I was so excited. The idea of a “puerta cerrada” seemed intriguing and sounded like fun. A home-cooked meal created for you by a professional chef (or someone with similar credentials)… what’s not to like about that? Best of all, with the exchange rate these 3-4 course meals would only cost about $25 USD. Before I ever touched down in Buenos Aires, I already had myself booked for 3! I even managed to persuade my fiscally-minded boyfriend to splurge with me for one of them. Score! How could this possibly go wrong? I’ll tell you… Please be warned that this tale debunks the myth that the 3rd time for anything will be a charm.
Fail #1 – Cocina Sunae
– I managed to set this one up for my first real evening in Buenos Aires. By some random chance, I even managed to make 2 new friends on my walking tour earlier that day and they decided to join me for dinner. One of the best parts about a puerta cerrada is that you set the meal up in advance and the chefs are very open to adjusting the menu for dietary restrictions (like my gluten intolerance). Having confirmed twice, that I was gluten-free and that it wouldn’t be a problem, we arrived to this mystery dinner excited and ready for some serious eating. As the menus were passed around, I mentioned to the waiter that I was gluten-free but that I had already sent an email confirming this restriction. He left to get the chef. Uh-oh. She came out and walked me through the menu… not 1 item listed for the main course was gluten-free… she mentioned that one dish only had a little bit of flour to thicken the sauce and asked if that would be ok. Umm… no. No it wouldn’t. An allergy means I can’t eat it. Luckily she wasn’t a mean lady and she offered to adjust my dish to leave out the flour. But still. It was a bummer. Overall, the food was good but not great. Dessert however was amazing. I’m still counting this as a fail though.
Fail #2 – Casa Felix
– Having received the highest praise of the 3 I had chosen, I was most excited about visiting this one. I made my reservation over a month in advance but they were full for the first 3 weeks of my trip. Luckily they had a spot open 2 weeks before I left town. About 2 weeks before my reservation I received a notice that they were raising the price of the dinners. I quickly wrote back to confirm that they would honor the price I was quoted when I made my initial reservation. No, no they would not. In the end the difference was maybe only $6 but I was so annoyed I just canceled my reservation and decided to spend my money at a fancy restaurant instead.
Fail #3 – Jueves a la Mesa
– At this point, all hopes and dreams were riding on this vegetarian dinner. Especially considering it was the one dinner splurge I was able to convince Nic to join in on. With 5 stars on Tripadvisor, I thought nothing could go wrong. The evening started out well enough with the chef finishing up as we arrived…
After weeks of nothing but meat, meat and more meat I was so excited to get some vegetables in my system. I think even Nic felt the same way. As the rest of the guests started arriving we noticed there was one really large party attending dinner that night. They were a group of Californians in town to join their 2 friends who were driving their camper van across the world with their 2 year old kid. After 18 months of camping, surfing and driving they had made their way to Buenos Aires and many of their friends had flown down to join them in celebration.
Unfortunately with the large group our dinner was overbooked. Something as simple as finding 2 seats together became an awkward task. When we finally managed to get 2 seats together, we were crammed onto the end of the table in the space normally given to one person. As the first course was being passed around, everyone was able to enjoy their soup in a nice soup bowl (including the 2 year old) while we dined on this fine china…
The rest of the meal came and went. I especially loved the intimate dining moments that involved a 2 year running underneath the table and playing hide and seek with our legs. The meal was ok but nothing spectacular. We’ve had better (shout out to Dooley and her tacos!)
For $20/person it was a bit disappointing. In Buenos Aires, a $20 meal is quite the splurge. For $3 you can get yourself a meal like this…
In the end, I felt a bit like a jerk for convincing Nic to splurge on such a disappointing dinner. But sometimes that’s just how it goes… That said, there were many good meals to be had in Buenos Aires. I’ll be blogging about those next….