OSAKA: The Best Restaurant in Buenos Aires

About a year after I moved to L.A., it became painfully apparent that I was about to morph into a full-time working adult and wave goodbye to the glorious days of unappreciated long holidays, so I seized my last window of opportunity and escaped to South America. My best friend Kim and I planned to stay with a friend in Punta del Este, Uruguay, for three weeks before gallivanting around Brazil…but then we got sidetracked. During its summer (around December), Punta must have the highest concentration of beautiful women I’ve ever seen. It’s like the Saint Tropez of South America except all the women look like Amazonians with tall, stick-thin tanned bodies; perfect, pert boobs; huge manes of thick, straight hair and an abundance of drug-free energy. We decided to investigate. Upon finding out that most of them were on holiday from Buenos Aires, a mere hour-and-a-bit ferry ride across the Río de la Plata, we couldn’t resist a minor detour. As soon as we arrived, we raided every shop they had to offer, drank copious amounts of Malbec wine and went to the hairdresser, hoping that we would somehow emerge looking like the beach Godesses we had just been ogling in Punta. It went slightly pear-shaped when, instead of gorgeous golden highlights, Kim’s hair went orange. She wasn’t a happy bunny when l made a quick getaway and ruthlessly abandoned her at the hairdresser to meet some English ex-pats I had already made dinner plans with.

Me with Marina on the Terrace

Me with Marina on the Terrace

My friends had booked a table at the then-newly opened OSAKA, a Peruvian/Japanese fusion restaurant in Palermo. There was a large group of us so I had no say in what was ordered; I just eagerly consumed anything placed in front of me – except the Pisco Sour Peruvian specialty drink which nearly finished me off after the first sip. It was a truly memorable meal and ever since that night I have dreamt of reliving that dining experience. Three years later, when I found out that Radiohead would be touring South America (and I had the opportunity to hop on their metaphorical train in Argentina), not going wasn’t an option. I even offered to pay my new boss to let me take a holiday three weeks into the job. I stayed with my Argentinian friend Marina who had come to OSAKA with me the last time and from the moment I landed that’s pretty much all I talked about. I arrived on Sunday morning and wanted to go to OSAKA immediately – but sadly it was closed so we decided to go for lunch on Monday instead.

Daniel Delgado in the Kitchen

Daniel Delgado in the Kitchen

We sat under an umbrella on the roof terrace which was empty save for two local men who happened to have cigarettes. Marina made me use my English accent to scab one for her which somehow segued into me ranting about OSAKA being my favorite restaurant. One of them – who it turned out Marina knew – pointed at his friend Daniel and cheekily told me I was looking at the owner. I didn’t want to be the gullible foreigner so I refused to believe him. The four of us ended up chatting for ages and it turned out that Daniel was also going to the Radiohead show the next day. The menu was in Spanish so I had to get Marina to translate and still couldn’t decide what to order.They had an extensive list of “tiradito” and ceviche with different sauces paired with various types of raw fish. Tiradito is a classic Peruvian dish, which consists of carpaccio marinated in lime juice and a creamy hot peper sauce.

Mi Peru "Tiradito"

Mi Peru "Tiradito"

The waiter couldn’t speak a word of English so after a lot of Spanglish and hand flapping on my part, he very patiently offered to split the tiradito dish in half so that I wouldn’t have to choose just one of the sauces – and, more likely, so that he could escape my gibberish. We ended up with one half of a dish called Mi Peru, which is abadejo (sea bass) carpaccio topped with thin rows of pesto chili, spicy mayo and olive oil. They split that with another dish called Carpassion, which I didn’t even want but turned out to be the best raw fish dish I’ve ever had in my life. It’s thin slices of salmon carpaccio marinated in passion fruit syrup and lemon juice, sprinkled with watercress, mini, wafer-thin phyllo strips, and a dash of wasabi. It’s sweet but not sickly so, and there’s a hint of spice. The crunchiness of the phyllo strips provides the perfect texture when you roll it up and stuff it in your mouth whole!

Not the Tuna Maguro Ribs

Not the Tuna Maguro Ribs

We also ordered the Maguro Ribs, which was supposed to be grilled red tuna chunks served on butternut squash purée – but they’d run out of tuna and gave us more salmon instead. It wasn’t what I had envisioned and we’d just eaten the world’s most amazing salmon dish, so it was a little disappointing to be given more salmon with no warning. This time round we didn’t lick the plate clean. We asked for our check and, much to my surprise, I was proven wrong by the scruffy man next to me. Our bill had been taken care of…so maybe he was the owner after all!  As my friends from L.A. had just arrived, I said I would try to get them all to come back for dinner that evening. Unfortunately that never ended up working out as, even though most of them are vegetarian, we ended up at SUCRE, supposedly one of Argentina’s best steakhouses, instead! I sat through dinner playing with my food and raving about my lunch so to shut me up it was agreed we’d go back to OSAKA the next day.

Group Photo

Group Photo

Miraculously, this time we managed to get everyone together. Two more friends came straight from the airport, one friend staggered in having had an hour’s sleep, and Bryce and Nigel, my friends from dinner the night before, lived up to their promise. The owner, Daniel Delgado, couldn’t make it but he told us to order drinks on him – so this time I succumbed to a passion fruit Caiphiroska, which is the Argentinian version of Brazil’s Caiphirinia. Caiphiroskas are my favorite drink as they’re made from vodka and are much less prone to giving you a hangover than Cachaça. Usually, it’s just made with vodka, lime and a ton of sugar, but at OSAKA they add fresh passion fruit juice and macerated strawberries served over crushed ice. It went straight to my head as I’m not used to drinking during the day and the South Americans have a tendency to make their drinks really strong.

tiradito-2-con-pulpa-web

2 Olives Tiradito Octopus with black and green olive cream

Bryce ordered himself a dish called Sesame Sake, which is a fillet of salmon topped with golden sesame and sweet miso sauce. It’s a bit like Nobu’s black cod: its buttery texture melts in your mouth and it tastes like it could be a dessert. As it was the first dish to arrive, there was no way we were going to let Bryce keep it to himself…we politely waited for him to take the first bite and then we all delved in. Then came the onslaught of tiraditos and ceviche. When we were ordering no one believed me when I said the Carpassion was the best thing on the menu but, needless to say, when it arrived even the non-salmon eaters (Brian), went back for more. We even had to order another two rounds!

Me with Daniel

Me with Daniel

The different kinds of cevichitos were served in an ornate presentation of porcelain chinese soup spoons. One was the “Thai” which consisted of octopus, mango and caramelized plantain, and the other kind was called “Seafood,” a concoction of shellfish, mango, phyllo strips and chili pepper cream. The best thing about the mini ceviche was that because it was served in spoons, none of the sauce got wasted. We also had the regular (larger portioned) Thai ceviche with chopped up raw white fish marinated in mango, chili jam, onion, lemon, coriander and a splash of coconut milk, which burst with exotic fruity, spicy flavors. Marina’s and my fantasy from the day before was fulfilled when, in addition to our orders, the waiter brought out most of the other dishes on the menu for us to try. As the food relentlessly kept on coming out, we ordered the check and tried to make a quick escape but the bill took forever to arrive and another course, with EVERY dessert on – and off – the menu, appeared instead. Everyone started to get impatient until they actually tried the desserts and in the end we gladly finished all of them. My favorite was the Suspiro Limeño, a baked milk pudding topped with lemongrass-flavored Italian meringue. This was a pleasant surprise as I don’t usually like creamy puddings. To show my appreciation for fulfilling my three-year-long dream, I was able to sneak Daniel in to the Radiohead afterparty. It was hosted at the Faena, a kitsch hotel designed by Philippe Starck (which had a room adorned with tacky white unicorn heads), where, after a few drinks, I proceeded to introduce Daniel to everyone there – regardless of whether or not they cared – as the owner of my favorite restaurant. Now I’m trying to persuade Daniel to open a restaurant in L.A. and have offered to be his publicist in return for a lifetime of free meals.

The Unicorn Room at Faena

The Unicorn Room at Faena

This is, without a doubt, the best restaurant in Buenos Aires and proves you don’t have to starve in South America if you don’t eat meat.

Here’s the OSAKA website with the menu and mouth-watering pictures of the food: http://www.osaka.com.pe/osaka_in.htm

Even though it’s a chain and considered a tourist trap, I also love the Sushi Club in Las Cañitas:  http://www.sushiclubweb.com/

Faena Hotel (in Puerto Madero) website: http://www.faenahotelanduniverse.com/

Ruffino, on the same block as Sucre, is also very good, and on Wednesdays you can stay late for a drink, good music and maybe dance.

For Italian food, try Manero.

Olsen, in Palermo, has a very nice garden, serves Nordic food, and offers over 60 different kinds of vodka!

To explore your options, go to http://www.facebook.com/l/;www.guiaoleo.com.ar where you can find information about all restaurants in Bs As. You can search by price, by area, by type of food, etc.

For those of you who’ve also felt like jumping ship and moving to Buenos Aires for good, you’re not alone: http://food.theatlantic.com/abroad/one-way-ticket-buenos.php

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One Response

  1. I am a restaurant addict and I made a blog about the restaurants I have visited in Buenos-Aires during my travels. So if you want to read some reviews about some buenos-aires-restaurants then visit my blog. I hope you will enjoy your stay and hope to here from you soon!

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