The year is just getting started and I have already raked in about 40 restaurant visits. And the fresh projects (opened in 2019 as well as the first months of 2020) are vibing this year: coffee shops and bars with real kitchen programs, vegetarian and vegan options and new takes on old porteño classics have me excited for the year to come. Here are a few spots I’ve visited once and am excited to go back to again.
Sampa, Av. Scalabrini Ortíz 769, Villa Crespo
Sampa is a vegetarian parrilla and it is, thankfully, nothing you’d imagine from an Argentine vegetarian parrilla. Absent are the lentil burgers, seitan steaks and tofu sausages and very present is the use of smoke and fire in my favorite opening in recent memory. Try, in this order, creamy esquites served with cinnamon kissed refried beans, provoleta melted down to a lava with a sweet preserved pair, a lime heavy oyster mushroom ceviche prepared with pops of seasonal fruit like mango and strawberry and a creamy coconut flavored pumpkin curry. For dessert, use your finger to scoop up every last drag of a salted chocolate ice cream.
Sede Whiskey, Guevara 421, Chacarita
Sede isn’t exactly new but the menu is. The more mature, laid-back older brother of soda bar Sifon got a kitchen face lift from Mica Najmanovich and Nico Artussi, the dream team behind Anafe. A long menu of shareable dishes play on porteño favorites and the duo’s unique take on fresh Mediterranean-esque flavors. Try the fried cauliflower served with harissa and lemon wedges — squeeze all that juice to get those fried raba flavors — and pair it with a whiskey cocktail. Pro-tip: The bar is LOUD so be prepared to sign your order or maybe be delivered the wrong stuff.
El Preferido de Palermo, Borges 2108, Palermo
El Preferido de Palermo was a guaranteed success before the fancy Eme Carranza designed doors even opened. It is, after all, the sophomore project of Don Julio owner Pablo Rivero and his second-in-command and king of fiambres, Guido Tassi. Add star chef Martín Lukesch, a charcuterie cellar and an encyclopedic menu of classic bodegón favorites and there was no way this place was gonna go wrong. The food, luckily, is up to par. I enjoy grabbing a seat at the bar at opening for a late merienda of freshly sliced mortadella and bitter olives or bowl of sour anchovies with a chilled vermouth. You can also stop in for lunch or dinner and grabbed a simple solo milanesa or nostalgia induced meatballs in tomato sauce over beautifully whipped potatoes. Don’t forget to reserve and pack your wallet up more than usual.