Casa SaltShaker ‘Closed Door’ Restaurant

May 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

An intimate dinner party in the chef’s own home

Diners at Casa SaltShaker 'closed door' restaurant in Buenos Aires
[Photo courtesy of Dan Perlman]

There is something slightly surreal about attending an intimate dinner party in a private home at which the ten guests are total strangers and the host is mostly a background presence, periodically emerging from the kitchen to introduce the dishes and wines before hurrying back to prepare the next course. With diners from Argentina, the United States, Ireland and England, the language at the table switched between English and Spanish and the conversation topics spanned the globe. By all accounts a fairly typical night at Dan Perlman’s ‘closed door’ (‘puertas cerradas’) restaurant Casa SaltShaker in his apartment in the Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires.

From the outset, eating at Casa SaltShaker is unlike going to a normal restaurant. Dinner places are by reservation only and the address is only revealed once the booking has been confirmed. Guests are warned to inform Perlman in advance of any allergies or dietary requirements, leaving him free to dream up the dishes on the five course set menu, which are usually created on a whim. As Perlman explained, he rarely serves the same dish twice.

Eclectic guest list

Arriving at the apartment block shortly before 9pm (guests are asked to arrive between 8.45pm and 9pm; dinner is served at 9.15pm), I was unsure what to expect. As I rang the doorbell, I wondered what language I should speak. I was greeted by Perlman’s partner Henry, who I followed into the apartment, a bright, modern and homely ground floor duplex with shelves stacked full of cookbooks, paintings and family photographs on the walls, low lighting and an outside patio. Elton John was playing in the background. As I was the last to arrive, I could see the other nine guests standing together in a circle in the living room talking. I was handed a ginger, Pineral (an Argentine aperitif) and pink grapefruit juice cocktail and I went over to introduce myself to the group.

Among my dining companions were a couple from Ireland, a Rosarian couple who were in Buenos Aires to visit their son, who was also at the dinner, and a couple from Oregon and their parents / in-laws. We all sat together at a large square table, set with neatly folded napkins, place mats and a promising selection of several different glasses – Perlman is a trained sommelier and each of the five courses was paired with a glass of specially selected wine.

On tonight’s menu…

The printed menu awaiting us at the table informed us that the first course would be ‘salatit banjan y satata banadoura’. This turned out to be two Middle Eastern style salads, one with tomato, red onions, chili and prawns and the other with aubergine, green pepper, lemon juice and cockles, served on a camembert cheese tuile. The unusual combination seems typical of Perlman’s idiosyncratic cooking style and is certainly not the usual Buenos Aires fare. The Nieto-Senetiner Brut Nature champagne we drank with it was even better.

Middle Eastern salad starter at Casa SaltShaker in Argentina
[Photo courtesy of Dan Perlman]

Next up was a truly delicious cheddar and English ale soup served with homemade bread, my favourite dish of the night (how I would love a bowl of it now). Perlman explained that he usually puts a soup of some kind on the menu, since good soup can be hard to come by in Buenos Aires. This one was paired with a Terrazas Chardonnay Reserva.

The cheddar and Ale soup at Casa SaltShaker
[Photo courtesy of Dan Perlman]

The course that seemed to be the most popular of all, however, was the one that followed: freshly made pappadelle pasta with peppers, butter beans, walnuts, lemon zest, garlic, rosemary and olive oil, washed down with a Escorihuela Gascon Rosado.

The pasta dish at Casa SaltShaker in Buenos Aires
[Photo courtesy of Dan Perlman]

Then came the maincourse, seabass wrapped in Serrano ham with potato risotto, portobello mushrooms with ‘mustard caviar’ (mustard seeds that are inflated like popcorn). In a city where there is generally a huge chunk of meat at the center of every evening meal, it was a welcome change to eat fish, which was succulent and served with a Malbec reduction sauce.

Although I am not generally keen on deserts, I really enjoyed the slightly unusual passion fruit cheesecake with a coconut crust. It was not too sweet (perhaps why I liked it so much), although it was served with an incongruous dollop of dulce de leche. As we lingered around the table chatting I felt so relaxed I hardly wanted to leave. Luckily Henry came round with a large cafetiere of strong black coffee to give us the boost we needed to head out into the night, full and content.

Casa SaltShaker postre
[Photo courtesy of Dan Perlman]

If you would like to have dinner at Casa Saltshaker, it is necessary to book in advance. For more details on how to make a reservation see the Casa SaltShaker website.

For more about Casa SaltShaker and other ‘closed door’ resaturants in Buenos Aires see this post in the Argentina Intependent, and A Life Worth Eating‘s write-up.

Buenos Aires Latin American Art Museum

May 24, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Visit the MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires)

The MALBA is without a doubt one of Buenos Aires’s premier museums. Housed in a modern building designed to reflect the city blocks which flank it, this is one of those rare museums where you feel like the architecture is truly part of the show. High, geometric windows allow tons of natural light to illuminate a dazzling collection of modern and contemporary Latin American art.

Museum of Modern Latin American Art Buenos Aires

[Photo credit: kara brugman’s photostream/ /CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

The MALBA opened its doors to the public in 2001, with a mission to “collect, preserve, research, and promote Latin American art from the onset of the 20th century to the present.” Created by the Costantini foundation, this museum holds the spectacular collection of Latin American art amassed by Argentine real-estate developer, philanthropist, and patron of the arts Eduardo Costantini.

The building’s granite exterior belies the lightness inside: a limestone interior with cristal panes of glass spanning the entirety of one wall, the space was designed to allow optimal use of natural sunlight, while still perserving the artwork. In many ways, the white limestone and clean lines provide a perfect canvas on which pieces of modern and contemporary art pop and explode to the eye. While sleek and modern, the space always features some whimsical touches; for example, the curvy wooden panels hanging from various ledges and balconies finally conjoin into a lovely bench on the second floor. Next to the entrance, a panel that appears to be a giant stop-light is actually equiped with a microphone and reflects the level of ambient noise around the MALBA: this means the red-lights appear at rush hour!

Museum Latin American Art BA

Outstanding collection of Latin American art

The permenant collection is a spectacular homage to Latin American modern and contemporary art. With over 500 pieces in the archives, The MALBA displays around 150 works at a time. All artwork starts from the 20th century, and is arranged to highlight certain regional tendencies. Pieces by Frida Kahlo and David Alfaro Siquieros are immediately recognizable, but even aficionados of Latin American art may be surprised by a cubist Diego Rivera painting. Also noteworthy is a piece by the Colombian Fernando Botero (recognizable for his use of corpulent figures) called Los Viudos or The Widowers.

The museum features Argentine artisits, including several works by beloved watercolor master and esoteric thinker,  Xul Solar. One of the most striking paintings on display, Manifestacion (Protest) by Argentine great Antonio Berni attracts much attention. A response to the Mexican muralists, Manifestacion recalls the magnitude and politics of the muralist tradition, portraying larger-than-life characters and transforming the masses into a union of distinct and intriguing individuals. This painting is, however, one of the most emblamatic of the Argentine tradition; the sign held by the people protesting reads “Pan y trabajo” or bread and work, perhaps a direct reference to Ernesto de Carcova’s Sin Pan y Sin Trabajo, on display in the National Museum of Fine Arts.

Manifestacion by Berni

[Photo credit: Carlos Adampol’s photostream/ /CC BY-BY-SA 2.0]

The collection also features interesting  surrealisms by Chilean artist Roberto Matta and Cuban Wilfredo Lam. Also intriguing are a slew of fun optical works, and look out for a few pieces of living art like plants and some fish!

Provocative touring shows at the MALBA

Visiting exhibits at the MALBA tend to be jaw-dropping, moving, beautiful or outrageous. These contemporary shows, typically by Latin American artists, rotate almost monthly; you can check the schedule here. MALBA’s movie theatre plays some interesting, off-beat films, and as the Constantini Foundation is dedicated to education, MALBA hosts open workshops on Philosophy, Film, and the Arts and leads guided visits for the hearing, visual, and mentally impaired.

Be sure to bring some pesos with you! The museum store features some funky and truly original things including clothes, notebooks, jewelry, mates, and other do-dads that would make great gifts. Head downstairs and check out the ample collection of art books, magazines, and music. You can also grab a coffee or bite to eat at the lovely museum cafe, Cafe des Arts.

To get a feel for the museum, watch this video, or read more at Wander Argentina.

Location of the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires

Avenida Figueroa Alcorta 3415, between San Martin de Tours and Jeronimo Salguero, Palermo
Telephone: 4808 6500

Opening Hours 
Thursday-Friday and Holidays: 12pm to 8pm
Wednesdays: 12pm to 9pm
Tuesdays: closed
Head to the MALBA on Wednesday for discounts!

 

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