It’s the same every year. Clothes cling to sweaty bodies as hungry families devour canned tuna drowning in mayonnaise, chew up various cuts of cooled meat, before choking on some peculiar green sweet square entrenched in sweet bread. Then bang, bang, it’s midnight and someone’s at the door, the kids become crazed demons, fighting to unwrap presents, while parents search desperately for ice to make warm beer cold.
That’s Argentina’s Christmas, from my perspective. (And why have canned fish on a really hot evening?)
My, more familiar, British version, includes huddling around the TV in new garments of some description, desperate to find out what happens in the blockbuster edition of a favourite soap opera, before devouring an entire turkey slathered in gravy and roast potatoes, which are the good bits, and vile, sour sprouts, the bad. And then we collectively pass out in front of the fire (log or gas), and repeat the scenario on Boxing Day.
This Christmas, I will be with my Argentine family, also known as a close group of friends, and given that we originate from all corners of the world (unless, of course, there is no Sunday newspaper thanks to the inconvenience of the apocalypse getting us all), the fare will be a mixed one. New Yorker Mr Links, for example, is putting together lamb-stuffed vine leaves, while Taiwanese-via-Australia KT will be rustling up some Vietnamese rice paper. British Dick, however, will be manning the fire and attending to either a lamb or a piglet.
But those of you who don’t have KT or Linksy or Dick in their world tomorrow night should take up one of these following options, which I have taste tested for you.
Hotels, bespoke or big brand, in Buenos Aires like to push out the boat in terms of Noche Buena and New Year’s Eve, and for large families with matriarchs who can no longer be bothered to slave away in a steamy kitchen, it‘s a pretty fine solution.
Starting with the swankiest of them all, the Faena will hopefully go the whole hog and bring out all its porley family this holiday, with dinner “fit for kings and queens” and costing US$290 at El Bistró, it will certainly be aiming to do more than please.
And despite not being a hotel, the adorable Cusic café in Palermo Hollywood is willing and able to prepare your Christmas dinner for you, stuffed turkey and all, which is the most delightful idea, from the people who introduced Jueves de la gorra, whereby you pay what you think the set meal is worth. Those are your boom or bust options.
Now, everyone wants to be well fed over the festive period, and you’d be doing little wrong by heading to Hernán Gipponi Restaurant at the Fierro for either the 24th or 31st. Renowned for his many-course tasting menus cooked up by experience hands that found their way in Bilbao, HG in Palermo Hollywood will naturally be dishing up nine courses.
Aperitifs include scallops with passion fruit, and chorizo sausage in filo pastry, while other steps to take you to the all-important midnight chimes include veal sweetbreads with yellow bell pepper pulp, a catch of the day and veal fillet with fennel featuring a spinach and pistachio cream. For 650 pesos, HG’s dinner includes Pequeñas Producciones from Escorihuela Gascón winery, and they will even hook you up with a local after-party.
Hub Porteño in Recoleta only opened its door to guests three months ago, however its restaurant, run by chef Dante Liporace, has been in full operation the whole of this year.
Pass through the unconventional lobby to the tree-dwelling, glass-ceilinged Tarquino, named after a British bull who was brought over to Argentina to improve the local cow stock. Such an ace story.
In additional tribute to our friends with great hides, Tarquino’s walls are papered in leather, while table tops come from cow remnants. The look is cool and not obtrusive with furry pieces of Daisy, fortunately.
Liporace is also a fan of mollejas, and so sweetbreads also feature on his NYE menu, vamped up by prawns and an humita purée as part of an illustrious tomato and honey salad.
The main action includes salmon and a Mar del Plata-inspired black rice dish, and suckling pig drizzled with parsley oil. Dreamy. Dessert includes ginger and lime sorbet, which is a great idea to keep matters nice and light. The 800-peso cost also includes wine pairings and tea or coffee.
Literally behind Hub Porteño is the Palacio Duhau, which will be pulling out the stops at its three restaurants with the Mi Buenos Aires Querido theme thanks to new (rather, returning) chef Máximo López May.
Patagonian smoked trout with caramelized onions at Duhau Restaurante & Vinoteca is one of the starters as is foie gras. Mains include pine mushroom-stuffed quail and a Wagyu steak grilled over quebracho wood, cooked to perfection.
Now I’ve tried the white chocolate sphere dessert, and not only is the presentation out of this world, the semi-bitter choccie mousse and passion fruit gelée are a perfect match for one of the most handsome sweets I’ve ever laid my greedy eyes on.
Breathing space between courses will be vamped up a wonderful tango couple accompanied by a bandaneón player, while younger diners will be no trouble at the dinner table knowing that Papa Noel is on his way (but not on NYE, of course). The US$375 price also includes most of Luigi Boca’s big hitters including Gala 3 — Viognier, Chardonnay, Riesling — and Gala 2, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot.
Piano Nobile is offering up a buffet, whose highlights include tables dedicated to salmon roe blinis and ceviche, while the Italian Gioia goes traditional by including turkey.
HG Restaurant, Tel: 3220-6820
Tarquino, Tel: 6091-2160
Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt, Tel: 5171-1352