Wining On: Splurge before you…

This festive period, which now seems like it happened several months ago, was a fairly controlled one. I only opted for seconds — but not thirds — of stuffed beef, and held back on the sweet cake (pan dulce).

Indulgence on the food and alcohol fronts has been tame, to say the least. Although the end of the year presented itself with various gluttonous options — whole lamb expertly grilled for several hours by El Westie, wine coming out of my ears, including quite possibly one of my grape highlights of 2011, the Cadus Malbec-Malbec-Malbec from Nieto Senetiner, and a sumptuous strawberry cheesecake made by Marco — January 1 dawned without the need for any kind of headache remedy.

A quick word on that cheesecake base. Having munched through much of a pack of trusty McVitie’s Digestive biscuits, I realized that a cheesecake base it would not make. Oh, how I had plans, resolutions even, in 2011, to whip up such a tempting dessert. But it just wasn’t meant to be.

Marco, however, who may have some inside information thanks to his US employer, cunningly used Lincoln biscuits and crushed them with butter. That base was pretty close to perfect, crunchy yet crumbly, really spot on.

A second, quick word, on the lamb. Snouting around the edge of the swimming pool, I plucked some fat, plump leaves from El Westie’s mum’s garden to make some mint sauce. Now the thought of plucking may sound like I’ve done this before, but indeed I hadn’t. Knowing Mónica the little I do, I was certain I could find caster sugar and white wine vinegar lurking in her larder. Boiling up a little hot water, and Bob’s your uncle, Sorrel‘s your auntie, I introduced mint sauce my fellow NYE revellers to accompany the best lamb El Westie has grilled in four years of NYE lambs.

So while I’m attempting to make the year-end sound tame on the glutton and calorie front, I would also like to share my 2012 idea about a change in decisions. After all, it‘s hard to stick to a resolution for 365 days, and brag about it consistently, so I’ve decided to ease myself in gently with some “lifestyle changes” rather than resolutions, and it starts with dusting down and oiling up my mountain bike…
But. Before I do that… two places to splurge out on before you… diet.

With a demanding Londoner in town, the dietary requirements were: excellent food, excellent setting, no expense spared. Tegui, thought I, and off we went.

A pre-dinner cucumber martini practically felt like a liver transplant, so soothing it was on my weary organ. (And this was before Christmas.) Interestingly, the menu is fixed price per the number of courses you demolish, so a main costs around 150 pesos, and there are a cluster of options. Definitely no “Change From 100,” so take a credit card and let someone else pay, but fewer dishes on the menu tends to mean they are excellent, delicious and always a good bet in my book.

Sharing a starter is socially acceptable at Tegui thank goodness, despite the rather swanky ambience, so we opted for oysters although oddly, just five out of the usual half-dozen turned up. Despite this, they were mouth-watering, lightly coated in bread crumbs and lime juice, and large and juicy — we could have easily ordered another 15 and slurped the lot down.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article called “Where’s The F In Fish?” Well, there’s plenty filling up Tegui’s short menu, including red tuna that night, and chef German Martitegui, who also runs Palermo’s Ølsen and Casa Cruz kitchens, is doing everything right that a high-end, ultra-cool, gastro’s wet dream of a restaurant should be.

Reading reviews about Tegui, its service has come in for flack and I will add my two centavos. Plenty of handsome waiting staff — our main man was distracted and took a good 15 minutes to send the sommelier over. Don’t leave customers, especially me and my friends, thirsty.

Four blocks south of Tegui is Ceviche, the Peruvian Nikkei Sushi restaurant with an abundance of fresh fish. Specializing in Peru’s delicacy — and boy, do I have a weekend in Lima’s cevicherías planned — Ceviche, which also opened in Las Cañitas a few weeks ago, is another splurge-before-you-diet option.

On my to-eat-at list for some time, the atmosphere is bustling, Mexican-canteen style, and I mention it simply because I had expected something rather more staid. That said, it was before Christmas, and my rampant imagination was cooled down with an impeccable Pisco Sour (Peru vs. Chile debate for another time.)

When in Rome, eat like the Roman so we ignored the Sushiman (sorry) and went with the four ceviche tasting menu. Abundant, fresh, in hindsight I’d have asked for more picante sauce, but giving all the options a go in one hit for 93 pesos (see photo) means I know for next time I‘ll opt just for the Ceviche del mercado, with baby squid and caramelized sweet potato.

Also on the menu are tempura prawns, marinated sole, and grilled sword-fish. But as filling as a risotto, it had to be the Cazuela de langostinos. Less liquid than imagined, this was more of a paella with salmon, octopus, mussels, and prawns sizzling away in squid-ink tinted rice. With more than enough for two at 81 pesos, it could just about qualify for ‘Change From 100’, but you couldn’t give any of the ceviches, taster or otherwise, a go.

Although I haven’t checked out the Cañitas branch yet, I’m keen to go, if only so I can better hear which ceviche Mr. Links is reluctant to share with me, thereby avoiding some public fork tussling across a small bowl.

Costa Rica 5852, Tel: 5291-3333
Costa Rica 5644, Tel: 4776-7374

Published in the Buenos Aires Herald on January 8, 2012.

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