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.

La Panaderia de Pablo

August 28, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Feast all day long on pizza and cake at chef Pablo Massey’s joint

Pablo Massey showing off his bread at La Panaderia

The thin crust oven baked pizzas at TV chef Pablo Massey’s Montserrat eatery, La Panaderia de Pablo (Defensa 269), seem like the chic Italian cousins who’ve come over from Naples to visit their doughy, greasy Argentinean relatives from Avenida Corrientes. But according to the chef proprietor, who spent three years in Florence honing his pizza-making skills, try presenting a Porteño with an authentic Italian pizza – tomato sauce, basil and buffalo mozzarella topping – and you’ll be met with the response ‘Eso no se hace’ (that’s not how it’s done). Instead the crispy slices we were munching on were an Argentina-fied version, made with salty cow’s mozzarella with fresh basil leaves on top.

All-day menu of pizzas, sandwiches and more

Although panaderia means bakery, La Panaderia de Pablo is, confusingly, not a panaderia at all, although they do bake five varieties of their own bread on the premises each morning, which you can also buy to take-away. Open from 8am to 7pm Monday to Thursday and 8am to late on Friday, it’s a hybrid breakfast / lunch / afternoon tea place serving a simple all-day menu of pizzas, sandwiches, salad and steak along with a mouth-watering selection of pastries and deserts, washed down with Illy coffee, Tealosophy tea blends or wine. Recover from your hangover with Sunday’s special brunch menu from 10am to 7pm (closed on Saturdays).

Sunny welcome at Pablo Massey's restaurant La Panaderia de Pablo

Chic, modern restaurant

Stepping off the history-steeped San Telmo streets into a modern, light-filled space with industrial concrete surfaces, chunky wooden furniture, exposed brick walls and heavy Portuguese cutlery, it feels more like New York’s meatpacking district, or at least Palermo Hollywood. Walk past huge shelves stacked with bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, olives and pastries to buy and into the main dining room and watch the chefs preparing the pizzas in the open plan kitchen as you wait for your food. But for all its interior-designed style and the celebrity name above the door, prices are reasonable and lunch here need not feel like a massive splurge.

Tasty Italian style pizza at La Panaderia de Pablo in Buenos Aires

Indulge yourself

After a Fugazzetta (onion, mozzarella and olive oil pizza) or Fugazza (the same without cheese), tuck into the dulce de leche filled, meringue topped Torta Rogel (the best we’ve tasted) and though you’ll feel like you never want to eat again you won’t be able to resist stocking up on alfajores on the way out.

For other reviews of La Panaderia de Pablo check out the AhhArgentina’s blog post and the review of Sunday Brunch on La Panza Porteña blog.

La Panaderia de Pablo, Defensa 269, City Center (Montserrat)

Telephone: 4331 6728       Website: http://www.lapanaderiadepablo.com/

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