Palermo often struggles to renew itself. Sure, we see restaurants popping up on the streets of this trendy neighborhood constantly, but only a few manage to actually surprise us, adding actual innovation to the food scene. Here are three fresh and innovative Palermo spots worthy of your summer days.
Inmigrante | a new take on the bodegone
Inmigrante is trying to redefine the concept of Bodegones, traditional restaurants whose menus are inspired by Italian and Spanish cuisines. Beloved by porteños, Bodegones are known for their homemade feeling and “anti-gourmet” cuisine. Yet, Leandro Di Mare, the Head Chef & owner of the place, is trying to prove that tradition and innovation can be compatible. Di Mare’s menu features some Argentine classics like gramajo — also known as huevo estrellado or smashed egg — chinchulines and even churrasco, but their preparation is not standard Bodegon fare, namely in the way that Chef Di Mare incorporates techniques from high-end cuisine. The decor — modern and minimalistic — also breaks the rules of tradition, by managing to come off as fresh and inviting.
One of our favorite items on the menu is without a doubt the mollejas. I know, sweetbreads aren’t always seen as the most appealing dish for dinner, but these ones are something you’ll want to try. Tenderized in milk, the mollejas are later vacuum packed and cooked for hours. The last step is throwing them on the parrilla. The result is simply unbelievable. They will melt in your mouth, losing their at times chewy texture, while leaving a strong smokey flavor. The matambre de cerdo also caught our attention. The meat is first smoked then cooked to the point where the skin reaches a perfect level of crunchiness. The side of caramelized apples and sweet potatoes is unexpected, yet it adds an interesting touch to the dish.
Do you also end up picking a restaurant depending on your drink mood, beer, wine or cocktails? Well, Inmigrante is about to make things easier for you. Their menu includes boutique bodega labels at winery prices and a variety of craft beers, made by their own staff. Plus, a few cocktails are also included. Finally, this “modern bodegon” as Di Mare likes to call it also has a its very own production of pickles, charcuterie and even Argentine sweet treats. All of them are available to take away.
Cabrera 4667, Palermo
OPIO | Asian street food comes to BA
Just a few weeks ago, Opio – Palermo’s very own Asian Gastropub – opened up its doors. When we say Palermo we don’t mean Plaza Armenia. Opio’s owners fell for a huge warehouse located a few blocks down from Scalabrini Ortiz, where a wave of laid-back culinary innovation has been settling for a couple of years now. Just like its neighbors El Tejano and Nola, Opio is focusing its offer on gourmet fast food. Head Chef Diego Rizzi traveled around Southeast Asia for quite some time where he discovered the secrets behind the local street food scene.
Every dish is a play on texture, as the cook strongly believes that the “crunch factor” is essential. The Bao’s are a must-try. The bread is tender, the pickled veggies on the inside give it the much needed crunchiness that is often absent in this kind of sandwich, while the spicy citrus sauce amps up the flavor. Yes, that’s right. Opio respects the true essence of Asian spicy: it is hot indeed, but before your mouth starts feeling the heat, a wave of intense flavors invade. Not the spicy type? No worries — Opio also has a moderate level for you with the exact same intensity of flavours. The curries are straight out delicious, served on a layer of baked rice — soft on top, crunchy at the bottom — and the Pho soup feels homey and authentic.
Our favorite item on the menu, however, was without a doubt the bahn mi, a vietnamese meatball sandwich. The pork meatballs are a tender bomb of flavor that might even charm a vegetarian. They are served with layer of fresh cilantro on top of what must be the crunchiest of French baguettes. As Rizzi himself likes to put it: “French and Asian: the perfect marriage”. The place has a relatively large range of Vegetarian options that are simply delicious. Yes we said Opio was also a pub, so of course there are craft beers and even some wine labels.
Benaim | your summer afternoon spot
Benaim isn’t exactly a total newcomer to Palermo. This Israeli street-food joint opened up its doors at the beginning of the year, but has been renewing its menu, expanding its space and looking to push new boundaries ever since. What makes us think you’ll be spending your summer there? For starters, the patios. Yes that’s right, we’re talking plural here. Benaim has managed to arrange the open air spaces of their huge house and turned them into a convivial space. A second reason for this being your ideal summer joint: on Fridays and Saturdays the place is open until 3 am. Who said a late night shawarma was such a bad idea?
Then come the drinks. Benaim offers four varieties of craft beer from local brewery Tres Colores. You have the choice between IPA, Blond, Red or Stout. The prices are very fair (on average, AR $80 per pint) on the regular schedule, and drop to an unbelievable AR $45 during Happy Hour. If you’re not a beer lover don’t stop reading just yet. Getting to Benaim you will immediately notice the little food truck parked by the entrance. Except this isn’t food-focused but rather a bar on wheels. There you can purchase some of the classic cocktails like Campari, Vermouth or even Gin & Tonic. A couple of wine labels are also available.
Last but not least is of course: the food. Although you might feel tempted to grab a falafel — one of the most iconic dishes of Israeli cuisine — we highly recommend you go for the Kebab instead. This, at least for us at The Bubble, is their star dish. The meat is as tender as it is flavorful and topped with a smoked chilli sauce that got us drooling. Their chicken shawarma is also something we recommend you try. Unlike the many shawarma’s there are around town, this one loses all of the grease and replaces it with a handful of spices. The chicken manages to remain tender and combines well with their crunchy homemade pitas. Oh, and let’s not forget their fries: a must-have when you’re only grabbing a couple of pints.
Although there aren’t any desserts yet on the menu, rumor has it that artisanal ice-creams might be making an appearance this summer. In order to give the menu a novel twist, every month or so Benaim will be hosting pop up nights where culinary friends of the restaurant take over their kitchen for an entire night.