Closed doors restaurants: Buenos Aires’ best kept secret

Casa Saltshaker (picture from argentinaindependent.com)

Casa Saltshaker (picture from argentinaindependent.com)

They are almost secret. You get to know about them by word of mouth. Eating at closed doors restaurants is almost like eating at home, but with top personalized service and a cuisine that can only be offered by professionals.

Closed doors restaurants have abounded in Buenos Aires for the last years. If we try to trace their background we could go back to the Cuban “paladares”: simple or gourmet restaurants that are found everywhere in Cuba. At closed doors restaurants in Argentina you need to have a reservation, and guests are admitted in only small numbers, two or three days a week.  According to Ezequiel Gallardo, who manages Treintasillas they go back to the times of prohibition in NYC, when the speak easy bars emerged. For Dan Perlman from Saltshaker, they are the new version of the old family houses that opened their doors to offer food to travelers.

Treintasillas

Treintasillas

This way of doing business is a solution for young chefs, because they can show their skills without the risk of opening a formal restaurant. Private restaurants, on the other hand, specialize in one type of cuisine, as chefs spend more time experimenting, and they are widely accepted by the public. So we have in store Latin American menus, the typical cooking of the Jewish granny, market cuisine, Southeast Asian Cuisine and Argentine gourmet cuisine.

Almost all neighborhoods today have one or two closed doors restaurants. An apartment, a house or a two-storey flat, with a nice atmosphere, is useful to that end. Some, during their hosting days, take away the furniture from the dining-room and make it into a mini restaurant that generally can serve small groups. Sometimes they set up small tables, others, a large one where the mingling is forced, for no more than 15 people (the numbers are kept small to preserve the sense of intimacy). They all share a common characteristic, they only work with reservations.

Diego Felix

Diego Felix

Diego Felix, from Casa Felix, in the neighborhood of Chacarita, is a researcher and he says: “Vegetables and fish are our universe (Pescaterian); we try to use organic and reliable produce, and we offer Argentine gastronomy with original ideas and products that we gather when we travel in the region. Felix, already a cook, went with his wife Sanra to USA, where he worked and perfected his skills. When they returned back, they first opened their house to friends and then they extended their service.

Ezequiel Gallardo opened Treintasillas in Colegiales (in fact, it’s generally eighteen chairs) to give shape to a very exclusive idea. It seemed it would be fun for the guest to arrive at a small place, off the beaten track, to receive super personalized attention with a sense of intimacy and of belonging in a group. He does market cuisine, with the best products available in each season. Simple dishes with gourmet touches. He has the same way of thinking as Francis Mallmann: “to look for the beauty of simplicity”. He changes his menu every week.  Dan Perlman, creator, chef & sommelier of SaltShaker,  loves the idea of meeting new people every week. At first, he and his partner, Henry Tapia, thought about opening twice a month, but there was such acceptance that they decided to extend the open house days. “We have two tables to be shared, which is unusual in Argentina. It’s like a huge party with people who don’t know each other, coming from  different parts of the world, and the conversation goes on in at least  two languages”. He says that his food is really international with dishes from all countries. A five course tasting with a well-thought selection of five wines to match. The menu changes every week-end.

La cocina discreta

Villa Crespo also boasts its closed door restaurant. It is called La Cocina Discreta and its mentor is Alejandro Langer, chef and host. Here the food is a fusion of styles originally from different parts of the world. And the chefs stresses that “the idea is to share our travel experiences through sounds and tastes”.In itself, the offer manages to produce a sensation of exclusiveness, like everything has been exclusively prepared. Personalized attention, intimacy and the fusion of gourmet food with crafty cuisine: an alternative within the varied gastronomy of the city.

In 2005 Casa Coupage opened its doors in Palermo Viejo, as a club for tasting and pairing wines, but gradually  it became a “closed doors restaurant”. This idea was the brainchild of Santiago Mymicopulo and Inés Mendieta upon returning back from Nicaragua, where they opened their first restaurant, with this privacy idea which they called Cambalache. The chef is Martín Lukesch. Santiago and Inés believe that hosting in this way, you get to receive more than you give. It’s better than entertaining people at your own place. Foreigners are quite amazed because asking people to your own house is not usual and we make this “a way of living”.  Cocina Sunae lures you with aromas of fiery curries, fresh herbs and exotic spices in a closed door restaurant in Buenos Aires. Combined with the roots of her Asian childhood and her experience in New York City restaurants, Christina Sunae cooks up homemade Asian food drawing you into her world of spicy, savory and sweet flavors.  She now she cooks in her own home in Colegiales. Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, and as the rest of the places, only accepts reservations.

Buenos Aires flaunts many closed doors restaurants that revive the habit of sharing one’s table.

Casa Felix: 
Neighborhood: Chacarita
Sanra Ritten and Diego Felix- Chef: Diego Felix
Seats:15
Phone: 4555 1882
Open: Thursday to Saturday from 9.30 PM
Treintasillas:
Neighborhood: Colegiales
Chef: Ezequiel Gallardo
Seats: 18, but could take more
Phone: 4492 7046
Open: Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Only at night. The rest of the days only by order.
SaltShaker: 
Neighborhood: Recoleta
Chef Dan Perlman- Harry Tapia -Chef Dan Perlman
Seats: 12
Phone: 156 132 4146
Open: Friday and Saturday (exceptions can be made)
Casa Coupage: 
Neighborhood: Palermo
Santiago Mymicopulo and Inés Mendieta – Chef: Martín Lukesch
Seats : 15
Phone: 4833 6354
Open: Thursday and Friday only at night.
Every other Wednesday: tastings and pairings. The rest of the days: private events.
La Cocina Discreta
Neighborhood: Villa Crespo
Alejandro and Rosana Langer – Chef: Alejandro Langer
Seats: 15
Phone: 4772 3803 / 15 6571-1002
Open: Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Cocina Sunae
Neighborhood: Colegiales
Cristina Sunae
reservas@cocinasunae.com
cellular: 15 4870 5506
Exact address confirmed with reservation. Payment cash pesos or dollars. Advanced payment accepted via Paypal.
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