne reception and a chance to get to know everyone who will be dining with you. Communal tables and wine pairings make for a jolly night of delicious food and good company – most of the foreign kind – even a little spice can be too much for the Argentine palate.
The five course meal, including wine pairings, is $195. Cash only. For more information, click here.
5. Cocina Sunae, Colegiales
Chef Christina Sunae spent much of her younger years living in the Philippines and Japan. After several years in a Thai restaurant in New York, she brought authentic Asian cuisine to Buenos Aires. The dining room is spacious, candle-lit and mostly divided up by tables for two. Unlike several of the other restaurants – Christina finds her guests to be mostly Argentine – and unwilling to share a table with strangers. For people who are in the mood for real Thai food – the spicy kind – or Asian cuisine the way it was meant to be – Sunae has got it down perfectly. The chef knows authentic taste and if she can’t find the perfect ingredient, she’ll mix things around until the taste is just right – no exceptions. According to the chef, Asian food is made for sharing. She offers two entrees every night to provide variation and suggests couples order one of each so they can experience more plates. The meal is rich, spicy, playful and filling – for the last two years Cocina Sunae has been expanding the Argentine palate and will continue to do so for a long time.
The four course meal is $110, wine from the list is additional. Cash only. For more information, click here.