Usually, when I travel I like to go to spots that are homey and off the beaten track…I like to eat where the locals eat, in other words. However, I was hosted by friends who live part time in Buenos Aires, and El Bistro in Faena Universe happens to be located in the same building they have their apartment. The space itself it absolutely gorgeous, and a little bit like something out of a Guillermo del Toro movie…it has a “fantasy” feel about it, almost like you’re in another astral plane. My friends had assured me that the food was as magical as the decor, and had arranged for me to meet the executive chef of this enchanted restaurant, a young artist by the name of Mariano Cid de la Paz. The space is elegantly portrayed in white as the main color scheme, gorgeous chandeliers hang from the ceiling, and the walls are appointed with white unicorn heads, mounted along the stretch of the restaurant.
Faena Bistro Dining Room (*This pic is not mine, but comes from the Faena Universe site. My picture was no where near as flattering as this one, and I want to make sure you see how dramatic the space really is)
The minute we were seated, and our drink orders taken, we were presented with a variety of equally whimsical amuse bouche. First, a pretty platter of Polenta Crisps with Sweet Pimenton, followed by Parmesan Puffs with Lemon Relish made their appearance, to be followed by “Burbujas de Aceituna” or Olive Bubbles! I immediately started channeling Ferran Adria! We also sampled Chef Mariano’s signature “Fried Sushi” and Soy Marinated Salmon Bites that wereso delicious and exciting, I didn’t manage to get a good picture. Take my word for it: they were delicious!
Polenta Crisps (left) and Parmensan Puffs (right)
Burbujas de Aceituna
By this point I was very excited, because if the amuse were a sign of what was yet to come, we were looking forward to a very delicious evening! As if on cue, Chef Mariano made his way to our table, where he greeted us warmly and chatted for a few minutes before heading back to his
alter kitchen. In the few minutes that we managed to chat, he revealed that he had indeed, studied with His Holiness Ferran Adria in Barcelona for two years, before finding his way to Buenos Aires…lucky Buenos Aires! The evidence of his passion is clearly placed before us with every course (and he’s not too hard on the eyes, either!).
Executive Chef Mariano Cid de la Paz greets Daisy at El Bistro in Faena Universe
But enough about me…let’s get to the food, right? The first courses were unbelievable. First, let me say that apart from being beautifully and artistically presented, the product was impeccably fresh and seasoned to perfection. David and Marc both opted for the Octopus Salad which was boldly garnished with grilled tropical fruit and veggies. The texture of the octopus was sublime, and the garnish provided exactly enough acid to counter the unctuousness of the octopus. When I tell you it was pretty as a picture, I am not exaggerating!
Paula had the Canelon de Palta with Cangrejo (Avocado Cannelone with Crab meat). Again, I was blown away by Chef Mariano’s balance of flavors, and artistic flair. You can feed me avocado and crab everyday of the week, but this rivals anything I have ever tasted. I was starting to feel faint!
Canelon de Palta
Paul and I both went for the Salmon in Vanilla Sauce with Salmon Roe and Gnocchi. Wait! I think I just had heart palpitations! This dish was absolutely incredible. The fish was cooked sous vide, so that i’s texture was orgasmic in the mouth, only hinting of dill, and the delicate subtleness of the vanilla sauce added a whisper of sweetness against the briny saltiness of the roe. Excuse me while I wipe away a tear…*sniff*. The gnocchi were lovely little pillows of perfection…almost like eating warm marshmallows…there I go, tearing up again!
Salmon in Vanilla Sauce with Gnocchi
Angela had had a very busy day, and so opted to just have an appetizer for her dinner, and she opted for the Ceviche de Hongos with Linguini. One word: PERFECTION!
Ceviche de Hongos
The entrees were equally fantastic, and Chef Mariano’s attention to detail evident on every single plate. David enjoyed the Cochinillo served with Citrus Air which was juicy and tender with the perfect lacquer of crackling on top, Marc had the Duck Breast Marc’s favorite!) served on a bed of sweated chard, that was fragrant and succulent. Paula enjoyed the Corvina con Arroz Negro and Calamaretis (Sea Bass with Black Rice and Baby Calamari) that was mouth watering. The squid ink used to color the rice, added the perfect salty, mineral oceanic note to what should have been the supporting actor in this production, and the perfect stage to present the buttery sweetness of the sea bass. Paul decided that salmon was the theme for the evening, and ordered the Salmon Blanco (White Salmon) served on a bed of pureed parsnips, and I opted for the Red Mullet stuffed with Vegetables and garnished with Romesco which was divine, for lack of a better word. See for yourself!
Duck Breast on Chard
Corvina with Squid Ink Risotto and Calamaretti
Red Mullet with Vegetables and Romesco
“After dinner mint? It’s waffer thin!” *end of random Monty Python reference*! One would think that after this much dining there would be no more room at the inn, so to speak. Thank goodness I had two healthy young men on hand to take one for the team! We ordered Chef Mariano’s spin on a Banana Split which come with two chocolate cylinders which you break open to release a luscious coconut cream, Chocolate three Ways, and (so as not to feel guilty) a plate of Fruit Salad. What can I say? A final flourish of the chef’s brush on our palates!
Banana SplitChocolate 3 Ways
With that, we completed the magical, mystery tour of El Bistro. I can attest that it is fine dining at it’s best; it is inspired, detail specific, and relevant. It occurred to me to ask Marc and David what they thought of their dining experience at El Bistro, and this is what they said:
I’d take their word for it!
Faena Hotel + Universe
445 Martha Salotti Street
Buenos Aires, Argentina C1107CMB
Tel: 54 11 4010 9000
Fax: 54 11 4010 9001