Buenos Aires: Las Canitas food tour with Parrilla Tours
Palermo is a popular barrio that seems to be the entertainment center of Buenos Aires. It comes alive at night when the clubs and restaurants are open and people of all ages fill its streets.
Palermo covers a large area and over time has been divided into sub-neighbourhoods, each with each own character and style.
We spent a few days walking the sycamore lined streets sipping coffee here, having lunch there and peeked into a few of the shops in the area.
My best day in Palermo though was on a food tour with Parrilla Tours with our guide Germán. Although I am a vegetarian at home I did not ask for accommodation or listed diet restrictions as what would be the point going on a parrilla tour and getting a quinoa salad, which seems to be what most chefs think vegetarian food is? It has nothing to do with local culture and that’s what I was there to explore.
The food tour was going to explore one specific neighbourhood in Palermo: Las Cañitas, an up and coming area in north Palermo that is becoming popular and expensive to live in and is the scene for good restaurants.
I took a taxi from our Recoleta barrio to the restaurant in Palermo where we were asked to meet. The elderly taxi driver forgot to activate the meter (I have this effect…) and only noticed it shortly before we arrived at my destination. He refused to accept any more than what the meter indicated but I knew what the fare was as we have taken taxis there before and insisted on paying him the normal fare. I didn’t mind if he pocketed the difference.
The group was there when I arrived, sitting at an outdoor table under a sycamore tree. After introductions all around (brother and sister from Nepal, a couple from Chicago) Germán explained a few things about the tour and described the food he was ordering at this first stop.
First course was a Buenos Aires specialty, choripán. A traditional snack before or after futbol game, choripán is the quintessential Argentinean street food. It is made with pork sausage grilled and butterflied (cut through the center) and served between slices of crusty bread with chimichuri and criollo (pronounced cri-yo-sho and similar to pico de gallo). .
The restaurant he took us to is the only one serving beef sausage while most other restaurants serve choripán with pork sausage. Choripán is an appetizer, not a full meal, served with a small salad, one order per person. The choripán at this restaurant was served between two slices of crusty French bread, not common in the area. We enjoyed the flavours and listen to German describing other local foods and dining styles. The restaurant itself was unassuming, not one that we would have likely stopped at not knowing about it through the tour. That’s what I love about food tours, you get the inside scoop from people who know.
Next stop was at another restaurant that apparently makes one of the best empanadas in town. We were not disappointed. A hangout for soccer players (yup) the place has futbol memorabilia all over with pictures of futbol stars decorating the walls, most of them autographed. Germán ordered our empanadas and they came freshly baked (not fried) and hot with golden brown spots all over and perfectly folded edges containing the filling. The beef filling was not ground but rather knife-cut, better texture than ground beef.
Germán showed us how to eat an empanada like a Porteño: wrap the bottom with a napkin to catch drizzles and eat with your hands. You may want to lean over the plate if the filling is juicy, unless you are an experienced empanada “regular”. The dough was soft and delicious, made with wheat flour. I must try making it when I get home. Germán gave us a quick empanada lesson (see my previous post): you can tell what’s inside an empanada by the way it is folded. Braided in a repulge techniques means beef filling, a cock’s comb pattern on top means a chicken filling, tortellini shape means ham and cheese and fork sealed means vegetarian filling, mostly spinach or Swiss chard. Germán ordered wine to go with the empanadas: Torrontes 2017, light and fragrant with enough acidity to make it crisp and fresh and balance the rich empanada.
Next stop was the main event: lunch. We walked over to another corner in Las Canitas and into a beautiful restaurant with soaring ceiling and large windows and doors opened to the street corner where it is situated. There were tables outside but we went inside and sat at a table in the center with a good vantage point to see the going on. German encouraged us to approach the open kitchen, take pictures of the amazing food cooking on the wood fire giant grill and explained what the restaurant was known for: bife de chorizo (a thick cut of meat with fat) and flank steak, (lean without fat), both cooked over wood fire grill.
Our first course was provoleta: thick rounds of provoleta cheese (like provolone) grilled in individual cast iron skillets with the inside melted to perfections and the outside crisp with herbs and spices sprinkled on top. Oh-so-delicious. Porteños eat this on its own or with bread, one order per person. Anticipating the big meal to come I ate it on its own without bread and the crispy outside together with the melted center was memorable. I have to try this at home, I know, I keep saying it.
Soon three large platters were delivered to our table with enough food to feed an army. Germán explained that each of these wooden trays was ordinarily an order for one person. I said it couldn’t be and he said: “look around you”. Sure enough, one person, one platter, and they FINISHED everything on the platter. I checked. Two of our platters had huge piles of bife chorizo and the other had the flank steak.
As side dishes also on the platter were delicious roasted and mashed pumpkin that must have been a seasonal thing because I have had it with almost every meal, some rice, French fries and other roasted vegetables that for me were heaven, so delicious. We drank red wine with this food and sat there forever talking and enjoying the scene, writing down the food and restaurant tips from German and the other guests and savouring every aspect of this experience.
We were pretty full when we left but yes, there was one more stop. You guessed it: gelato. I could hardly think of food by then but the dulce de leche gelato had my name on it and of course I had some. Did you know that there is more than one dulce de leche flavours out there? This place seemed to offer quite a few and Germán suggested that we choose one scoop of dulce de leche and another of a different flavor, to offset the sweetness. I should have listened to him as my two scoops of dulce were almost too much by then.
We said our goodbyes and later received an email from Germán with recipes and restaurant recommendations that were very helpful as we still had a few more days in Buenos Aires. If you are visiting Buenos Aires, don’t miss the food tour with Parrilla Tours for an authentic an informative food tour experience.
To contact Parilla Tours:
Local ( Buenos Aires)
15 4048 5964 / 15 5808 9687
(From outside Argentina)
+54 9 11 4048 5964 / +54 9 11 5808 9687