Closed-Door Restaurants in Argentina

I learned about closed-door dinners from reading reviews of restaurant in Mendoza and Buenos Aries on TripAdvisor. I have found TripAdvisor to be surprisingly helpful when looking for good places to eat in foreign countries. Closed-door restaurants are traditionally someone running a small restaurant out of their home or apartment. Typically, these places only do dinner a few nights a week, and they only have a single seating that starts around 9pm for around four to eight people. The meal is a five to seven course tasting menu with wine pairings. My love of tasting menus and my inability to speak Spanish made these dinners a perfect fit for me. Ordering off a menu entirely in Spanish is fairly challenging and often a little embarrassing. I often find myself picking dishes at random and hoping for the best. I’ve had mixed results.

At closed-door dinners, I didn’t have to worry about anything because all of the decisions had already been made for me. I eat virtually everything so I’m happy to try whatever the chef brings out. I ended up doing a total of four of these dinners during my time in Argentina. I did one in Mednoza and three in Buenos Aries. I found it interesting how different each experience was. Two of the dinners were actually in the chef’s apartment. The other two dinners were in more traditional restaurant spaces, and they had more than just one large table. The ones in more traditional restaurant spaces didn’t have any signage out front, and you had to make a reservation in advance to be able to get in. Both of the restaurant spaces also started in the apartments of the chefs and owners, but they grew too large and needed to expand. In many ways these places still had the feeling of being in someone’s home. They were very small compared to most traditional restaurants, and the owners still played a large role in your dining experience. Below is a breakdown of my experiences at the four closed-door dinners I attended. These meals were some of the top highlights of my trip. If you are into good food and wine, I’d definitely recommend that you try to make a closed-door dinner or two part of your trip through Argentina.

Los Chocos (Mendoza, Argentina): $AR365 for five courses and wine pairings

Where there is good wine, there will be good food. Los Chocos is listed as the #7 restaurant in Mendoza on TripAdvisor so it was one of the first places I came across when researching places to eat in Mendoza. Los Chocos was also the first closed-door restaurant I came across while searching places to eat on the trip. As I read the reviews for Los Chocos people were comparing it to other closed-door experiences that they had in Argentina. I learned that closed-door restaurants are a growing trend throughout Argentina, particularly in Buenos Aires and Mendoza. Los Chocos is a closed-door restaurant in the truest sense because you are eating dinner in the apartment of your hosts Martin and Martin. The Martins usually do dinners in their home that last from 9pm to around 1am three or four nights a week. Dining with a small group in the home of the chef is a dining experience that is different in many ways from eating in a traditional restaurant. The chef Martin (I’ll call the other Martin server Martin) came out with each course and explained the dish and how it fit into local and Argentine culinary traditions. I really enjoyed being able to ask chef Martin questions about his cooking techniques for the different dishes. I recently started making my own stocks for braising so it was nice to be able to ask the chef about his approach to making his red wine braised short ribs.

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The Lomito (Santiago, Chile)

When I think about Santiago, one of the first things that comes to mind is a mental image of a lomito. Chilean people love large amounts of mayonnaise and their version of guacamole on everything. I found the hot dogs loaded with mayo and guac to be a little intense; however, those two ingredients found a perfect home on the lomito. A proper lomito starts with a fresh baked roll cut in half. Then thinly cut, slow cooked pork is piled on top of the bottom half of the roll. The pork looks like unholy deliciousness when it is scooped steaming hot out of the stock that has been its home for quite some time. The sandwich is then topped to order. My favorite combination was tomato, avocado, and mayonnaise. I’m usually not a big fan of mayo; however, the good lomito places often make their own mayo, and the richness does compliment the sandwich well. Once all of the ingredients have been stacked and the top of the roll is put in place, you will be staring at one monstrous sandwich.

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