The weather was so bad in Buenos Aires that the Copa Libertadores final which matched the city’s – and arguably world football’s – greatest rivals, Boca Juniors and River Plate in a superclasico for the ages was postponed. And don’t get me started on the polo. It had been thundering all day and rain had made the tiled pavements even more treacherous than usual. Accordingly, I caught a cab to my chosen dining spot for the evening, El Baqueano.
Meaning ‘the guide’, El Baqueano specialises in rare and unusual meat dishes. Their dining space is pared back and stylish. I was glad to see some bar seats and was indeed given my choice of one of these. This gave me a good look at kitchen operations which proved a slightly mixed blessing.
They offer a tasting menu only to which you can add paired wines which I did. These were good quality, generally interesting local wines.
Anyhoo, we opened with snacks of brioche ice cream, anchovy butter and “fake baguette”. These were playful and elegant. The baguette proved to be a cleverly disguised potato. It was a really vibrant opening to proceedings.
Keeping up the early momentum, next was their signature dish of raw llama meat, three colours of quinoa, and crisp amaranth leaves. This was a flavourful and stylishly conceived dish.
It was about this point that some cracks started to appear. Bread arrived – a choice of garlic or wholewheat – but with no sense of what it might go with. It was good bread, but there was no butter or some such.
The next dish of apsaragus, poached egg yolk, asparagus tuille and flower topping was another self-contained and elegant dish, packed with seasonal goodness.
The alligator gyoza with teriyaki sauce was good but was the only dish where the use of an unusual meat felt a bit like a novelty act.
The shrimp and oyster mushroom fritter was good but light on earthy notes from the mushroom.
The next dish was announced as confit duck with textures of yuca. It was a good dish with deft texture balance, in particular.
The main dish was guanaco – the big cousin of the llama – cooked lightly and served with ash molé. The guanaco meat had good flavour but was a hard cut and a hard chew. The molé tasted like a rich chocolate sauce but lacked a notable ash enhancement.
We then had some theatrics with liquid nitrogen poured to make the kumquat ice lolly smoke all over the place. The lolly was good; I could have lived without the holy smokes.
The main dessert was a carefully-crafted beetroot sphere with strawberry sauce and grapefruit. This was matched – bafflingly – with Nespresso. It was shit. Nespresso is shit. Can the restaurants of Buenos Aires please pack it in.
Much of what I ate El Banqueano I’d not been served before, so it was great to see some of the lesser-appreciated, ancestral ingredients and dishes of Argentina, much like my visit to Peumayen had played the same role for Chile. I left with much to consider – in particular how much I’d really enjoyed the exeprience – as I was gently rained upon on the stroll home.
Blythe scores El Baqueano
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 16/20
I ate: tasting menu
I drank: paired wines
I wore: rarely used rainwear
Total bill: 3000 pesos
Address: Chile 499, Buenos Aires