German Torres gazes at a basket full of breads carefully considering each one before he grabs a loaf of rye. It is still warm from the oven and cracks loudly underneath his grip. “This is what we look for here,” he proclaims gently, running his finger over a long ridge across the top like a mountain range that has broken free from a deep valley. “When it does whatever it wants,” ruminating as if it were an independent being.
Salvaje Bakery is a small shop sculpted out of a long rectangular warehouse on the border of Colegiales and Palermo Hollywood. It is 10am and they have just opened. The bread is fresh and a collection of sweets makes the entrance smell of warm chocolate and sugar glazes. The crew is young and lanky and dressed in crisp white t-shirts and light blue jeans cuffed at the ankle. Upstairs bakers knead away, and even in their dusty aprons and flat top hats they look effortlessly cool.
Torres opened the bakery with childhood friends Martin Ortíz and Sebastian Carlisle last December; the pair handles the business side of the bakery. A copy writer by trade, the fresh faced 32 year old Torres began dividing his time between his day job at a marketing agency and a night shift in a local Italian restaurant before dedicating himself full-time and working briefly in Williamsburg. “Bread is a really important part of the Argentine diet but we are used to eating poor quality bread.” A truck delivering white bread happens to stop on the street as he explains. “It all tastes the same because it is frozen and no one ferments. It’s reheated in grocery stores in bad ovens.”
A waiter slides a chocolate bun and coffee my way. The flakey pastry tears apart in a dozen airy layers to reveal a moat of softened dark chocolate. The dough is soft and gooey. The rich chocolate cuts through the lightness. The flavor stays on the roof of my mouth and adds a touch of sweet to every sip of black coffee. All of the dishware is handcrafted and demonstrates a philosophy that goes from top to bottom. “If we were going to make a bread that was unique, everything here needed to be unique.”
More than being ‘unique’, every decision speaks to the trio’s personality—from the crew to the oven. “We wanted a certain profile. We all read. We like art. Most importantly, music is very important to us. It was important for me to know that no one would be playing Shakira while I wasn’t around,” Torres explains in jest. The oven was rescued from an old storage house in Caseros. It turned on but had to be completely restored. “My partners thought I was insane but I knew it was the right one. We later found out it was made in 1996 so even the oven is grunge.” The Spanish made oven steams bread similarly to a dutch oven—the crust hardens slowly which allows yeast to grow and create the cracked top Torres pointed out earlier.
All the bread is made with a starter that is six years old now. The flavor is rich and ideal for traditional simple sandwiches. Turkey, roast beef, braised pork shoulder as well as a vegan and vegetarian option make up the bulk of the lunch menu. Tastes are simple but varied and pure: bitter, earthy, sweet, acidic, sour and spicy create a melange of flavor. Spicy mustard seeds pop on your tongue, thick pickles have a sweet vinegar finish and aioli adds a creamy texture to chewy bread and crunchy vegetables. Cold cuts—like the turkey—are carefully chosen and rich and herby while roasted meats are made in house. The roast beef had a surprising fatty texture somewhere between a pate and a braised tongue.
All the sandwiches are accompanied by healthy sides: cous-cous with bitter black olives and creamy yogurt or a leafy green salad with soft roasted pumpkin and crunchy peanuts. For desserts, the aforementioned chocolate bun is an excellent choice, as is the chocolate cake, a crumbly brownie topped with cacao half moons.
Despite what the name may suggest, Salvaje has been able to turn the complexity of bread making into a controlled chaos. The bread feels alive. It stands alone and grabs our attention even when it is mixed with boisterous flavors. Torres dips back into the open kitchen and puzzles over another loaf of bread. He picks up one after another and meticulously analyzes the touch and smell before choosing a whole grain. He admires the rough break at the top, “Every bread is a landscape. It surprises me every time.”
Dorrego 1829, Palermo Hollywood
Tuesday through Sunday 10:00am to 9:00pm