Dining behind closed doors

Two months in Mendoza and you can start to run out of places to eat. Whilst Avenues like Aristides Villnueva are packed with restaurants with different decor; bar style, estancia style, gastro pub style, retro style or fine dining style, you name it and it’s there but however different the decor and ambience one thing stays the same and that’s the menu, milanesa: chicken, pork or beef escalops, usually fried, empanadas, assortment of pastas, asado meats in various forms, hamburgers, hotdogs, and of course chips. Alternative restaurants are few and far between, our first alternative was the Flavors of Peru. This lovely little restaurant offers fish, a rare treat in Argentina, and it’s good too, especially after a palate cleansing pisco sour, follow the fish with the tres leches dessert; a sponge with condensed milk coconut milk and dulce du leche and you can’t go wrong. We’ll hopefully be heading back there before we leave Mendoza.

Given this fine Peruvian restaurant set the bar so high we were struggling to find a better or even equivalent venue in which to celebrate my 50th birthday, luckily we discovered closed door dining, and even more luckily it lived up to its name. Closed door dining is apparently a bit trendy in Mendoza, essentially private residents who fancy themselves as restaurateurs (and presumably don’t pay tax). It does mean that they can hire staff and offer the same if not better service than a five star restaurant. Maybe it’s luck of the draw but our evening out was thoroughly enjoyable.
Knocking on the door of a strangers house for an intimate diner party is quite exciting and daunting, however once our host, Gonzalas, opened the door he immediately made us feel like old friends as we joined the other guests in the living room with a round of welcome drinks. The house was ideal for running a restaurant, pretty much all of the ground floor was open plan and there were a number of tables set out on two sides of the entrance hall, with its walls made of wine racks. Gonzales had catered for all eventualities; a large table for guests wanting to socialise, a seperate table for a family wanting privacy and a couple of romantic dinner for two tables. For the meantime we sat in the lounge all chatting, in spanish of course, after the little cocktail the first of the wines was poured, a generous glass of white, pleasantly smooth and fruity, along with this the first of seven courses appeared, this was a small puffed bread topped with a fresh tomato salsa, small but tasty. More conversation ensued and then bowls of butternut squash soup with anothe flatbread was served. Whilst we ate our host told us about the origins of the recipes,  the concept for the evening was a tour through the gastronomic regions of Argentina.

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We then headed to the tables, we opted to join the group of four Argentinos and enjoyed having the level of chat, which was just about at the limit of my linguistic ability.  Next to come was a baked goats cheese platter with baked pear which slipped down with the remainder of the white wine. For the main course there were options, salmon,  filet mignon and lasagna? It didn’t take us long to decide and pretty soon a large chunk of ruby red filet mignon sat in front of us, the Argentinos on the other hand had gone for the salmon and lasagna,  which was great because we could see what we weren’t missing.  The steak was like butter, it was on a crushed baked potato with a simple salsa and it was very very good. Just to ensure everything was right for us a large glass of red wine was poured out which fitted the steak like a glove.
Then finally to round this all of off postre (pudding) was served with a glass of sparkling white wine.  Our postre consisted of a dulce du leche creme brulee, a deconstructed apple crumble and a very nice mate yerba flavoured ice cream.
Tummys satisfied moved back to the lounge for a quiet chat whilst we waited for our taxi. If you find yourself in Mendoza we definately recommend this for an excellent evening out.

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