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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Marcelo Cocina Italiana

We have heard of this Italian restaurant, Marcelo's, in Puerto Madero from a few of our friends.  As nice as that area is, we tend to go out to eat in other areas of town, if nothing else because Puerto Madero is able to hike up their prices due to it's popularity among tourists.  It was our lucky day when Marcelo's opened a second location right down the street from us, and ironically, now that I'm researching it a little for this blog post, it is reviewed as being more expensive than the Puerto Madero location.  Oh well, c'est la vie.

We visited Marcelo's Recoleta location (Av. Callao 1764: 5533-4050, Recoleta) which is in the bottom level of the Hotel Intersur Recoleta. It worked out perfectly for us, since the Village Recoleta Mall and movie theater has now reopened, we saw a movie and then had an Argentine-style-dinner that started at 10:30pm.  The only hiccup in our plan was that we saw the movie Contagion, which if you've seen it, you know that it makes you never want to have contact with any other person again, and you definitely do not want to ever eat at a restaurant again.  So, though I recommend both the restaurant and the movie, try not to do them in the same night.

Moving on, Marcelo's is a relatively small restaurant, maybe 40 tables, so you really want to make a reservation before going.  The service is prompt, friendly, and hilariously, we recognized a number of the staff from our visits to Sottovoce, another great Italian restaurant in the area.  The menu is extensive, albeit mildly confusing as their "House Specialties" are listed on the inner cover of the menu, and then the rest of their offerings are grouped by topic throughout the other 5 or 6 pages.  They have a great wine list, including more than one option of each type of wine by the glass (generally here you will have only one red and one white by-the-glass option).

We started with the mozzarella milenesa, which seems to be a fancy way of preparing mozzarella sticks. These poor little guys were so lonely on the plate, even though we ordered the roasted red pepper version, you can see that added little to the visual enticement.  This dish was good, better than this picture suggests, but it got a whole lot better when we requested marinara sauce.  I would highly recommend taking this American-inspired step, the marinara made the appetizer.  Next time, I will request marinara right when we order the dish, so that there's no lag time between cheesy goodness and it's perfect partner, the dipping sauce.

The "secret", if you will, to ordering at Marcelo's is that you can order half-portions, and split dishes.  Our waiter graciously informed us of this fact as we were debating between items to order.  Our plan of attack was to order two items and share them, and the waiter's suggestion was to order one dish, have it divided into half portions (ie, my choice in one half and Jon's in the other half) and then split the order. Essentially, this means that our dish was divided into quarters.  Even better, the waiter brought each half of the dish separately, as a first and second course, and then split them onto our plates before serving.  This eliminated our inevitably messy attempt at dividing the dishes ourselves. It's easier to explain with photos.

The first part of our meal was rigatoni with a filetto sauce, fresh tomatoes, basil and herb butter.  This picture shows my portion of the dish.  To recap, this photo is 25% of one item on their menu.  Can you imagine if we had each ordered our own entree?  The rigatoni was "pasta seco" meaning that it was a dried pasta, not fresh, but it was still outstanding.  Everything was balanced, and the ingredients were fresh and flavorful.  It's so nice when a dish is so simply done, and so well executed.

The other half of our order, which we also split, was somewhere between the thickness of angel hair and spaghetti and served with pomodoro sauce.  This time around the pasta was fresh, and for this style of pasta, it really made the dish.  The two sauces were remarkably similar, but they were so good that we were glad to have them.

Our one menu item, divided four ways, left us with enough leftovers to each have a full lunch the next day.  Holy portion sizes.

The only disappointment, for me, was the dessert.  Again, we were debating between two different items, white and dark chocolate mousse, and the waiter suggested that we order one dessert and have one scoop of each type of mousse served in the same dish.  Sold.  The problem was that they just weren't all that fantastic.  The white chocolate mousse tasted like a very bland vanilla ice cream, it was strangely icy, and the chocolate was so dark and potent that I had used the white chocolate just to cut it.  Neither one was particularly good, which was peculiar, since the rest of the meal had been so tasty.  We must have ordered the wrong dessert item, because I'm convinced that Marcelo knows how to make some good food.

All in all, Marcelo's was a big hit.  We will certainly go back, and will keep this restaurant as an option for a larger group where we could go family style next time around.

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