Category Archives: san telmo

Posts about San Telmo.

Restaurant Review: Les Anciens Combattants

Les Anciens Combattants on Guia Oleo

Les Anciens Combattants on Guia Oleo

Browsing through the Guia Oleo for restaurants I didn’t know in San Telmo, I ran across the listing for Les Anciens Combattants. We were in the mood for something different and Les Anciens Combattants was intriguing. The pictures of the house, the descriptions and reviews of the food, and the fact that it’s in an area of town we would typically avoid at night are why we chose it. My thinking was that if a restaurant can survive in that neighborhood, it must really serve excellent food.

Constitucion is a rough neighborhood. When our cab driver stopped in front of the only house with lights on the street, I think JB and I both were wondering if we should get out or just head back to San Telmo. We rang the doorbell and waited. The waiter who opened the door asked if we had reservations, we did not. So, he explained in the fastest Spanish I’ve ever heard that they do have a table, but they don’t accept credit cards, only cash.

We followed him through a grand salon with beautiful wooden floors and high ceilings. He told us that he’d give us a tour of the house and tell us its history after dinner. The dining room is toward the back of the house, just before a huge open patio that must be amazing in summer.

Before dinner, we were served an aperitif, white wine with a bit of Cassis. The chef, Alexandre Sourou, comes to each table to explain the evening’s dishes (either in French or Spanish, but I translated from Spanish to English and Alex corrected me when I made mistakes).

Chef Alex Explains

Chef Alexandre Sourou Explains the Dishes

JB couldn’t resist the raw oysters. Fresh seafood is not easily found in Buenos Aires. And two Louisiana natives in a French restaurant in Buenos Aires are not going to pass up seafood, so I ordered the coquille aux fruits de mer. Both appetizers were amazing.

Raw Oysters from Patagonia

Raw Oysters from Patagonia

The coquille aux fruits de mer was packed with scallops, mussels, clams, and shrimp in a creamy gratin sauce that had just the right amount of crunch on top.

Coquille aux Fruits de Mer

Coquille aux Fruits de Mer

We both ordered gamey main courses: stuffed quail and venison. You can find venison, lamb, boar, and quail in some restaurants here in Buenos Aires, but they aren’t very common. The preparation was beautiful and the doneness was perfect, as one would expect from a French chef.

Venison with side of veggies

Venison with side of veggies

Stuffed quail

Stuffed quail

Chef Alex has headed Les Anciens Combattants for roughly five years, but his father was the chef here for ten years and some of the recipes are his. The waiter, Lolu, likes to point out when the recipe is from Alex’s father. They are from the Toulouse area in France and a lot of the dishes have a Toulouse touch that’s unmistakable.

We don’t usually order desserts because we tend to not leave enough room, but the desert options sounded so good that we had to indulge ourselves. JB ordered crepes that were served with a bit of liquor and glazed orange rinds.

Crepes to die for

Crepes to die for

I ordered a dish created by Alex’s father, tomate confit served with a mint liquor and ginger. It was out of this world!

Tomate confit with mint and ginger

Tomate confit with mint and ginger

The wine list was about six pages long and had a nice variety of types and prices. Our meal came out to roughly 450 pesos (about $120 USD). The venison was almost double the price of the other entrees (about 70 pesos) and that bumped our bill up significantly. So while Les Anciens isn’t cheap, the average entree cost around 30 -35 pesos which means it you could spend a lot less and eat one of the best meals in the city.

After dinner, Lolu showed us around the house. He explained that it was built as a guest house for the Canale family that lived in Recoleta about 100 years ago. After the Second World War, it was used to house French soldiers (Argentine-French) who returned from the war. It’s worth it just to visit the house and have dinner in such a stunning setting, but add to that Alexandre Sourou’s talent and I say this is one of the best kept secrets of Buenos Aires. Bon appetit!

Rating: Amazing *****
Chef: Alexandre Sourou
Barrio: Constitucion (about a 10 peso cab ride from San Telmo)
Address: Santiago del Estero, 1435
Phone: 4305-1701
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, evenings (starting at 9:00)
Payment Methods: Only cash

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La Reserva Ecológica

Rain and more rain. We didn’t get to go to La Reserva this weekend. Why not write about it?

So, JB and I have been living in San Telmo for about a month now and after falling in love with the architecture, the fabulous market (where they even have cilantro and mint ALL THE TIME!), the street vendors and musicians, the dark corners, the fancy and not-so-fancy restaurants, a pretty good Middle Eastern restaurant (which we’ll have to write about some other time), what’s really sold us on San Telmo after two years in Palermo is La Reserva.

La Reserva

There are tons of beautiful parks in Buenos Aires, but La Reserva is in a league of its own. Oddly, views of the river are fairly rare in the city. That alone is reason enough to love La Reserva (images here). Trek around the over 5-mile trail (map here) on foot or bike, or pack a picnic with goodies from San Telmo’s market or bakeries and watch the cargo ships go by. There are plenty of spots along the trail with benches, picnic tables, or rocky shores where you can be alone, another rare event in this immense city.

La Reserva is closed on Mondays and also closed during and after big rainstorms. It opens at 8:00 AM and closes at 6:00 PM in winter and 7:00 PM in summer.

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New Digs… La Cupula!

It’s a holiday weekend and what weather we are having! I’ve just come back from a trip home to Louisiana where it was cooler than here in Buenos Aires today. I love it!

So, what have we been up to? Well, besides visiting the family back home, I’ve spent the past few months looking for an apartment, getting it set up and learning more than I ever wanted to know about the art of getting stuff done in Buenos Aires. By stuff done, I mean things like getting the Internet hooked up, heaters working (which we don’t even need yet), hooking up the hot water, sealing leaks in the roof, finding a technician to work on our fridge which was freezing everything… really fun stuff like that.

Long-term apartment rentals here don’t work the same way they do in the States. They aren’t painted and readied up for the new tenants. Your phone may or may not work. Your toilet may spray water at the wall when you flush it. It’s quite an adventure. I went through it two years ago in the last place I rented. And here I am again, spending my days on the phone with the operators of the various companies to see just when they think they may come by…

“You’re on the list.”
“Great, so they’re coming today?”
“They’ll call you.”
“But my phone doesn’t work.”
“They’ll ring the doorbell.”
“That doesn’t work either. This is why I’m calling you to see when they’ll come.”

We haven’t had Internet for about two months even though we placed the order the first week of April. Seriously! We’ve been waiting for seven weeks for the guy to bring us the modem. One day, they called us just to let us know that they would be calling. They didn’t call. Then we learned that you can actually pick the modem up yourself. Ah, but there’s a catch. If you’ve already ordered Internet and you’re on the list, you cannot come by to pick it up. You have to cancel your order and then order it again 72 hours later and tell them that you want to come to pick up the modem yourself.

Ok, I don’t have that much to complain about because I love the new place. It’s in the same building as the Loft and the Pad, the two apartments Natalia, Gonzalo and I rent out. In fact, since we had no hot water and our fridge was freezing everything, we stayed in the Loft for the first week.

Here’s what sold me on the new digs…..we’re on the top floor and we have a dome! A dome! (On our Flickr site you can see our process–still ongoing–of making the Cupula a home.)

THE DOME!

JB hated the place when he first saw it, but I begged him to give it a chance. I mean, when will we ever live in an apartment with a dome again in our lives? It’s taken a lot of work to make it livable, but JB and I have hosted our first guest. His sister made her first trip overseas and we may have even convinced her to see if her company would transfer her to Buenos Aires. Now, that’s a successful visit!

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San Telmo or Palermo Soho: Traditional vs. Modern

I’m often asked which neighborhood (barrio) is better, San Telmo or Palermo Soho.  Here’s a brief description of the two barrios from an insider/outsider point of view to help you decide.

El Federal

San Telmo (above) is tango and the past; Palermo Soho (below) is hip and modern.  Choosing between the two is really a matter of what you most want to experience here in Buenos Aires. San Telmo is New Orleans; Palermo is Miami. Or something like that.     

 Cluny from Above  

 San Telmo is walking distance to most sights; Palermo requires a taxi ride or a walk to the subway. Sights Nearby: Within walking distance from San Telmo are the Plaza de Mayo, la Casa Rosada, the cabildo, Cafe Tortoni,  Avenida Florida (the famous pedestrian street for shopping), Avenida Corrientes (loaded with theaters…. BA’s Broadway) with its obelisk, and Teatro Colon (although it’s currently being remodeled). 

  Blue and White  

In the area of Palermo, you’ll find: the Botanical Gardens, the zoo, the hippodrome, the polo field, major shopping centers on Avenida Santa Fe, the Evita Museum, MALBA (the museum of Latin American Fine Arts), and many gorgeous parks.  

Polo Field 

Prices and Restaurants: San Telmo is cheaper than Palermo in part because it has more variety. You’ll find more inexpensive traditional parillas, pizza joints, choripan stands on the road, rustic eateries with wooden tables that have been there for ages, more Italian restaurants, a fantastic market for buying fresh produce, more bars and milongas (tango dance halls), and more traditional cafes.

Antique Market  

In Palermo, you’ll find some of the best restaurants in Buenos Aires where the menus are more modern and innovative. Cafes and restaurants are trendy and pricey. There are more outdoor cafes in Palermo Soho than in San Telmo. It’s more difficult to get a traditional parilla (Argentinean barbeque) in Palermo. Some of the hottest nightspots are in Palermo, but there aren’t as many bars where one can stop in for a drink and a game of pool.

 El Ultimo Beso  

The Streets and Shopping: Palermo is cleaner and has less riffraff than San Telmo. San Telmo is more crowded and more bohemian than Palermo. Both areas are very active on weekends.  The antique fair in San Telmo brings in hordes of locals and tourists. Streets are filled with live performances that are out of this world. Palermo’s weekend fair is for designers. The square is filled with stands where you can buy jewelry, shirts, etc. 

 Tango in the Street  

Shopping is better in Palermo than in San Telmo, but it comes with a higher price tag. San Telmo is changing though. A few stores that are in Palermo are opening in San Telmo, too. But for clothes, shoes, jewelry, and art, Palermo has more to offer.

Designer Interiors 

So, do you want a filet with a dijon sauce and fancy table settings or some empanadas, pizza, and  steak served on wooden plates? Answer this question and you’ll know where to stay. 

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Parilla Lezama for Dinner

Parilla Lezama on Brasil Street offers typical dishes (cocina porteña). While the place we’d most recommend for steaks in San Telmo is Don Ernesto, Parilla Lezama is one of our favorite restaurants in the area.

Parilla Lezama

 

Since it’s a grill, you could order the parilla (grilled meats) which they’ll bring to the table on a small grill. A parilla at Lezama usually comes with a variety of beef cuts, some chicken and sausage.

Parilla Lezama

But Lezama’s speciality dishes are very tasty. Try the conejo al ajillo (rabbit with garlic), the matambrito de cerdo (pork flank steak), 1/2 pollo (boneless half of a chicken served with bacon, fries, and leek salad with grilled tomatoes), brochette de lomo (tenderloin skewers), cordero a la calabresa (lamb with potatoes), or the bondiola de cerdo (pork shoulder).

Parilla Lezama

And Lezama has a large selection of very traditional Argentine desserts: queso fresco y dulce (fresh cheese with jam), queso y batata (cheese with sweet potato jam), queso y membrillo (cheese with quince jam) zapallo (pumpkin), castañas (chestnuts), and higos (figs).

Parilla Lezama

Brasil, 359

San Telmo (on Parque Lezama)

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Ten Things to Do in Buenos Aires

I’ve been living here for just over a year and have had lots of visitors of all sorts–those who love museums, those who love wine, those who just want to know what it’s like to live in Buenos Aires, those who want to shop, and those who love music. Here are ten things I would do with any of these visitors. There are, of course, hundreds of things to do in Buenos Aires, but these ten would give you a pretty good idea of the diversity of this amazing city.  

  1. San Telmo Antique Fair – On Sundays, San Telmo fills up with tourists and locals and vendors galore. The fair has grown in recent years so you’ll find much more than antiques, but in Plaza Dorrego it’s antiques only. The collections are fascinating. If the crowd starts to get to you, head off of Defensa (the main street through San Telmo) to Peru or Balcarce. Balcarce is a small street with some of the best preserved San Telmo architecture. Peru is more busy but there are several good cafes and bars where you can hide out until you’re ready to fight the crowds again. Whatever you do, don’t miss the old-fashioned market in San Telmo. it’s between Carlos Calvo and Estados Unidos just off of Defensa. Sifones 
  2. Tango at Confiteria Ideal (on Thursday for the orchestra) – My favorite tango experience because I don’t dance. If you’re a tango dancer, you’ll want to go elsewhere. But if you want to watch others dance and hear a live orchestra all set in a ballroom of faded decadence, Ideal is the place to go on a Thursday night when the live orchestra plays. Get there early enough to get a good seat (say 10:00 pm) or call to make a reservation. They’ll go all night. Tango Show 
  3. Cafe Tortoni (but not to eat) – Ok, so the food leaves a lot to be desired and in a city like Buenos Aires, there’s no sense eating mediocre food. But do go there for a coffee or a refreshing drink while you’re out and about in the downtown area. Cafe Tortoni takes you back in time. You’ll see tons of tourists taking pictures (inside and out), you may have to wait outside for table to free up (but not usually a long wait), and the wait staff is, well, rude. But once you get past that part, linger at your table as long as you like to watch the comings and goings and imagine you’re visiting Buenos Aires 100 years ago. Tortoni 
  4. Recoleta Cemetery and Avenida Alvear (visit the fancy hotels) – Obviously you have to visit the cemetery. It reminds me of cemeteries in New Orleans. Little cities of elegance and history. But you should also stroll down the street Alvear to see the mega-fashion houses (Gucci, Armani, the like), and to visit two hotels: Alvear Palace Hotel and the Park Hyatt. Alvear Palace Hotel is old-fashioned elegance while Park Hyatt is modern perfection.  Hyatt Entrance
  5. Milion (cocktails and appetizers with the hip crowd) – On Parana (1048 just off of Avenida Santa Fe), this is the place to go for cocktails. The attraction isn’t the cocktails themselves,  it’s the restored mansion that houses Milion. Sit down and imagine what it must have been like to live in such a place. Such elegance. The garden is stunning. The staircase to the garden is also, and it’s a good place to sit to have a drink if you happen to go when there are no tables available. Divine experience all around.
  6. Palermo Soho (shopping and eating) – On Saturdays and Sundays, there’s a fair in Plaza Serrano. It’s not a great fair, but it brings a lot of people to the area. Most of the restaurants here are exceptional so you’ll want to have lunch or dinner. This is the part of town that has the most interesting shops. Local clothes designers, fantastic paper stores, interesting home decor designs, unique and affordable jewelry and shoes. Any day of the week it’s interesting, but it’s most lively on weekends. Palermo Soho
  7. La Peña del Colorado (folclore and food) – I love Argentine folclore (a type of music more popular in the Interior than in Buenos Aires). It’s boisterous, rhythmic, and reminds me of bluegrass and country music from back home. Located in Barrio Norte on Guemes (3657), this place makes me feel like I’m in Cordoba or Santiago del Estero, eating meat and french fries on wooden tables surrounded by people I don’t know and listening to a live show of chacarera or zamba. The show at La Peña del Colorado starts early for Buenos Aires (9:30), so get there even earlier to be sure you get a seat. But stay later. Once the show is over, groups sitting at tables throughout the restaurant will start up their own juntadas (a gathering of people to drink and sing). While you’re there, you might want to try some mate (the haylike infusion Argentines drink out of a gourd). Add sugar if it’s too bitter for your taste. Folklore in the Capital 
  8. El Ateneo (most beautiful bookstore ever) –  On Avenida Santa Fe near Callao and Riobamba, this is the most beautiful bookstore I’ve ever seen. El Ateneo is housed inside an old theater. There’s a cafe on what was the stage, you can sit in the balconies to read for a spell, or you can just wander around and look at the amazing lighting and architecture. 
  9. Tigre (a bit of nature and more shopping) – Go on a Saturday so that you can head to Mataderos, Soho or San Telmo on Sunday. Why I like this trip? The train ride is great. It takes you along the coast (although you don’t see the river) up through the northern suburbs of Buenos Aires. You might even want to get off the train and see San Isidro if you have time. It’s a gorgeous suburb, hilly, green and with spectacular views of the kite surfers down on the river. Tigre itself can take the full day, so head out early. Stop by the tourist information office near the McDonalds. They’ll give you information about boat rides you can take through the river and to visit the islands if you want to get off the boat and walk around. You can also rent bicycles or canoes. Then save enough time to head over to the port and the Fruit Market. There’s much more than fruit. See Gift-Buying in Tigre for more information. And if you do go on a Sunday, buy a roundtrip so you don’t have to wait in the lines to get your return ticket. Tigre  
  10. Mataderos (folclore, meat, gauchos, and shopping) – Mataderos is a barrio in the west of Buenos Aires. It’s a hike, but it’s worth it. In summer, they move the fair to Saturday evenings, but during the rest of the year it’s my favorite activity on a Sunday. The fair itself is interesting and prices are about 1/3 cheaper than in the center. But it’s the live music and dancing that I like. There’s a huge stage in the main square with one performance after another of Argentine folclore. Couples dressed in traditional clothes dance in front of the stage. Grills serving up choripan (Argentinean hotdogs that are way better than hotdogs) or grilled meat of just about any kind encircle the dancers and musicians.  And in the afternoon (usually at about 2:00 pm) there’s a gaucho show on the same street as the stage just after the last stands. Young and old gauchos ride their horses under an arch trying to pull off a ring with a small stick. Talk about horsemanship. Gaucho on the Run 

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    El Federal in San Telmo

    If you’re roaming around San Telmo in this heat, you’ll surely want to stop off for a fresh drink. The most visited cafe in the area is Cafe Dorrego on Plaza Dorrego, but it’s often hard to find a seat. Instead try El Federal on Carlos Calvo and Peru. Built in 1864 and incredibly well-kept, the bar itself is stunning, as are the cash registers.While there two weeks ago, a tango trio played a few songs before passing a hat, a young couple snuggled in a dark corner, a table of four elderly women laughed and drank lemonade, and my friend and I had a refreshing beer before heading back out into the crowds and sweat.   El FederalOriginally uploaded by DIDS’  

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