One of the more interesting collaborations to appear of late has been most supportive of the closed-door dining scene.
Puertas cerradas or supper clubs are either showered with love or criticism. A recent article published by Munchies purported that these “illegal” eateries were the best places to dine at in Buenos Aires. I think their existence enhances the local gastro scene as well as BA’s reputation as a dining destination.
And with the addition of CookApp, offerings in the public realm have recently multiplied, meaning more home chefs than ever can tap into a market of hungry diners keen to sample innovative dishes or new flavours in a private home.
However, any restaurateur who has run marathon rings in order to comply with city government rules will start to boil over at the mere suggestion that you can have an excellent dining experience at closed-door places: in their minds, these establishments don’t pay taxes and most don’t adhere to inspections, among other issues.
But the “Cocina In House” project masterminded by German brewer Warsteiner is very much on the side of supper clubs. Popping up once a week at a different puerta cerrada, the cycle has just hosted its fourth dinner and is set to continue for eight more.
It’s interesting that such a large brand is supporting the little guys who cater to far fewer diners than large establishments. Still, there’s method in the madness, because the brewery is taking their lagers directly to discerning clients after new experiences and happy to sit at a communal table, while menus have been specifically prepared with Warsteiner’s wares in mind.
Throw a pair of bottles into the tasting menu mix and punters are going to lap it up, a smart measure that goes straight into the consumer’s mouth.
Always a treat
While Cocina In House has dropped by Cocina Sunae, Cocina Discreta and Taiana Cooking At Home, variously located in Chacarita, Villa Crespo and Palermo Soho — other dietary dates include Ocho Once Maison du Chef this Thursday, Donde Uriel on October 15 and Almacén Secreto on October 23 among others as well as returning to the aforementioned three — and this past week’s event was held at Colegiales’ Casa Félix.
Diego Félix has been on the supper club circuit for six years now, serving up pescatarian menus and actively seeking out indigenous plants to incorporate into his dishes. Travelling Argentina in search of ingredients as well as North America to host pop-up events and spread the word of alternative (read as, not beef) Argentine cuisine, it’s always a treat to tuck into his food.
His beautifully kempt back garden is home to all manner of herbs and greens that travel a mere five metres to reach the 16 plates he caters to each night, while his creativity ensures diners rarely question the lack of meat on the table.
Warsteiner also cranked up the creativity to support Félix’s sexy Latin American street food menu and kick off with a spicy michelada. That’s cool, let’s drink lager a different way! Lime juice, salt, spices and peppers made their way into this classic Mexican cooler, backed up with Paraguayan chipas, those yummy packets of cheesy bread fun often sold outside downtown train stations.
The first course, fried oyster mushrooms with a yellow pepper mayo, came with one of the classic, freshly-picked salads for which Félix is known. It’s such an inspiration to eat like that, and a reminder to put one’s own plant pots in order. When every leaf stands to attention in your mouth, something magical is happening.
Round two was a Peruvian tribute and a ceviche interpretation. Andean new potatoes, a black mint salsa and fried chulpe corn dust were a revelation, because this classic dish was fish-free yet managed to combine textures and flavours with very few ingredients and worked surprisingly well with a swig of beer.
It was back to the ocean for round three with the highly creative chorimar, a squid sausage in a steamed bun. Doused with tasty kimchi, a verbena sauce and a homemade roasted pepper ketchup, this was Félix pescatarian innovation at its best. Actually putting the squid into squidgy (ahem), the chorimar was a hit around the table, soft yet flavourful, charred and well with the lemon salsa — full marks for ingenuity though the bun could have been slightly more steamed.
Rounding off this four-course dinner was a dessert that had win plastered all over it: my favourite things — cheese and mango — in a deep-fried Cuban pastry accompanied by tamarind and chamoy (pickled fruit) sauce.
Loved it. Left none of it.
Whatever your feelings about supper clubs or commercial breweries, frankly this was a great excuse to return to a known quantity and sample new flavours.
To get in on the next Cocina In House dinner, check out Warsteiner’s Facebook page for menus.
Buenos Aires Herald, October 5, 2014
Ph: Público Press Group, SMW