The world is their oyster

When Buenos Aires’ foremost oyster bar reaches double figures, it’s a big deal.

Ostras gratinadas al vino espumante - Fotógrafa Mariana Eliano (1)
Although to tout Crizia as just a bar is unfair — it’s without doubt one of the city’s most dependable eateries.

And it deals in seafood.

Gabriel Oggero made his mark a decade ago with this, one of Palermo’s most exciting restaurants, and it pays testament to his skill and knowhow that it remains at the top. Smart, sophisticated, sexy — Crizia might be Buenos Aires’ ultimate aphrodisiac.

Step inside and come face to face with a wine cellar stocked with 350 labels. That’s a turn-on in itself.

The lights are dim, the oysters on ice are lit up and despite the spacious vertical nature, Crizia retains intimacy. No overcrowding and despite the size, it’s a place for 50.

But what makes it so unique is the oyster bar. And that’s what punters love. At Masticar food fair in October, 10,000 oysters were slurped up, accompanied by red or green Tabasco, a zippy shallot vinegar or a slice of lemon — that’s more than 1,000 kilos of bivalves consumed in four days.

Gabriel, who uses between 60 and 80 kilos a week, says: “Our oysters come from the south of the province of Buenos Aires, where Patagonia starts. There are various areas where my producer harvests these bivalves — and while they aren’t exactly farmed cultivations, he does help them to acquire the plankton they consume.

“Oysters can live without water for 12 hours, and even in 30ºC heat – they don’t need cold climates. So once an oyster is hand harvested, it lives on and you can tell how fresh it because of the quantity of water inside the shells.”

Besides this unique stroke of oyster bar genius that nobody else has been able to replicate, Crizia also deals in seasonal produce, taking inspiration from Asian and Peruvian dishes, as well as Patagonian lamb, suckling pig (190 pesos) and pan-fried local cod (185 pesos). The ample grilled seafood platter for sharing sets you back 360 pesos.

High class surf and turf. And at 144 pesos for half a dozen oysters, I reckon that’s a snip.

Here’s wishing Team Crizia another 10 years, if not a whole lot more, of success.

Gorriti 5143, Palermo Soho
Tel: 4831- 4979

Another happy anniversary
And let’s also wish another big Palermo restaurant a happy tenth anniversary.

Casa Cruz, in the able hands of sommelier and restaurateur Aldo Graziani for the past 12 months, is celebrating reaching double figures with a series of dinners hosted by guest chefs.

Recent pop-ups have included Emiliano Di Nisi from Per Se, and Gonzalo Aramburu of Aramburu among others. This past week has seen Spanish cook Yago Márquez swing by for a night of culinary celebrations, a chef who has been popping up all over the city with his pork tribute Homenaje al cerdo.

The series will end with Pablo del Río from the Mendoza’s successful Siete Cocinas cooking up a storm in December. This will be a rare visit to the big smoke from the mendocino and will undoubtedly be worth a visit.

Uriarte 1658, Palermo Soho
Tel: 4833-1112

New kid on the block
Changing up a gear, let’s welcome a new kid on Lafinur’s block. Mishiguene cuts its umbilical cord just last weekend, and this Jewish-Levant eatery that also deals in organic produce is already making its mark. (I can’t quite come up with an amalgamation, annoyingly…)

Following the demise of Leopoldo, which was located a few blocks away, Mishiguene is ideally situated to capture those punters looking for a new home and encompasses all of the style without any of the snottiness.

With a focus on some organic produce — all the salad, veggies and chicken are thus sourced — most dishes are for sharing and — joy of joys — authentic: chef Tomás Kalika was born and grew up in Israel so these flavours and textures are at the front of his palate, allowing him to rightly call his fare “immigrants’ cuisine.”

SALON H -mediaThe wood-smoked aubergine Mi Baba Ganoush (75 pesos) is served almost whole and perfectly smoked, with toasted pine nuts, tahini, yogurt, garlic and parsley backing it up. Another great starter is Fatoush (75 pesos), a cucumber salad blooming with creamy goat’s cheese, red onion, organic tomatoes, mint, parsley, coriander and pitta bread croutons. Mouth-watering, and a San Pedro de Yacochuya Torrontés from Cafayate is its perfect dining partner.

Other highlights include the Meorav Yerushalmi (85 pesos). Pan-fried chicken livers and heart might sound like a turnoff but it’s a really smooth and interesting combo paired with a weighty hummus foam supported by those essentials parsley, coriander, lime juice and toasted pine nuts.

And for a real feast in a quirky jam jar, go for the Abu Gosh Cous-Cous (160 pesos). Perfectly firm yet cooked grain with slow-cooked lamb, dates, almond slivers and brunoise vegetables, this was filling, tasty and not a dish that’s often seen on local menus.

The only criticism comes with respect to the intense chocolate pie and beetroot ice-cream (90 pesos); I love the idea of the latter but its flavour could be vamped up further to create a real contrast.

Maitre’ d services come courtesy of the elegant Benjamín, a New York transplant for many years who most recently led the team at Osaka Puerto Madero, and speaks immaculate English.

Throw in some bouncy Klezmer music but not too much, some quirky Israeli magazine covers that do a fine job as kitsch art, and you’ll never go to Sarkis again.

Lafinur 3368, Botánico
Tel: 3969-4463

Buenos Aires Herald, November 16, 2014
Ph: Mariana Eliano

Check out last week’s account of the Argentina sommelier competition.

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