Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cafe San Juan - Restaurant Review

While channel surfing in Argentina, I came across reality show about a restaurant called Cafe San Juan on Fox Life TV in Buenos Aires. The show is about a small boutique restaurant in San Telmo district of Buenos Aires. I am not a fan of reality TV, and really don't watch those types of programs ( e.g., I have never seen Survivor, Big Brother etc). I find these types of programs boring and over dramatic. However, this show caught my attention. The series presents itself as a "docu-reality", which I think is more accurate than, just a reality show. The situations and characters are real, not contrived.

Cafe San Juan is a small boutique restaurant located on Calle San Juan in the San Telmo District. San Telmo is known for the legendary San Telmo fairs on Sunday. San Telmo is also an antique and art destination. The district is: edgy, young, gritty, immigrant and up & coming. Think NY city's Chelsea or Lower East side in the 1970's.  Celebrity Chef/Owner/skateboarder, Leonardo Cristobal  is young and edgy. He looks like a younger version of Spanish rock star Manu Chau.

Cristobal is a passionate man. He is passionate about his restaurant, food, presentation of the meal, and skateboarding. He buys all is vegetables locally and uses products that are in season. There is no delivered processed food.
What really piqued my interest while watching the television program is how well the staff got along. Everyone, sliced, diced and prepared the food for dining clients. This was true when we dined. The staff operated like a well tuned orchestra.

 (San Telmo is gritty, artsy and full of passion, like these street performers)

The restaurant is small, with tables outside and maybe 10 to 12 tables inside. The kitchen is open, and diners can observe celebrity chef Cristobal prepare the evenings meals. Like San Telmo, the food is edgy, eclectic and entertaining.  Jazz and ambient music flow through the small restaurant. There is no set menu; the waiters truck a chalkboard from table to table with the day's specialties. Tonight's specials were, Squid, Rabbit and Salmon.

I decided on the salmon. It's spring in Argentina and the wild salmon are in season. The portion was a good size and was accompanied by eggplant, onions, and covered in greens. The meal was delicious, and the presentation was perfect. The salmon was probably the best I've ever had.

I must admit, part of my attraction to this restaurant was it's style and sexiness. Dining in Argentina is a process. It is not rushed. Like the saying, "life is too short for cheap wine", this is how Porteños dine, leisurely, relaxed and luxuriate at a table for hours. There is no, "eat and run" in Argentina. Dining is an art form. Food is celebrated. Argentines have adopted the Spanish culture's way of eating late,  the Italians love for food, and the Frenchman's passion for the Cafe Society.

For dessert we split a chocolate mousse with almonds and topped by eatable chocolate  gold thread-Need I say more! Like most restaurants in Buenos Aires, desserts are homemade!

I found the staff helpful, and efficient. The restaurant opens in the evening at 8pm ( reservations are highly recommended).  This was my best meal in Buenos Aires this year, and Buenos Aires is known as a foodies paradise. Prices are a bit higher than most restaurants in Buenos Aires, but still much cheaper than stateside restaurants. Cafe San Juan only accepts cash, and not credit cards.

The Details:
Cafe San Juan
450 Calle San Juan
San Telmo ( Buenos Aires)
Telephone: 4300 1112
CASH ONLY Dollars accepted.
Reservations are highly recommended.

Watch the Video
Episode One of Cafe San Juan

Farmers market in San Telmo

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