Memorable Flavors At Mishiguene
Article by Anna Lowe.
I recently celebrated my birthday in Buenos Aires for the second time! As well as a weekend asado/party in traditional Argie style I wanted to try something a little fancy so decided on ‘South America’s Best Bar’, the whimsical Floreria Atlantico. Hidden under a wine and flower shop, the cocktails are indeed wonderful and the food is served in trendy ‘tapas’ bites.
I had a great time but on reflection the thing that bugged me was that these so-called ‘tapas plates’ were not in any way constructed for sharing. Flavoursome octopus came as a huge tentacle; grilled aubergine in long sloppy strips. And what’s more, the tiny plates of this and that were chucked at us at seemingly random intervals by sexy waitresses who, for the most part, were unwilling to take our order. A stylish, scrumptious but strange approach to dining.
By contrast Mishiguene is the new addition to Palermo Botanico and serves ‘Jewish’ Middle-Eastern inspired ‘platitos’ (little plates). The food is truly fantastic. Innovative, bold and using spices and herbs to create combinations completely unique in Buenos Aires. I’ve always been a big fan of Middle-Eastern staples like hummus, tahini, roasted aubergines, yogurt, pine nuts and of course, lamb. Mishiguene draws on all these to create really memorable flavours.
First, a bread basket which, for once, is worth granting a little stomach space to – warm, sweet bagels and soft pillows of a pitta bread. Dishes range from smoked aubergine – baba ganoush, spinach and ricotta filo pastry with a poached egg and various fish and lamb based options. The ‘Abu Gosh’ Cous-Cous is succulent lamb on soft cous-cous sweetened with almonds and raisins. ‘Alei Guffen’ is vine leaves with heavenly fragrant garlic rice with yet more confit lamb. But the star has to be the Moroccan ‘Cigarillo’ which sounded like a simple filo pastry tube of lamb, but wowed with incredible depth of flavor and contrasted with a slightly spicy tomato salsa.
Yet once again, the problem was the plating. Perhaps it comes down to my own limited generosity or exaggerated sensitivity to hygiene, but if I’m being served ‘platito’ tapas, I want them delivered the Spanish way – primed for division. The cous-cous dish was served in a jam-jar! Apparently this hipster trend is no longer confined to cocktails. Fine as an individual serving, but a jar of wet couscous with your double-dipping mates? No thanks. The aubergine is whole and requires messy division, as does the single Cigarillo. Peculiarly, the vine-leaf dish isn’t presented as wrapped parcels but a plate of rice, with leaves and lamb scattered throughout, an Ikea tapas where flat pack elements have to constructed into cohesive bites.
Don’t get me wrong every mouthful was a pleasure, but the ‘post-tapas’ conception that these trendy restaurants employ can become so tedious. They want to make it a casual dining experience and I admire that – but unless well executed, it can end as a messy, incoherent eating experience. Adding to the confusion, the table is set with two sets of cutlery – one pair inevitably remained untouched.
Mishiguene is a very stylish place but still a diamond in the rough. They have a great bar, service is friendly and the room is cosy and cool, complete with open kitchen and Israeli-kitsch decor. If they turn down the thunderously loud klezmer clarinet music (at one moment diners were shouting so loud an old man shushed the entire restaurant) and re-consider their plating, this could be my new favourite spot for necessary parrilla respite.
- Lafinur 3368