I get to meet a whole array of types of people while working at our Buenos Aires wine tastings; it’s one of my favorite things about the job…apart from drinking wine of course. One of the greatest pleasures is being able to dish out recommendations, giving these new Buenos Aires trailblazers the top tips of where to find the biggest juiciest steak, the sexiest tango, the strongest cocktails and so forth. Giving, fortunately for me, comes with receiving and I absolutely relish when a guest tells me about a fantastic restaurant that I have yet to sample. One restaurant that has come up time and time again is Aramburu. Not able to put up with another person describing the divine culinary experience I decided it was time to stop hearing about it and get in there.
Aramburu is owed and run by namesake chef Gonzalo Aramburu, with the lovely Agustina de Alba by his side to select the sumptuous Argentine wines for his molecular gastronomic cuisine. Aramburu is more than just a restaurant; it’s an experience and a very unique one at that. The restaurant is located on a rather shady street in the depths of San Telmo, in fact on approach our taxi driver questioned us 5 times if we were sure that we were in the right place, but if working for Anuva has taught me anything, only the best place are found in these hidden nooks and crannies of the city. From the outside the restaurant seems quite unassuming with modest curtains and painted walls but once you knock on the door and step inside it’s like entering an entire new world…this is what it felt like to be ‘Alice in Wonderland‘ I guess, from stark reality into a dream world. Well, it’s not that Aramburu has little white rabbit running around in waistcoats or something but it does ooze of chic style and modern comfort to the nth degree.
Once seated at the clean simple table that is only decorated with a spattering of smooth rocks (that proved to be obsessively tactile, on my part at least), we are greeted by the waitress, who for my parents benefit speaks in English, which they love. She explains the concept here….this is not a restaurant where you pick and choose your fare; this is the point to say if you have an allergy or very strongly dislike any specific foods. Aramburu carefully selects a 10 to 12 course tasting menu for his visitors, consisting of a variety of seasonal food that not only delights the belly but the eye too. Everything about the food is designed to tease and please your senses; the textures, the appearance/presentation, the colors and shapes. This is known as molecule gastronomy; a new style of cuisine in which chefs explore
new culinary possibilities in the kitchen by embracing sensory and food science, borrowing tools from the science lab and ingredients from the food industry and concocting surprise after surprise for their diners.
Our 10 course meal was, for lack of a better expression, an absolute stunner and if I went into the finest detail about all the treats that were delicately placed in front of us, this blog would go on for a good 10 pages so I’ll do the best I can with a few simple words. We started with medley of amuse boches’, and amuse they did. Chicken pate enclosed in a light layer of membrillo (quince paste), gazpacho of tomato soup served in a mini martini glass, a string ball of lightly fried potato with a side of aioli, crisp bread with a paste of ricotta and sundried tomato served on a rock, a potato baston with a slither of bacon and finally a pepper apricot paste topped with a flambéed cracker. And that was just course number one! The thing I noted about this style of cuisine is it really provoked conversation about the food, analyses of the flavors and textures, where normally we would just wolf down the food without so much as a mmmm or an ahhhhhh.
The following courses were all light to allow us to proceed to ‘the next round’ although a clear progression from the lightest, most delicate flavors to the more dense, intensely flavored food was being made, just like a wine tasting! A smoked salmon salad, with shavings of beetroot and tomato water. (Tomato water!!! It was clear like water but tinged with that unmistakable tinny aroma of tomato, I’d never seen anything like it!) A summer vegetable garden salad with puree of avocado, the most DEVINE king prawns wrapped in tempura served on a hot stone and coated in a savory fumet, which sizzled until it made me shiver with delight and a baked white salmon, the crumbled into a puree of cauliflower and baked seaweed. I could see it coming, white salmon is really quite meaty so it was clear that the red stuff was about to make an appearance.
It started with a slither of confit pork belly that melted in my mouth in such a way that it made me want to do THAT ‘When Harry met Sally’ Meg Ryan scene, the only down side of this was that I wanted more….MUCH MORE PORK! I know that large portions are not a done thing in molecular gastronomic and you can call me a fatty all you like but it was simply too good to be that small! It wasn’t long before my longing was turned to lust as the slow cooked beef was placed in front of me. I barely remember eating it as I was in such a dreamy trance at the tenderness of it and that was when it hit me. The food coma. Two more courses and not enough room in my belly….nightmare.
Luckily, it was as if as Aramburu had anticipated this moment of defeat and presented us with a light, utterly refreshing palate cleanser of citrus mint sorbet, with a basil dressing. Unusual to the ear but surprisingly, the perfect combination for the taste. It was refreshing enough to prepare us for the rich sweet stickiness of the white chocolate ice-cream with lavender and comfit of red berries that was to follow. After 3 hours of dining (yes, go with someone you REALLY like and can converse with!!) and practically licking my plates, I could safely say that my dress was severely uncomfortable but my soul was completely satisfied. Aramburu was just possibly one of the best dining experiences I have had in my two years in Buenos Aires.
Of course there is one HUGE factor missing from this descriptive babble, the wines. Being the wine snob that I am there was clearly only one option for me; the wine pairing menu. Five wines matched with each couple of courses to set off the flavors and textures all picked by Augstina de Alba who recently reached the Best Sommelier of Argentina award from the Argentine Association of Sommeliers and Mendoza Wine Fund for the second year in a row. So as you might imagine….outstanding wines, which really deserve their own blogs! So they shall have them!
Beauty tends to come with a price and Aramburu is no exception to the rule. This is the one to save for very special occasions; with the degustation costing $350ars per person and the wine pairings $240ars….I was very pleased that my pa was there to save the day!