In our Dame series, resident fatty and food writer Kevin Vaughn rounds up three of his favorites for a particular theme. This week he tackles the mysterious case of finding good Japanese food in Buenos Aires.
Takoyaki at Mirutaki | Ángel Justiniano Carranza 2339, Palermo
Brother cooking duo Nico and Matias Totake lead this anime-inspired kitchen at Mirutaki. Matias runs the sushi counter while Nico works the ramn. My favorite, though, is the takoyaki, or fried fritters stuffed with slices of octopus. “They are prepared in a contraption similar to a waffle iron; the iron is open and dotted with small half globes. One cook is in charge of filling the slots with batter, stuffing it with octopus and waiting for the right moment to flip each fritter with a long pick. They burst like little bombs; the texture is a cross between a fluffy, slightly wet pancake and a crisp waffle. Their fragility is covered in a savory tonkatsu sauce and chewy flakes of bonito that sway back and forth with the heat that rises from underneath it.” Read the full review here.
Miso fried chinchulines at Izakaya Niji | Iberá 2424, Belgrano
A massive laminated flash card menu is initially daunting at Izakaya Niji, by now a classic Japanese restaurant on the fringes of Belgrano and Nuñez. Gyoza packed into a cast-iron pan like an infinite ying-yang, okonomiyaki stacked so high it resembles a gooey tortilla española or pork ramen with a visible layer of low simmered fat on the surface. There is also a cool plate of steamed eggplant tossed in an earthy soy sauce dressing and fried kimchi tossed with crisp twice cooked bacon and chewy mushrooms. But the star of the show is the pork chinchulines pan-fried in miso. Scratch hard for the crusty bits on the bottom of the pan that have melded together with caramelized garlic. Unlike beef chinchulines, pork intestines are lighter in flavor with a less chewy texture. These break apart and scoop up the dark miso sauce that has been beaten down into a slightly fruity marinade with notes of plum or nectarine.
Omakase at Nare Sushi Bar | Echeverría 1524, Barrio Chino
Did I write about this just last week, you ask. Yes. Am I trying to get my investments worth on an indulgent 20 piece omakase set times two (it was her birthday)? Yes. Truth be told, Federico Jorge’s sushi bar is quite possibly the best in the city. “Depending on your luck, you may be greeted by shockingly soft calamari, or girthy cuts of shrimp sliced up the belly. Raw shrimp in Buenos Aires is often my least favorite, always frozen and often with the flavor of a stale refrigerator that clings to the tongue. Here, they were meaty with a texture one might expect from a thick cut of rare beef. There may also be a distantly briny, plump cut of anchovy, diced across the top to reveal a bright pink under a layer of silver. Or juicy pez limon, similar in consistency to a fatty red salmon; there is also delicate, slightly oily mackerel. A slice of tamago, a sweet and savory egg omelette, was a little to strong on the sweet. Soft clumps of wasabi can be blended into salty soy sauce or rubbed gently atop.” Read the full review here.
Bonus Track: non-traditional nikkei omakase at Haiku (Av. Congreso 1694), traditional sushi at Ichisou (Venezuela 2145), charcoal grilled fish “robato” at Tintoreria Yafuso (Juan Ramirez de Velasco 399), ramen at Fukuro (Costa Rica 5514), okonomiyaki at Shogun (Uriburu 280), grilled sardine or udon at Nueva Casa Japonesa (Humberto Primero 2357).