As a innately curious person, closed door restaurants have always intrigued me with their invite-only reservations and access to private homes. I love dinner parties, but having hosted my own share of them, I know how much work they are for the hosts. I love to be invited over for dinner, but I always feel a little bad unless I’m helping serve dinner or sudsing up in the kitchen after dessert. A closed door restaurant bypasses my sense of guilt and I can enjoy the purely decadent sense of being served cocktails on the patio, eating off someone’s home dishes and browsing their bookshelf when no one is looking.
Buenos Aires is known for their closed door dining scene. In Argentina, they are called puertas cerradas or “restaurants with closed doors” and they are exploding onto the food scene. Some are even included in popular guidebooks like Casa Saltshaker, one of the most prominent in Buenos Aires and whose website has a directory of other puertas cerrados in the area and around the world. Others are mere rumors on travelers lips, not to be discussed unless you know the right people and are willing to pay top dollar for the privilege. There are also more casual establishments that cater to friends of friends with off duty chefs experimenting with new recipes.
In a city known for its culinary extravagances, dining at a closed door restaurant can be considerably more expensive than a nice steak house or intimate Italian restaurant. For us, that meant we would have one chance to experience this phenomonan in order to stay on our budget which included priorities such as wine and alajores every day.
The problem was, if I was going to go to one closed door restaurant during my stay in Buenos Aires, I wanted it to be the very best one. For me, that meant an eclectic, menu that was reflective of the locale, a well edited wine list with some bottles that were unique, and an interesting guest list. I looked at reviews all over the internet and settled on a short list including:
Casa Saltshaker – The most well known closed door restaurant in Buenos Aires. By no means exclusive, it is well regarded and the chef, Dan Perlman, is a highly regarded food writer and reviewer on his website. He offers a five-course tasting menu which changes daily and is often inspired by historical events.
Casa Felix – This is another well-regarded closed-door restaurant. The chef, Diego Felix, is internationally acclaimed and offers a five-course tasting menu for up to 12 people every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. The food is centered around pescetarian cuisine and is reported to be fantastic. Guests are greeted with a complimentary welcoming cocktail on arrival.
La Cocina Discreta – This highly regarded restaurant is sophisticated and sleek, attracting urbane, intelligent travelers from all around the world. The food is modern without being too experimental and uses exceptional Argentinean ingredients to make classic dishes with flavorful and adventurous twists.
I did not consider Casa Sunae in my first round, but in hindsight, it would have been an excellent choice. The chef prepares “fiery curries, fresh herbs and exotic spices” that are rumored to be excellent. This is the place to go when you don’t think you can stomach one more richly marbled, Argentinean steak, huge plate of steaming pasta or lightly seasoned, mildly spiced dishes.
I had narrowed down our choices to include Casa Saltshaker and Casa Felix. I was pretty set on the latter until the former emailed me to say two seats had opened up that very evening. My impatience got the best of me and I decided then and there that we would be attending the Moroccan themed meal.
Next up: We get horribly lost, fight and end up a half an hour late to one of the most bizarre experiences in BA.