At first glance, a plate of curled orange strands of kabocha squash is as simple as the restaurant that contains it. On a non-descript corner, a light tinted in tangerine leaks out onto the street like a warm campfire barely illuminating Obrador Las Damas. Inside, this decidedly small, cavernous bistro hides a farm-to-table attitude that is quickly becoming characteristic in this city nook—the crosshair where Chacarita, Colegiales, Villa Crespo and Palermo begin to intertwine.
The skin of the kabocha is a crinkled, woody brown that is the inverse to its fleshy, candy orange interior—which, even in this low-lit space, burns brightly. Crunchy spheres of chickpea have been fried with such delicacy that they pop with the intensity of a sunflower seed being forced from its shell. Whispers of green onion and chives liven up the tart sweetness of the pumpkin, and the faint taste of sesame circle back around the sylvan flavored skin. Each detail is small, and often, it seems, free to be improvised depending on the day of the week.
Those details are layered throughout the restaurant. Dainty green and yellow lamp shades and leather bound chairs lend a Gatsby-esque feel which are pulled back down to Earth by oversized plants and the painted bust of, what I am to assume is, the Dama herself that watches over the entire room. Pops of green play an important role in the room and mimic the kitchen’s approach: fresh, sustainable ingredients sourced from small family farms, organic flours milled in stone grinders, small batch olive oils, and cheeses and a wide-reaching sing song of wines from around the country.
To start, order a few slices of in-house baked bread and pair it with an addictive smoky hummus topped with pinzimonio, an Italian-style antipasti of fresh vegetables tossed in olive oil and lemon zest. Charred broccoli layered with an earthy walnut sauce and preserved lemon is served al-dente; the key is a slightly tangy sauce so be sure to toss the rough strands of broccoli before devouring it all.
Delightful pillows of gnocchi were paired with a silent tomato sauce and bland cubes of shrimp, neither of which played well with the doughy pasta. Fresh bao bread was as soft as a down comforter and camouflaged crunchy slices of oyster mushroom. Roasted pork jowl is the perfect marriage with creamy mashed potato.
To pair, I have tried both a flowery Pinot Noir by Primogenito and a surprisingly quiet Malbec by organic wine makers Chakana. An important note, Obrador offers an expansive list of wines that dwarfs the quantity of dishes that come out of the kitchen. Every single person that I have ever asked wine advice from has delivered exactly what was promised, so ask away.
This particular style of running a kitchen, which lends a careful eye to fresh ingredients over easy crowd-pleaser dishes, is popping up all over this section of the city, ala Anafe, Vallegrande and Yedra; Obrador Las Damas is another welcome addition.
Obrador Las Damas
Address: Charlone 202, Chacarita
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 8pm to close
Price per person: roughly $600-800+ meal with wine