Here’s a very special guest post from wonder woman Sally Higgins. She’s wonder woman because she’s fearless, adventuress and has so many awesome life experiences. She’s lived in Chile, Vietnam, Japan, Australia, and has just moved to France and is about to start a work contract in India. She speaks English obviously, Spanish, Vietnamese and some Japanese. The stories she has….
On Sal’s latest adventure, she worked for ASO, organisers of the world’s toughest motorsport event, the Dakar Rally. The Dakar runs for two weeks and this year’s off road race started and finished in Buenos Aires and traversed over 9,000km through Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile. It’s the ultimate endurance race that attracts the best off-road racers in the world.
While in Argentina, Sally took time out eat well. It’s so funny that the place she ate at is five doors up the road from where Hubba and I stayed for a month in 2010! I’ve eaten in this same restaurant as Sally – albeit four years ago. Amazing coincidence!
Guest post by Sally Higgins
What a luxury! A free day in Buenos Aires and no compelling reasons to see anything touristy. A free day because I have just finished the Dakar Rally, and no compelling reasons to be a tourist because I have just finished the Dakar Rally. Enough said. We’ve just been through Argentina and Chile, across the Andes twice and overnight into the Bolivian salt planes in 14 days. It takes it out of one. Also I have been to Buenos Aires several times before, so been there, seen that so to speak.
But it would be boring to sit in my hotel room all day watching movies. There is food in Buenos Aires that I love, and I had to solve my sock crisis before I get on a plane. I needed clean socks.
Before the Dakar, on my first night in Buenos Aires I went with a friend to the district of Palermo. This is a great spot with a mix of clothes shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. We sat outside but I just wilted with jet lag and couldn’t do it justice or really enjoy my food.
This time I was staying at the Panamericano Hotel which is on the main boulevard – Carlos Pellegrini, no doubt named after a General, just by the Plaza de la Republica where the famous obelisk is and not far from the Casa Rosada – the Pink Palace which is the home of the President – all landmarks. On my sock buying expedition and restaurant reconnaissance mission I walk out of the hotel, and turned left onto the next street which is a pedestrian mall called Lavalle.
Of course, the classic Argentinian food is La Parrilla (the grill) – and if you say this out loud you have it say it with maximum rolling of the ‘rr’s’ – and that’s where I thought I was headed. The window displays of these restaurants have meat carcasses hanging in them. You more or less walk in, walk past the carcass and request the cut that you want. This is normally so big that there is only room on the plate for meat. If you want any side dishes or accompaniments these come on separate plates.
I passed a couple that looked like good options, and then I saw La Casona del Nonno. Yes, sure it has an Italian name and looks like an Italian restaurant but it was small, friendly and what I wanted. In fact it turned out to be exactly what I wanted.
A table to myself, not crowded but not empty. Other people sitting by themselves so I don’t look out of place. Of course at 12:30 it is early by Argentinian standards, they would have only just finished breakfast. A short menu with some four or five different salads, and the choice of two cuts of beef plus various options for sharing. There are also some pasta options and probably pizza but I’m here for the beef.
I’ve been speaking Spanish for the last few weeks so I ask for Bife de Chorizo (sirloin) in Spanish. She says something about the Bife de Lomo (tenderloin) being much better and I pretend to understand and order that instead. I am concerned because it is a 400g steak and I’m not sure if I can get through it, but she reassures me that 400g is really not that big – actually it’s quite small.
I also ask about the Ensalada de Tomate – does it have anything else except tomatoes? I’m not averse to this, because normally they are peeled and served with onions, olive oil and vinegar. Again she over-rules me and says I should have the Ensalada Mixta – which has lettuce, tomato and raw white onion cut in thin slivers.
And the wine? A Malbec of course – 375m bottle and she helps me choose that as well. Each time, it is not the most expensive so it is genuine recommendation. We bond.
Honestly, this is the best experience. I’m brought a big basket of fresh bread, with excellent butter, with the Malbec. I have done a fair bit of damage to the bread before the salad arrives, dipping it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar which I can pour to my taste on the salad. It is a full plate of salad and I am a bit uncertain about whether I am supposed to wait for the steak before I tuck in but decide that waiting is not required. It is a different course.
The Malbec is smooth and chocolatey and goes down really well.
Nothing is rushed. I am reading the latest John Le Carré as I sip wine and eat a bit of bread & salad.
Then the Bife de Lomo is delivered, on a separate plate and cooked to perfection. It is medium sized and on the red side of pink in the middle. I add a bit of salt and we’re away.
Its all so simple and delicious, and I have all the time in the world. I have to chase them to bring the bill and to be honest I can’t remember exactly how much it cost. It was cheaper than I thought, being in a tourist area but not so cheap that you feel like you’ve robbed someone. At a guess, and working a rough exchange rate I’d say about $30 for the lot.
Check out the five best cuts of meat in Argentina on the Gringos in Argentina site.
If you liked this one, let us know!
And look out for more posts by Sally in the future
La Casona de Nonno
Lavalle 827, C1047AAQ Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tel: +54 11 4322-9352