All the Soup in Buenos Aires
Gimme the soup, gimme the soup!
I mostly wanted to write this article to make a Biggie reference, but also to thank the BA food gods for finally getting up on their soup game. As many long-term expats can attest to, the local food scene has (tread lightly Kevin), uhh, grown a lot in the last few years. While studying abroad here back in 2008, I distinctly remember asking my host mom for a bowl to eat some cereal and being handed a coffee cup – and a small one at that. There was not a single bowl in the house. Just visit the grocery store and check out the powdered soup concoctions to reaffirm that ain’t nobody got time for a bowl of soup in this city; locals seem to be inclined to choose pretty much anything else on a cold winter day. That’s slowly changing, although the soup du jour isn’t a restaurant staple (yet), what was once mostly reserved to ethnic restaurants (think Peruvian and Chinese), is slowly become more commonplace. Here are some of my favorites:
Argentine culinary tradition doesn’t completely take soup out of the equation. Some of the best I’ve ever eaten, in fact, were gulped down in the cold Altiplano of Salta and Jujuy where hearty stews (let’s not split hairs over stews not being considered soups) like locro, guiso and carbonada are common meals. My undisputed favorite is the pastel de lomo y calabaza at Cumana (Rodriguez Peña 1149, Recoleta), a restaurant characterized just as much for its traditional Northern Argentine food as for its low prices in a sea of expensive Recoleta eateries. The pastel is a thick and sweet pumpkin (not quite soupy but not quite a mash) loaded with slow-cooked beef and topped with cheese thats charred in the oven. Nearby El Sanjuañino (Posadas 1515, Recoleta), mostly known for their empanadas, cooks up a mean locro – a thick vegetable stew with the option of adding chorizo (less optional, more just add the damn chorizo). Likewise, the Palermo hole-in-the-wall Ña Serapia (Av. Las Heras 3357, Palermo) has a delicious locro and carbonada – a humble mixture of corn, squash, sweet potato, dried peaches and beef. Don’t be put off by the small space and greasy smell, this is a rare bodegon experience for the Parque Las Heras area.
South of Corrientes
Abasto. My first (Buenos Aires) home, how I love thee. When I first moved to BA I lived just across from the Abasto Shopping and lunch at La Rica Vicky (Ecuador 467, Abasto) was part of my daily ritual. It’s hard to say no to a menu del dia that even in 2015 costs a whopping 40 pesos. That’s a soup, a main dish and a drink for less than the other (less tasty) poor boy staple: Ugis. The ambiance is a whole other treat – tables crammed closely, tacky plastic chandeliers, wine glasses used to serve every beverage on the menu, and a rotation of trashy telenovelas and backyard music videos on the tv. And although I struggle to say no to the seco de carne lunch combo, it’s all about that soup menu. The options are simple and homey and the bowls are filled to the brim. The deep reddish broth is filled with ginger, onion, garlic and tomato, with the option to add chicken, beef or noodles, and a cup of hot rocoto sauce that is legitimately wipe your brow spicy. There is a whole other list of Chinese inspired soups with wanton, shrimp, and ‘chinese ear’ (the menu doesn’t offer much more clarification) but I never quite feel that adventurous. No need, order the sustancia de pollo and let yourself imagine your mom’s chicken noodle soup on a cold winter day. La Rica Vicky isn’t your only option. Other notable Abasto dives with nearly identical menus are Carlitos (Av. Corrientes 3070), Los Trujillanitos (Av. Corrientes 3564), Mochicha (Aguero 520) and La Conga (La Rioja 39, Once).
If You’re Feeling Fancy
Brownie points if you go to a fancy pants restaurant for lunch in the middle of the week, my experience at both Brasserie Petanque (Defensa 596, San Telmo) and Roux Resto (Peña 2300, Recoleta). An artistically plated dish, attentive service, a glass of red and fancy flavors dancing all up on that tongue feels that much more decadent on a Tuesday afternoon. Brasserie Petanque, a staple among local French restaurants, serves a rich and creamy onion soup. The dark brown broth tastes like it’s been cooking for hours with onions that melt in your mouth. For something more de autor, I can’t get enough of Roux. The soup currently on the menu is tomato, tarragon and watercress soup with delicious bits of sweet bread; the tomato-base with the unusual mollejas pairing is just the right blend of homey and experimental.
Wantons, Kimchi, and Ramen Oh My!
Whether it’s Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Thai, finding really good authentic Asian restaurants is no easy feat, but not completely helpless either. Rule of thumb, get out of Palermo (with one exception below) and head to neighborhoods with strong Asian communities. Walk through Barrio Chino, pass all the egg roll stands, check your bag in a locker at Asia Oriental (Mendoza 1661, Barrio Chino) and saddle up at a seat at the lunch counter. I repeat, don’t fill up on egg rolls (this boludo needs to be reminded constantly). The counter at the city’s greatest grocery store is a wealth of wonderful Chinese dishes but the wanton soup holds a special place in my gut. Watch the cashier simultaneously take orders while she folds dozens of wantons and before throwing them into a delicious vegetable broth. For ramen, Fukuro Noodle Bar (Costa Rica 5514, Palermo Hollywood) has three choices (and the occasional daily special) that are impossible to choose from. In-house pork bone, red miso or shitake and soy broths topped with ingredients like sprouts, avocado, pork belly, and poached egg will warm you right up. A simpler ramen at Murasaki (Viamonte 500, Microcentro) ordered with extra spice will also do the trick. Way off the beaten track hides a slew of traditional Korean barbecue joints. Soup isn’t necessarily the main offer, but I make a point of ordering the spicy tofu soup at Daore (Bacacay 3236, Floresta) everytime I go. Pro-tip: go midday and do some shopping for stuff like kimchi, soy bean paste, sesame oil and gochujang.
Soup of the Day
I had to add a whole other category to fit MEME (Gorriti 5881, Palermo Hollywood) in somewhere, because if you take anything away from this list, GO TO MEME. The restaurant specializes in two things – soups and wraps (and a mean limonada) – and they aren’t messing around. I can’t recommend enough the borsche, a thick and flavorful blend of beets, potato, onion and tomato with a kick of citrus and three cute meatballs on top. Hearty and robust in flavor, the large soup is big enough to fill you up on a cold afternoon. You can also choose from roasted eggplant, vichyssoise, leche de tigre, and gazpacho osea a soup for every day of the week. Other actual soup de jours can be found at Farinelli (Bulnes 2707, Palermo), Naturally (Av. del Libertador 6375, Belgrano) and Bandol (Av. Comodoro Martín Rivadavia 1696, Nuñez).
Did we miss anything? Let us know where your favorite soup joint is.