Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Travel Dish: Le Bar (Buenos Aires)

This is part of a series of reports recapping my recent trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Check back every Monday and Tuesday when I’ll be giving you a taste of my food adventures in this South American metropolitan city.

Taste the World at This Hip Martini Bar
Tacumán 422, Buenos Aires
Microcenter (downtown)
PH: 11/5219.0858
Open for lunch and dinner with a lounge
Major credit cards accepted
Web site (it’s a Spanish language blog about music/DJ events at the bar)

The allure of this city has attracted creative people from around the world to call Buenos Aires home, and several of them have started fun new restaurants such as Le Bar, a martini bar serving global tapas and started about 1 ½ years ago by a bunch of French ex-patriots.

Le Bar is hidden along a busy street of hotels and shops near the city’s Microcentro district or Microcenter, which is considered the downtown of Buenos Aires. While popular in the evenings because of its lounge feel and upstairs terrace, Le Bar is also a fun place for a nice lunch.

That’s how I found myself at Le Bar one day, walking up its stairs in a space that almost had the feel of a converted home. (The wooden moldings and faux fireplace really reminded me of a Victorian in San Francisco.) On the first floor, a bright orange-colored bar is to your left and the dining area to the right is a more muted purple with tear-drop lighting from the ceiling and a wall that can only be described as psychedelic.

The approach to the food is eclectic, just like the décor. Don’t expect to find any Argentine specialties here because Le Bar is truly trying to introduce new global flavors to the locals. So instead, the menu has a mix of influences from three primary areas: Rabat, the capital of Morocco; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Pondicherry, India. How the owners decided to zero in on these three disparate cuisines, one can only guess.

But I dove right in, starting my lunch with the Biruat de Pollo (AR$10 or $3.45). This was one of those times that I didn’t know what I was ordering but knew it was chicken (and haven eaten beef all week, I was ready for some white meat). What came out was a golden-brown looking turnover, almost like an empanada but flakier.

Despite the fact it was probably made with a lot of lard or butter, I loved it. It was different, tasty and so filling. My waitress told me that this was a type of Moroccan dish. It reminded me a lot of samosas, but bigger.

Next came the ensalada de calamare or calamari salad (AR$14 or $4.80), which looked pretty big. The calamari was tangy and tender to eat, but the dressing was a bit heavy on the greens. And I really didn’t get why it was served with the tortilla chips on the side.

Finally, I got the Croque Madame sandwich ($AR19 or $6.55), which I guess is a tribute to the French owners. A Croque Madame is basically a Croque Monsieur (ham and cheese grilled sandwich) but with a poached egg on top. Everything was done really well, from the poached egg to the grilled ham and cheese. The chef used a slightly cinnamon-flavored bread for the sandwich, which gave it almost a French toast feel. It was all good, but really quite filling. I had a nice lingering lunch as I sipped my glass of Malbec wine and chomped away at this huge sandwich.

While Le Bar has a chic reputation, close up it really feels worn in and comfortable. It has a lived in feel compared to a lot of the stylish and spotless restaurants I had visited earlier. The eclectic menu, friendly service and reasonable prices also make it a great place for lunch or bites with drinks.

Single guy rating: 3.5 stars (Charming little gem)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:
1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

Bueno … life in BA
Le Bar is just a stone’s throw from the popular shopping street known as Avenida Córdoba, where you’ll find leather stores and places selling shirts for popular soccer teams. And on this street is a galleria known as Galerías Pacífico, with luxury brand names and this amazing painted ceiling in the middle courtyard. It was such a surreal experience to see such artwork juxtaposed next to store signs like Timberland or Hugo Boss. The galleria also has a very large food court on the ground level that was packed when I went through. It was your typical food court, with an assortment of Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Italian and Argentine food choices. Since I ate at Le Bar, I didn’t have to worry about succumbing to mall food.


Sylvia said...

Nice review and nice blog

Anonymous said...

I'm still trying to get caught up with all your buenos aires posts! that chicken with the pastry looks amazing, would that be something like a moroccan bstilla?

Single Guy Ben said...

Foodhoe, I'm not sure what morrocan bstilla but if it's similar, I might order it. Where can I find it in the Bay Area? Is it baked like how they have it in this photo?