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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

El Salto de las Ranas

Buenos Aires has a great restaurant culture and there are a zillion great restaurants to try, but one of the constant complaints you hear (at least among the expats) is that there is a severe lack of Mexican cuisine.  It's true, we have only found a handful of Mexican restaurants and, of those, only a select few that we would return to.  We have eaten at El Salto de las Ranas (Rodriguez Peña 1169, Recoleta: 4811-2635) once, over a year ago and had a good meal, but Guia Oleo panned the place so we were hesitant to recommend it to others.  Not only that, during my pregnancy I was super-craving Mexican, so we walked to Las Ranas late on a Tuesday night, only to be told that they had no electricity.  It must have been during some sort of hormonal swing for me, because this information sent me to tears, and we haven't been back. 

We returned this past weekend and had a similarly good experience, I'm feeling confident enough to give it my recommendation.  Las Ranas is in a row of 3 restaurants on Rodriquez Peña, that if you didn't know better, you would think that they were all the same place.  The inside is mildly decorated with Mexican-themed items and the small tables are lined against the walls in a long, narrow, corridor.  We completely threw them for a loop by bringing our stroller, which barely fit down the aisle between the two rows of tables.  All in all, the ambiance is decent, excluding the music selection - which consisted of only Black Eyed Peas songs. 

Our service was friendly and prompt, it helped that Gretchen was flirting and giggling at our waiter the whole time, and only a complete Scrooge could resist her charms.  They started us off with a small basket of chips and a tiny dish of salsa, laughably small portions compared to American standards.  The salsa had spice, but it was the consistency of hot sauce, no chunks of any kind.  We ordered guacamole to start, they have two kinds to choose from, guacamole with shrimp or with chips.  I'm guessing that the shrimp are the dipping instruments in the latter option - but we stuck with what we know and ordered the chips variety. The guac was fine, more of an avocado puree, but the chips were good and salty and my standards for Mexican food are generally lower in Argentina. 

For dinner, I had the mixed fajitas (chicken and steak, there are several other options - shrimp, pork, vegetables and any combination of the options) and they were pretty darn good.  The meat was cooked well, of good quality and served with peppers and onions.  The condiments were pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream, black beans, rice and tortillas - the highlight being the good tortillas.  This is an item that I can not find in stores here, the closest thing is a brand called Rapiditos, and they are a pretty poor substitute (and like 5 inches in diameter).  Jon had tacos, which were also quite good - to the point that by the time I remembered to take a picture, he was finishing the 3rd (and last) taco.  We were pleased. 

The other test of a good Mexican restaurant is the quality of their margaritas.  We did not give them a try this go-around, but the last time we ate there (granted, it was over a year ago), the margarita was so tart and strong it was almost undrinkable.  Almost.  I think this is due to a lack of margarita mix here (though it's easy enough to make that yourself) so the margaritas generally consist of tequila, triple sec, lime juice and ice.  Maybe that's good for the diehards, but I'm going to need some sugar in that baby to make it good.  Ironic, considering that you can't even buy infant rice cereal that doesn't contain sugar - Argentine's love sweets.

Regardless, Las Ranas is as decent Mexican food option in the city as we've seen.  They offer delivery, which may be the next step for us, our delivery options are getting sparse.  Considering that it is withing walking distance to our apartment, we'll add this one back to the list of casual dining options - and hope they keep the electricity flowing. 

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