Wining On: Burger me

Just recently, I finished compiling a fairly substantial restaurants list for a guide and, I’m proud to say, it all came straight from this horse’s mouth.

I was given a starting list of around 90 eateries, which included obvious tourist favourites such as steakhouses La Brigada and Don Julio, but also more traditional porteño pizzerías including El Cuartito.

From there, on it was simply a question of filling in some fairly substantial gaps — another 250 restaurants, more or less — in order to complete the job.

Given relative freedom, as there was no particular cuisine criteria to fill, it was a matter of brain-scratching and notebook page-flicking to recall where I’d had coffee, scoffed cake, meandered over brunch and gorged steaks for the past six months.

And not once, I swear, did I use any other source to compile that list. It was simply a matter of mouth memory.

Which means I’ve been dining out and wining on an awful lot…

But, then lo and behold, two restaurants which have been open for respectively a year and a half, and several months, both caught me unawares, and I will give my defence shortly.

Now KT, a Taiwanese-Australian friend, runs dessert tours for fun back home in Oz, and is frequently on a food mission to try out new places. A keen foodie, she also makes her own pudding she calls the “Marriage Cake” because so many people have proposed to her after trying it. This past week she got one over me with Moreneta.

With a three-for-two lunchtime voucher, along with fiancé Ezequiel (hers, not mine), I rocked on up to a divine café squished between bog-standard downtown eateries, building works and busy cycle couriers.

Light and airy, with plenty of glass and an ample selection of foodie magazines and publications that I sincerely hope have some kind of spell imposed on them so they remain on the premises, chefs Luciana Conte and Sebastián Raggiante place emphasis on top-quality ingredients, dishes of the day, which are delightfully scrawled on furniture drawers and blackboards, and a simple menu. A main with dessert and coffee hits the 80 peso mark, but given the heritage of the Conte-Raggiante pairing — they worked together at Gadus in Mallorca, he led the kitchen while she led the dessert charge, after gaining valuable experience at the now-closed El Bulli and Le Petit Nice, which both garnered three Michelin stars — the price seems piffling for the knowledge and experience going into the menu.

With very few tables, it was busy for a lunchtime, but oddly relaxed and peaceful — very much a haven for those in the know to escape to come midday.

While KT went for an aubergine, cheese and tomato bake, I was a little suspicious of Ezequiel’s choice of spaghetti with a tuna sauce — would it canned or fresh? Meanwhile, my burger options were of particular interest: not just a standard quarter-pounder with all the trimmings, but there was also a beef and pork meat option as well. Although the waitress warned it would take 25 minutes to come out, all the food arrived together no more than 15 minutes later. Pleasantly surprising.

In fact the pasta was very much to Eze’s liking: “it’s skinny spaghetti, just how I like it,” he crowed in glee, adding that the sauace was great although I didn’t try it.

KT and Ezequiel are marrying in October and have a gaucho theme for their wedding. Should Moreneta offer catering (and should the happy couple require it), they won’t do much wrong by choosing those burgers (I’m thinking North American cowboy here, so go with it).

Open all day from breakfast time, Moreneta does close at 7pm so dinner is not an option. However, they are cornering a unique section of the market by luring in workers with an after-office picada — sounds like a phenomenal way to wind down after a dull day stuck in front of a computer. They are also uniquely serving up an Olympics menu in honour of Argentina’s Olympians and their favourite dishes from next week.

And given that Conte and Raggiante take pride in making everything from scratch, from the bread to the jam, I can only imagine the picada comprises the finest cheese and cured meats they can muster, and now I need to stop drooling.

And my defence for not knowing about Moreneta? Well, I lived on the cusp of Monserrat and San Telmo for two years and was forever rusing off in the opposite direction to Herald Towers, which is why I hadn’t stumbled across it. (Lame, I know, given that I have been several times to Aldos’s Restorán & Vinoteca a block away, and lunched on various occasions at La Panadería de Pablo around the corner).

That second restaurant to catch me unawares will feature next week.

Wining On verdict: a deceptive oasis of calm in bustling Monserrat, Moreneta is so much more than a café. And I’ll be back tomorrow with the remaining three-for-two voucher.

Moreneta, Moreno 477, Monserrat
Tel: 4331-1428

Photo courtesy of Moreneta

NB: The food list I have been compiling is for Zagat.

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