Chila

It was Friday night on what forecasts predicted – accurately as it turned out – would be a washout of a weekend. Accordingly I took advantage of the temperate early evening conditions and had a gentle stroll down towards the waterfront where dinner at Chila awaited me.

This area has clearly been subject to considerable regeneration efforts in recent years with a buzzing mixed economy of restaurants drawing punters to the neighbourhood. Chila, a fine dining place, felt slightly out of place in a selection including a TGI Friday, but I don’t supposed it’s too far removed from other waterfront developments around the world offering a very broad range of options.

Chila’s dining room has two main views to consider: one is the massive open kitchen, the other the waterfront. I was seated at a table in the window looking out across the water.

First up, the drinks list was brought. This contained some smart looking cocktails including one featuring Patagonian single malt whisky which sounded too intriguing, so I ordered their Rob Roy made using it. It was a very decent drop at the heart of a well-crafted cocktail.

Next to arrive was a presentation boxed, sealed with a little ‘tear here’ tag. I broke in to reveal details of the food menu, my drinks pairing option, as well as the evening’s first snack, a very good seaweed cracker. This was an unusual but effective presentational flourish.

We then had some further snacks to consider. First was a cookie, somewhat in the style of a macaron, containing black pudding and apple. It was excellent. Also on this plate was a little cheese bread ball. As with the one I’d had at Roots, the texture of this was very dense and not altogether appealing. This version was significantly more accomplished in its execution, but these items are not a favourite. Also in this selection was a delicate and delicious tart of trout mousse.

Accompanying these was maté, a hugely popular, usually hot beverage in these parts drunk daily by much of the population. Served in an endearing little calabash with a metal straw, a liquid – in this case a cold fermented mix of kombucha along with some gin – is poured over yerba leaves and then gently sipped. I enjoyed it muchly.

Bread arrived next looking very smart indeed. It was a little brioche loaf made with wagyu fat. Served with homemade butter, it was really splendid.

We got into the courses proper with a carpaccio of wagyu beef topped at the table with a herby anchovy sauce. This was high quality stuff but probably the least interesting dish of the evening.

By contrast, the next dish which featured raw prawns, strawberry and asparagus was both elegant and highly innovative. It was excellent.

An oyster topped with chimichurri followed and was another slightly weak combo, but we were once again back on track with an fantastic dish of black hake, tomato broth and textures of parnship. The fish was cooked very accurately and the tomato broth, with lightly aromatic ginger, was highly pleasing.

We then had a fun course of yeast foam topped with trout roe. This was served at the table with one of the chefs bringing a cannister of the foam from the kitchen which he then squirted onto the back of my hand and topped with the roe for me to lick off. It was all very jolly and at its heart an excellent flavour combo.

I have written many words about the carrot on this trip and another thrilling chapter could be devoted to the splendid confit carrot served with milk skin and chimichurri which was next up. It looked rather like a barbecued penis of some sort, but boy did it taste good.

For the main course I was allowed to choose from a range of massive, sharp knives with which to attack my dry-aged beef. I chose one with a bone handle and it did the job very nicely. The beef was of excellent quality and flavour and the accompanying beetroot was a good, simple foil.

I then had the option of either two sweet desserts or a selection of cheese. Once I’d been reassured that the cheese was all local, I opted for that.

With four different varieties, this was a really good cheese plate served with honey, toasted nuts and what my waiter assured me was confit wood.

Things were rounded out with excellent petits fours and highly disappointing Nespresso. It continues to be very sad to find this substandard product – and that’s before considering the environmental impact of coffee capsules – having such a strong hold on a continent where most of the world’s best coffee is grown.

In better news, the wine pairings were routinely excellent with particularly fine rosé from Saint Felicien and a killer chardonnay/viognier blend from Don Nicanor.

Overall, Chila served me an excellent meal with many highly memorable moments. Service was splendid, with the sommelier particularly good. It’ll be top of my list for a revisit next time I’m in town.

Scores
Blythe scores Chila
4.5/5 for food
4.5/5 for presentation
4.5/5 for setting
4.5/5 for service
giving an overall 18/20

I ate: tasting menu

I drank: Patagonian Rob Roy, maté, bubbles, malbec, syrah, grenache rosé blend, chardonnay viognier blend, malbec, mystery red blend, sauterne-style dessert wine

I wore: black loafers

Total bill: 4880 pesos

Address: Alicia Moreau de Justo 1160, Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires

Written by BKR