The restaurant and beverage business is a bit like football. At the end of last season and just before the lazy haze of summer, there were plenty of transfers. And although there’s no talk of millions over a transfer fee, moving jobs to work for a rival in Buenos Aires is in fact a friendly matter. There’s no bitterness, no swearing or spitting, nor bad-mouthing in the press – this small, small world is actually a cosy, inter-connected arena.
Take Martín Bruno. The sommelier from Fierro Hotel has set up in pastures new at Florería Atlántico. This so-hot-it’s-cool bar and restaurant in Retiro is jointly owned by bartender Tato Giovannoni (his first such venture) and Julián Díaz from ocho7ocho, who notches up another establishment under his belt.
Besides, the chef grilling up magic from the basement parrilla (imagine the height of the chimney) is Pedro Peña, who was sous-chef at Hernán Gipponi Restaurant. Creating wondrous octopus and delectable chunks of ojo de bife, all the bites are worth devouring, and there’ll be plenty more on Florería Atlántico soon.
Another newbie is Buenos Aires Grand Hotel in Recoleta, whose executive chef Luciano Grimaldi more recently worked at Iguazú Grand Resort in Misiones, which is offering daily brunch specials for 85 pesos. Over at Palacio Duhau, Gioia has brought Pedro Tassarolo, whose experience includes The Fat Duck, on board to oversee the Italian restaurant.
Meanwhile, there’s a change of pace at Algodon Mansion’s Chez Nous. The Franco-Argentine restaurant, which was led by chef Antonio Soriano until several months ago has slimmed down its menu to concentrate on the Argentine aspect of matters.
Just last week, Lucullus, the Franco-Argentine gastronomical association, gathered at “Frapanese” restaurant Tô, where Soriano revealed he had just signed the contract for his own establishment, Astor Bistró, due to open in three months.
Tô is also under new management after founder Toufic Rede moved on, so changes may be afoot in Palermo Hollywood – all welcome so long as the kaiten sushi-go-round remains in action.
Another notch has also been added to Joaquín Rozas’ belt, but on the opposite side of the spectrum, and dare I say, to the dark side of fast-food. After opening shabby-chic café Bartola in a prime Palermo Soho location with ex-girlfriend Micaela Tinelli – yes, the daughter of Mr. Tinelli – his latest enterprise, Dean & Denny’s, couldn’t point any further from the other side of the gastro compass.
Slowly but surely conquering the Palermo gastro kingdom, Rozas has incorporated fast-food with a twist to his repertoire. An ecologically aware restaurant serving fast-food, cooked to order.
I stumbled into D&D a month ago. I Tweeted my presence, and a friend told me to give the milkshakes a go. Word had already got around, despite a low-key January launch. Obviously chef and co-investor Hugo López created a menu sticking to classic fast-fodder such as burgers, hot-dogs, fries and shakes.
With four burger options – each can be doubled up – I chose the mushroom one. Once the dough exchanged hands, the cashier then handed me a server beeper. How thoroughly modern, I thought. Of course, this meant they were busy personalising my meal while I collapsed into a booth, awaiting delivery of a bespoke burger, if you will.
Ten minutes later, alarm bells started to ring. Well, the remote control started to buzz. And off I went to collect my goods, rather than take delivery of them.
I guess it’s like the 21st-century version of Burger King motto “Have it your way”, and although I didn’t ask to go easy on the tomato, one would assume that’s an option if food is cooked from fresh.
Eagerly unwrapping the paper, I bit into my burger but disaster struck. It was all made of mushrooms. Inadvertently, in the excitement of ordering a burger topped with funghi, I’d asked for one made of funghi. A letdown, but of my own doing. It was tasty, two types of mushrooms, but I needed beefy protein that day. However, a high point was the iced-tea – not too sweet yet sharp enough to be polite.
But the difference is this: D&D, besides taking time over hand-made patties, also has an eco-concience, making it the first green burger joint in Argentina.
Booths are made of recycled wood – indeed the whole interior is furnished with rescued materials – there are plenty of recycling bins, while energy is low consumption. Not such a dark side, after all.
But enough of all this hippy shit: what’s the beef on the burger?
This past week, when Dean & Denny’s officially opened, I tried the Sweet Burger, with caramelised onions and cheese, and it was a win. Tasty, with a sweet yet sharp relish, the bun was fresh, as was the tomato. Served up on a metal tray, it looked good and tasted good, and we are assured it is made with various low-fat cuts. A hungrier tum might require an upgrade to the double patty, however. The fries were crunchy yet soggy, just how I like ‘em, though the cheddar sauce on top did little for me.
Other D&D plus points include a spacious terrace, free tap water, a special menu for canine friends (true!) and a refreshing esthetic in terms of a BA burger joint. The 50s’ diner style of Trixie’s is too obvious, while it’s hard to enjoy a bun in Nac & Pop while clinging onto your handbag. The only other competition is likely to come from Burger Joint, another newcomer which has been whipping up homemade patties with pride since February.
Wining On verdict: Diet burgers they ain’t, but it’s refreshing to know D&D’ food is cooked to order with skinny cuts. And there’s absolutely no harm in a little recycling education. It’s gimmicky, but Fido will also be happy.
Dean & Denny’s
Malabia 1591, Palermo Soho
Published in the Buenos Aires Herald on March 24, 2013