Friday, August 21, 2009

Buenos Aires: Cluny Review

Buenos Aires is a stylish city - people there like to dress up and they like the places they go to give them reason to do so. As a result, it seems, the city has several trendy, upscale restaurants all with a similar vibe. But in researching restaurants to try during my vacation there, it seemed that these restaurants were not just all about looks, but that there was also good food to be had there.

And so on our first night in Buenos Aires, we chose Cluny, in the Palermo neighborhood, where many of these restaurants are located, not too far from our hotel. Around 9 p.m., an early dinnertime for Buenos Aires, the place was mostly empty and though a few more tables filled up by the time we finished, it was never totally busy.

We started off with some nice wine and a lovely bread basket before our first course of grilled octopus with mashed potatoes and endive. The octopus was cooked perfectly - charred, but still soft - and the accompaniments were lovely complements. It felt like we could have been in a New York restaurant - a good thing, as far as quality, but perhaps less so in getting a flavor of the country.

To follow, we ordered the roasted duck breast. It was one of the thickest hunks of duck I had ever seen - as thick as a steak - topped with a layer of fat and crispy skin and served rare. It came with what tasted like mashed yucca. The duck had flavor, but was unenjoyably chewy.

We also ordered a salad that turned out to be a bit of a potpourri of ingredients - arugula, poached pears, smoked salmon, candied almonds, goat cheese, peaches and a poached egg. There was too much going on, with the flavors of one thing battling another.

We also had a plate of salmon tartare with dill cream, not pictured here. While its flavor was standard,the chunks in the tartare were too large and the pieces of smoked salmon alongside it seemed unnecessary.

Unfortunately, Cluny churned out exactly the type of food you'd expect from a trendy restaurant - mostly bland and unrefined. We steered clear of these restaurants for the rest of the trip. But for the sake of Buenos Aires's dining scene, I hope this was not representative of the type of food similar restaurants are doing.

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