Raquel Tejerina hurries around the dining room of Catalino, a fresh closed door restaurant hidden behind the anonymous facade of a renovated Colegiales home. It’s about 7pm on a Thursday evening and she has just gotten back from her day job in time to set up before the 8pm reservations begin to roll through. A group of four calls to see if they can reserve a last minute table and she adds it to her mental checklist.
Her sister and head chef, Mariana Tejerina, can be heard chopping, washing and giving instructions to a fresh addition to the kitchen. The smell of a rich beef broth slowly rolls out and fills the room with a waft of homieness fitting this residential living room turned impromptu restaurant. I pop my head in to see what’s cooking. Mariana giggles to herself when I ask if the beef simmering amongst vegetables and leafy herbs is a stew for the night’s service. It’s a deep brown broth that will be used to pan fry fat slices of rump steak before being drizzled on top. “Nothing here is wasted.”
This is the ethos of Catalino, a new concept restaurant that sources everything directly from the producer — from meat and vegetables in the kitchen to the salt and the napkins on the table. All producers must comply with a strict no agro toxin rule. On the menu, each dish is accompanied by the names of the farms that ingredients were sourced from.
“I am an animal protectionist,” begins Raquel, “I’ve had moments where I was a vegetarian and then I switch back to eating meat and so this internal debate has always existed within me about what I was eating [sic] always looking for that equilibrium. If my consumption means killing an animal, where does it come from? What did it eat? How did it live and die? Is the whole animal being used? Is the producer honoring that animal? Then with that information, I measure out whether it is worth it or not.”
Catalino became a product of this insatiable need to understand the stories behind the food. Before opening the restaurant, they studied sustainability at the UBA’s College of Agriculture and personally visited every single farmer, wine maker and meat producer before partnering up. Servers, likewise, are versed in each detail of every dish with a language that accessible to even the most novice of diners. This has created a sense of community around Catalino. The first time I dined there, the glass of moonshine I sipped on was made by Bruno of Destileria Moretti, who was seated behind me. As I left my interview, the hunter that provides deer and wild boar was set to arrive for dinner.
Fresh ingredients steadily flow into the kitchen. What arrives is often whatever was ready to be picked or slaughtered and always a complete surprise for Mariana. This gives her a day or two to come up with ten dishes for a menu that changes bi-weekly. “I might get a shipment on Tuesday for a menu change on Thursday. There isn’t enough time to test every dish [sic] just try things that I might be really unsure about. I rely a lot on my intuition.”
Menus are broken down into small, medium and main dishes. I was able to try a small corn and shredded beef stew. Chulpi corn is a sweet variety similar to the popular Peruvian maíz cancha native to Jujuy, dried and rehydrated alongside a rich shredded beef. I particularly enjoyed a bowl of black beans cooked in a meaty broth that had hints of cumin and paprika and was served with a gooey poached egg that pulled out the fattiness out of the from the beans and broth. The beans had a slight rigidity to them and gave a nice variety of textures. A quinoa risotto was subtly flavored with goat cheese and cabbage and the pasture fed rump steak was surprisingly tender and served over creamy potatoes with a heavy hand of butter.
Every dish is unified by the idea of keeping each element as pure as possible “not overworking the ingredients but rather presenting them the way that they came out of the Earth.” As I leave, a plate of sliced beef comes out of the kitchen bathed with that rich broth that has perfumed the salon. It is served alongside a tangle of vegetables — carrot, yellow and red beets, Andean potatoes — the leaves and roots intact as if they’d been freshly pulled from the garden.
Private address, Colegiales
Thursday through Saturday | 8pm to close
Reservations required | 011 6384 6461