Gonzalo Aramburu is, without a doubt, a legend from this generation next of young Argentine chefs. His elaborate and artistic tasting menus have been wowing those in the know for several years and his intimate award-winning restaurant, Aramburu, on the edge of Constitución, has been perfectly backed up with a supporting cast led by sommelier Agustina de Alba, also a star of her own generation.
So it seems strange that, at face value, his latest project has taken a step backwards. Aramburu Bis, short for bistro but also meaning “part two,” ideal for this next project, is located just over the road from its big brother.
Practically at opposing ends of the scale, Aramburu is private and physically compact with space for 16 covers tops, while Bis is open plan with communal tables while also retaining intimacy with tables for two. While you can peek into Aramburu’s kitchen through a large horizontal window — the barrier to Bis’ workspace has been dropped and it’s wide open to the interested eye keen on watching the talent at work.
Passersby can also get a glimpse of what is happening — because Bis also triples up as wine store and grocery store to the extent of selling luxury condiments, De Cecco pasta and loaves so fresh and alluring in baskets you want to smuggle one under your jumper then slather it in butter somewhere private.
At Aramburu, it’s all a bit mysterious and behind closed doors.
But of course, the young sibling, which opened in February, is on a par in terms of sourcing the best ingredients — the only difference is that Bis can change up its menu on a weekly or daily basis depending on what’s available, while Gonzalo sticks to a seasonal list of dishes over the road.
A winning combo
The vibe is friendly and cool; the staff are knowledgeable about dishes, as well as wines. Wooden shelves in the windows make a comfortable home for wine, while frying pans hang alongside light fittings above the large green communal table. A small TV from the 1960s crackles away silently. Daily specials make the blackboard, and the clipboard menu means they can change it as and when they please. That kind of seasonal eating is always a winning combo.
De Alba has of course curated the wine list and it can also be adjusted according to her whim should something new catch her eagle eye. Wine by the glass starts at a reasonable 30 pesos.
And all of this of course adds up the fact that Bis really isn’t a step back at all, but quite the opposite, a mere tangent. It’s an all-star cast as always, from food presentation to the kitchen staff to the décor, from Aramburu.
It is important to note, though, that Gonzalo isn’t in the kitchen himself — his number two, sous chef Juan Piergentili, is in charge of culinary affairs, even serving tables to give a detailed explanation — while the former is keeping a close eye on matters. You can’t say fairer than that.
On to those dishes. Presentation remains of importance although it’s less elaborate than the smoking entrées literally letting off smoke over the road.
Lamb confit comes with manioc chips and a 62-degree cooked egg, all served up in an individual-size saucepan so as to be mashed up together. So much more fun than a plate, and delicious with it.
Another starter, this time for sharing, is a platter of prawns, mussels in their shells and squid in a white wine and parsley sauce, on a rectangular iron dish a la chapa (on a metal sheet or plate). A good proportion of seafood and great for sharing.
In keeping with friendly bistro fare, there’s fish of the day and also pasta among others. Perfectly cylindrical gnocchi with arugula, bacon and olives made the main course cut, while perfectly cooked grouper came with new potatoes and fennel, always good to see the latter on the menu.
And the buzz, not even two months after opening?
I dined on a Wednesday evening and it was packed, bar one table, with couple, singletons, a table of 30-something men folk. Given the space’s design and airy space, it also looks like the perfect spot for ladies who lunch and like to venture a bit further afield.
Foodies will thrill at the menu offerings, design aficionados will love the set up, winos will dig the wine list and everyone else will know to namedrop the fact that Aramburu is involved.
Criticism? Amy Winehouse on loop for two hours. And take a cab after dark, just in case.
Salta and Humberto Primo, Constitución
Buenos Aires Herald, April 13, 2014
Ph: Santiago Brusa