It was a bitter-sweet soirée a few Saturdays ago, when Chef Mun, he of the deft fish preparation skills and great big beaming smile, held a leaving party for some of his closest friends.
One of the most popular puerta cerrada restaurants of the past two years in Buenos Aires — first, for the fabulous Korean-inspired menu; second, for injecting some much-needed spice on to the BA food scene; and third, due to his friendly personality — Mun has decided to cook up a storm elsewhere.
But that’s not to say he went out with a whimper, far from it. We got to sample his porkalicious buns one more time, scoff down spicy tuna on crispy rice and he even remembered to prepare a special plate of avocado-free sushi just for me, given the allergy I have to it.
However, Mun is not part of the expat exodus that I’ve been witnessing over the past few months — the chef is headed to Mendoza for gastronomical ventures in the Andes and will be popping up every now and then in BA with sporadic events.
But where one puerta cerrada locks its doors for the final time, another throws them open with gusto and a few newbies have sprung up on the scene this winter.
One restaurant which is going to make a significant impact is I Latina. The Villa Crespo-based eaterie is run by three siblings from Bogotá who ran I Latina mark one in Bariloche, and moved to the capital earlier this year. Serving up a delectable high-end Colombian and Caribbean-inspired menu, I Latina is fulfilling an untapped market, but more on that next week.
There is also a buzz in the air about The Lost Asian’s Hidden Kitchen. Due to open September 1, Frances Ren Huang is going back to her Taiwanese roots once a week with a closed-door restaurant, and I’m very much looking forward to a sneak preview there.
But one place that has got me in the mood for my forthcoming journey back to the UK is Casa Munet. Shunning the usual night-time option of converting a living room into a restaurant for an evening, patisserie chef Virginia Rinaldi and tea connoisseur Pedro Alperowicz turn their Colegiales office into a teahouse at four o’clock on Saturday afternoons.
Buzz your way in up the marble stairs to an elegant setting on the first floor. A five-step menu costing 180 pesos for two awaits with a tour du monde of the tea world. This being a puerta cerrada, Rinaldi and Alperowicz may amend it on a whim — the afternoon Mr Links and I were there, we sipped a Chinese white tea from Theodor during course one in honour of the Parisian tea house’s tenth anniversary. In fact, my first cup was appropriately served in beautiful Chinese rice porcelain, which if you hold it up to the light, the “grains” give off an eerie yet captivating translucency, and surely comes from the connoisseur’s personal collection.
The charismatic Alperowicz, who runs Eclaire el arte del té and gives lectures on the warm wet stuff, is extremely knowledgeable and more than happy to share his wisdom. And as I listened to him, it made me see and think about my national drink (beside Pimm’s Number One Cup) in a different light.
Being English, I normally make a fuss when someone visits the motherland, and have been known to sink to my knees for a packet of Twinings. Oh, you couldn’t find it? Supermarket own brand will do… In all honesty, it’s an association with home, that’s all. A habit.
How do I make it? Boil the water, add a tea bag, a splash of milk, dip the bag around a bit and you’re good to sink it. Milk first, of course, when the leaves are brewed in a pot. It must have made Mr Links think differently about brews too, as he rocked up with some Darjeeling this week…
But it was rather unique to delicately nibble on a crustless egg and cress sandwich — heaven! — accompanied by an Assam-based tea with an almond hint in Buenos Aires, that’s for sure.
Alperowicz and Rinaldi ensure it really is a world tour, as we also stopped off in Casablanca for a freshly brewed mint leaf tea and sugary pistachio filo pastry. Exquisite.
Despite the tempting teas and desserts and impeccable service, the one aspect to let the side down is the main road Casa Munet is located on. Not from a noise point of view, but an esthetic one — perhaps some strategically placed bamboo could cover up the supermarket opposite.
And on my return to the UK, I will be rather more demanding than “yeah, any tea will do.”
Wining On verdict: British expats in need of a dose of the motherland will enjoy step three and “tea with Mr. Wilde.” Stick around for a glass of fizz at the end.
Casa Munet, Colegiales
Address on reservation
Tel: 2068-9426 or 15-4917-3005