The concept of puertas cerradas, or closed-door restaurants, is a right Marmite situation.
The pro camp adore these secret eateries and their fixed yet innovative menus. The cons despise their very existence, claiming they draw custom away from legit establishments by dodging the AFIP man and other hard-to-please institutions. It’s a tough call, truth be known.
I am not here to judge, however, far from it, but simply taking on the role of messenger to inform you that there’s a new closed door in San Isidro and a rather sexy easy-on-the-eye one at that.
Opening two weeks ago, Knock pretty much eschews the classic puerta cerrada role model with its glamorous artsy aesthetic.
Located on a leafy street that could be anywhere in the northern suburbs and hidden behind huge remote control gates, a sloping roof and some first-floor red brickwork are the only indication of chef Martín Lukesch’s new project. You need a password to access the premises.
While many closed doors double up a living room bedecked with pet pics as a salon a few evenings a week, often forgetting to hide the anti-dandruff shampoo from the bathroom, by day Knock is home to sculptor father-son duo Lucas Reich and Bauchi Reich’s workshop, who dug the idea of a part-time restaurant in their atelier.
Their works deck the ground floor salon, including two hulls poking out from the wall and some scary dinosaurs in the garden. Upstairs, a cool, more private drinks lounge awaits for a pre- or post-dinner drinkette. Disco balls and fairy lights ensure the look isn’t too artsy high brow. (Thank god for that.)
Lukesch most recently worked at Primum and has also flashed some knives on Fox Life. His aim at Knock is to feature a market-to-table menu that changes up weekly. So far, so closed door good.
But the ante is well and truly upped with a cute cellar, two sommeliers on hand, including Natalia Suarez who selects the bodega of the month (Familia Schroeder in September), diligent service that’s almost a little too attentive, and a classy menu that reflects the produce available. An assortment of Zuccardi extra virgin olive oils team up with the bread basket. One downfall, however, was the slightly rickety table plus chairs that were less pretty than the space. Regardless, this is a slick operation.
Five courses including water and coffee set you back 450 pesos and with the first step, a teeny quail egg on brioche, I thought it might be a bit steep on the hungry-to-sated price scale. But step two, a hefty mound of burrata, teenage asparagus (not baby or fully grown) and a surprisingly non-intrusive black olive tapenade set aside any fears. Topped with wild garlic flowers, it was beautifully presented.
Round three is the last savoury course, as Lukesch caters to the Argentine sweet tooth for the latter two; regardless, his two rainbow trout fillets were an immense hit. The guy knows his fish, pan-frying it to succulent perfection, not too moist or too dry, skin on.
He played it out with a creamy bulgar wheat, delicately infused with white truffle oil and barbecue grilled leeks. Matched with a Saurus Pinot Noir — a line I love, incidentally, because technical info such as the harvest date on the label greatly appeals to my inner wine geek — this was a pretty pairing indeed. Throw in three matched glasses for an additional 150 pesos.
I skipped the avocado, banana, orange ice-cream, which was declared very delicious by dining companions, and took on a vanilla version, simple yet perfectly executed. Part five was an exquisite lemon curd pastry topped with fresh strawberries and blueberries and a thoughtful grapefruit gel that added sharp acidity. That was a plate licker too.
I’ve said it already but this is a slick operation, with few elements usually associated with closed door establishments in play. It might be better to define it as private dining or with reservation only, given that it’s lacking that cosy homeliness that diners love about puertas cerradas. But while they remain enamoured, the very name is certainly a selling point, certainly for the pro camp. And at the end of the day, the experience counts.
Super dinner, stylish, secret, attentive service, well priced. Take a date.
Tel: 011 15 6112-1894
Cash only, Fridays and Saturdays
Buenos Aires Herald, September 20, 2015