With tables floating above goblet-trained vines, eight courses prepared by a World’s 50 Best Restaurant chef, a breathtaking panorama of the Andean sunset and pairings provided by one of Argentina’s most prolific winemaking families, Tegui SuperUco is hands down the most exciting restaurant pop-up in Argentina.
The good news is you still – just – have time to dine there.
A six-week project dreamt up by Germán Martitegui, winemaker Matías Michelini of Passionate Wines was instantly on board when the chef-patron of Tegui in Buenos Aires – ranked 49th in the world and 10th in Latin America, according to the 2017 50 Best Restaurants lists – suggested the idea two years ago.
Michelini offered up SuperUco, his family’s biodynamic vineyard and bodega located a few miles from the Andean foothills in Mendoza, to host the fine dining experience; it has been perfectly timed to mark Tegui’s tenth anniversary this year. Of course, there were plenty of challenges ahead.
First, Tegui temporarily battened down the hatches in the Argentine capital and shipped everything (leaving behind the kitchen sink) to SuperUco. Closing on February 24, Tegui SuperUco staged the first Mendoza dinner just three nights later. Then there was the tiny logistical issue of constructing a dining room and a kitchen, cooking without gas… all while the winery is in overdrive, slap bang in the middle of 2018’s vintage.
Martitegui, however, was rarely fazed. He says: “Being in Mendoza means we can forage for ingredients such as wild arugula, but also source products that we could rarely get in Buenos Aires.
Here, three-year-old hen is delivered live for our cazuela de gallina stew [a typical dish from Mendoza that is served ‘on the claw’ at Tegui SuperUco, a tiny cotton napkin provided for the squeamish to avoid any awkward contact], trout is caught in mountain rivers and delivered that same day, while organic tomatoes are picked just a few meters from the bodega. We can truly create a Mendoza version of Tegui.”
Glowing with emotion, Martitegui is clearly bowled over by the experience; we probably haven’t heard the last of Tegui on tour.
Star turns on the eight-step tasting menu (vegetarians are catered for, too) include El Tomate, the aforementioned Solanum lycopersicum cooked confit in olive oil, roasted in a clay oven then served in its juices with oregano oil and goat’s buttermilk, one of Martitegui’s personal favorites; cross-spit roasted chivo (kid) stuffed within two dehydrated sealed vine leaves to pick up with your hands like a sandwich; and baked prickly pear served with oregano honey and milk ice cream. Have you ever tried peeling tuna?
It’s a spiky nightmare, so this is the perfect opportunity to let the professionals prep this cactus fruit for you. Several dishes take inspiration from the vines themselves, incorporating grapes (such as the Chenin Blanc sorbet, fruit plucked straight from SuperUco’s vines), foliage – such as for the kid sandwich – and even fermenting, low-alcohol juice.
Then, there’s that view.
Besides mealtime magic, guests arrive in broad daylight and begin their experience rambling among the vines, a glass of bubbles from the Michelini family’s private collection in hand, between 5.30 PM and 6.30 PM, scandalously early by Argentine standards, but all conceived to dine as day eases into night.
Each table is set at a different elevation to represent the Andes and not obstruct anyone else’s view; white tablecloths and silver cutlery are the service standard. As the evening progresses, the sun lowers, snowy peaks start coming into their own, and the sky’s palette encompasses scarlet, orange, baby pink and violet before the astros appear.
“It’s said that no sunset is the same in Mendoza; no dinner will ever be the same either,” says Martitegui referring to the fact that each course is designed to follow the sun’s descent, desserts taken by candlelight.
As for wine pairings, sommelier Mariano Camaño draws from the entire Michelini clan’s diverse cellars.
Gems include Altar Uco Blend Blanco Sauvignon Blanc/Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay 2017 from Juan Pablo Michelini, Matías’ Montesco Punta Negra Pinot Noir 2015; an orange wine, Gen de Alma Chardonnay 2015 from Gerardo Michelini and oenologist wife Andrea Muffato; and Plop! Cabernet Sauvignon rosé by their son Manu; all wines are sourced from and produced in the Uco Valley.
Tegui SuperUco (until April 7, 2018)
Dinner with pairings: AR $2,800 (AR $2,300 for ICBC Bank clients)