I'd spent the last few nights eating at local parillas, so tonight, I decided to head for something a little more upscale. Tonight's destination was Restaurant Duhau, the restaurant of the Park Hyatt Buenos Aires. The restaurant describes itself as a contemporary restaurant focusing on fresh and seasonal ingredients which frankly, sounded pretty good to me. The restaurant is also known for its walk-in cheese room which highlights Argentine cheeses. I can't say that I've had very much cheese in BA, something I enjoy very much. So naturally, this was appealing. I decided to eat a little earlier than normal, 9pm; somehow, I've become desensitized to the concept of eating late. It was a bit of a maze to get to the restaurant once inside the hotel -- down a flight of stairs, through an underground tunnel, and up another flight of stairs. What a workout ... thankfully, I don't smoke! Only later did I find out there was a "back entrance" to the restaurant. Oh well, I made it. I was greeted by the maître d' who stood just outside the dining room awaiting guests. She pointed out the cheese room (mmm) and the tasting bar for the extensive wine selection. The room was fairly dark and covered in dark woods, and the walls were decorated with bottles of red wine. We entered the dining room, and she showed me to my table -- one look at the menu, "menú degustación," and my mind was set.
I started with the Salmón rosado del Pacífico marinado con hinojo, crema fresca de eneldo y lima, sashimi-style slices of pacific pink salmon marinated with fennel, dill cream, and lime. I always imagined fennel being a summer vegetable, which didn't seem too seasonal for me, given it was the middle of winter. This dish was fairly simple. That being said, the salmon was indeed fresh and not at all salty. But I couldn't help to think that this was something I could have prepared at home.
For the second appetizer, I had langostinos ecuatoriales salteados con reducción de bouillabaisse, croûton de salsa rouille, sautéed king prawns with a bouillabaisse reduction and a rouille croûton sauce. The highlight of this dish was the texture of the prawns: firm; but also, slightly milky. I understand that the slice of bread was served to soak up some of the bouillabaisse; but the bread was a little firm which made tearing difficult, and also left behind unattractive crumbs in the pure sauce. The bouillabaisse was also a little salty. But, this was a step up from the previous course.
It was now time for mains, and to start was a fish course, Filete de lenguado grillado a la parrilla, zapallo ancho, salsa al vino Malbec, a fillet of sole with pumpkin and Malbec wine sauce. Mm, pumpkin. It seemed like things were about to pick up. It's incredible to me how much more flavorful fish is when the skin is left on. The grilled skin added a slight crisp against the soft and tender meat. The contrast between the slightly aggressive Malbec wine sauce and the more mild pumpkin sauce made this dish have interesting diversity.
The final main course came straight from Patagonia, un gigot de cordero Patagónico confitado cinco horas al tomillo y hongos de pino, leg of lam confited with thyme and pine mushrooms. This was without a doubt the highlight of the evening so far, with the lamb delicately breaking apart with only my fork. Very moist and not overly salty with a gentle taste of mushrooms.
Instead of dessert, I requested to have a cheese tasting since this was one of the main reasons I chose the restaurant. I was shown the cheese menu, and quickly realized that there were way to many cheeses, all of Argentine variety, that I hadn't tried before. All the cheeses were prefaced with "Variety of ..." implying that they were an Argentine variety of a popular European cheese. That, combined with the fact that there was a fromager on staff, led me to ask her to put together a selection of her 7 favorite cheeses. I was feeling open-minded. She responded with such enthusiasm, as if I was the first person to have ever asked her to do this. She promptly came back, with a beautiful plate: Oveja Manchega de 1984, Pecorino Sardo, Serrano, Crottin, Fresco de Cabra, Cabrambert, and Saint-Maure decorated with dried fruits and nuts, also something I hadn't had in a few months. What made this plate for me was the Argentine Cabrambert, a soft cheese very similar to Taleggio, an earthy cheese loaded with hints of mushroom.
I think it says something when the best part of a meal is something the restaurant isn't directly responsible for. Sure, they do have a fancy cheese refrigerator. But seriously now. Overall, this was a very average meal, not at all justified by the prices. But the cheese was fantastic, and the Patagonian lamb was pretty good. While I would not suggest coming here for dinner (unless you're staying in the hotel), I would definitely recommend stopping by for a "light" afternoon lunch of Argentine cheese and wine.