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Monday, July 15, 2013

One Table with Hernan Gipponi

 As I alluded to in my previous post, last week we tried a different, semi-closed restaurant while Ted and Kyra were in town.  We first heard the name Hernan Gipponi when he partnered with our friend Chef Mun last month to host a joint dinner in Buenos Aires.  After that, Pick Up The Fork wrote a thorough post regarding the entire experience, which was enough to make me pick up the phone and make a reservation.  The restaurant is in the hotel Fierro in Palermo (Soler 5862, Palermo, 3220-6820), reservations are required, and the One Table concept is only available on Monday nights.  If you are able to jump through those hoops, clear your calendar for Mondays and jump on in.

As expected, there is one, joined table in the restaurant with 14 seats, so you'll be sitting with anyone else who has a reservation that night. We were hoping for a local experience with a local chef for our visitors, hilariously, there was only one Argentine at the table.  And he is married to an American.  Chef Hernan seemed slightly uneasy by the 100% English speaking dinner, and he cut some of his food descriptions a bit short - I think for fear that we weren't all keeping up.

The restaurant is small, but perfectly decorated. One wall has a large window to see right into the kitchen action.  The opposite wall has one of the coolest photography collages I have ever seen. Black and white, close-up and long distance, they are all food related photos - a mix of ingredients, cooking utensils, and food preparation methods that set the mood for the rest of the evening.  This brilliant idea may make it's way into my home someday...

We were met at the restaurant door by an English speaking hostess that offered us a bloody mary while we waited for the rest of the guests - and after seeing my super-baby-belly, immediately asked if I wanted a virgin version.  Strangely enough, I received a virgin bloody mary while everyone else received some sort of refreshing grapefruit-lime-vodka-spritzer garnished with either a sage leaf or bay leaf that I was told was very good.

We were served a panko-breaded shrimp in tzatziki sauce as we waited to sit down, and then again once we were seated. The shrimp was crispy and hot, the sauce was tangy and citric but it was one of the less memorable dishes of the night - not the one I would choose to offer twice.

The set table has some great touches. Handwritten menus (written by the chef) both in English and Spanish, pristine kitchen towels that matched the menu colors which served as napkins, bread served in small burlap sacks and condiments like olive oil, Patagonian sea salt, pickled turnips and cucumbers available for all to share.  

The second tapa course was a smoked salmon dish served with a sour-cream-based-creme-fraise-style sauce and a thinly shaved fennel salad. There was one dish for every two diners, and ours was gone in a matter of minutes. I forget how good fennel is when someone knows what they're doing, for me it always tastes like licorice.

The next tapa was steak tartar with crispy onion rings served with a side of guacamole.  The combination itself is interesting, but everything went together with a great mix of textures, flavors and temperatures.

Another nice service note, the staff brought me a plate of tiny empanadas during these courses, again due to the pregnancy.  I enjoyed the garnishes and sides on both of these dishes, but only taste-tested the proteins themselves.  Por las dudas...

So, here's where it got a little more interesting for me.  Something I have never seen on a menu, veal heart.  It looks and tastes just like beef, not surprising I guess - since it is beef, but the concept just messed with my mind for this course.  It was served with oversized lima beans and a salad of pickled items, both of which added to the texture of the dish but remained neutral with regard to flavor.
I really enjoyed the fact that the chef was visible throughout our meal, and personally served a few of the courses.  The first appearance he made for the presentation of a dish was the final tapa, a soft-boiled egg served over a bed of hummus with veal broth poured by Hernan himself.  Cool presentation and I loved the serving dishes - though submerging hummus in broth was a mix of items that I would have done without. The dish was flavorful and interesting - and especially for those that love a yolk-y egg.

On to the main dishes.  That's right - we were still at appetizers until now.  This was a huge plus in the evening, there were so many dishes to try, each one more interesting and creative than the other and there was enough food to leave everyone satisfied.

The catch of the day was linguado (sole, for all of us English speakers...) and it was cooked perfectly.  Flaky, moist and served over fresh veggies - delicious.

Next up, a dish called Bomba Rice Abanda whose description had me lost in translation. Basically, it is a rice and seafood dish, plated at the table and served with aioli sauce on the side.  I have to say, this dish could have been skipped.  In contrast to the other courses, this one lacked flavor and took up lots of valuable real estate with the amount of rice.  Considering how much food was served, I left space for the other dishes that had more wow factor for me.

Then came the rabbit.  Yep, we had Peter Cottontail and his baby cow friend in the same night. 

The chef, again, came out to wow the table - this time he cooked the meal right in front of us. He took rabbit tenderloins (or the equivalent of, I'm not up to speed on my rabbit meat cuts) and placed them on a fire-hot griddle in the middle of the table.  He then plated the meat on a spiced carrot puree with a handful of steamed vegetables.

This dish was outstanding.  The meat was cooked perfectly, the vegetables were light and al dente. A great course all around.

One of the smartest moves of the evening was to end with a light and fresh dessert.  After all of this food, something like a chocolate volcano or a dulce de leche stuffed crepe is far too heavy (though don't misunderstand, I would scarf down almost any dessert in its entirety).  The mixture of tangerine sherbert, fresh strawberries and what the chef refers to as a vanilla cloud was perfect.

Of the other guests around the table, there were at least three people referring to the blog posts they were going to write on their experience at One Table, so there are sure to be lots of opinions available soon.  In my opinion, this was a great place to take guests, a unique dining experience - even in a city full of surprises - and you should absolutely jump at the opportunity to spend a Monday night at One Table.

1 comment:

  1. Stank and BlakelyJuly 17, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    This whole One Table experience sounds awesome! Next time we're in BA ... next time