In a city famous for deceptively glamorous facades and a let’s say inconsistent relationship with quality – Porta Chiusa is salvation in the form of a closed door restaurant. More than just a pretty face, this culinary oasis proves that some Porteños can back up the promises made with modern typeface and drool worthy Instagram accounts.
Located in the middle of Palermo Hollywood, Porta Chiusa’s incredible offerings are served in a setting that manages to strike a cozy feeling cord while still looking like something out of a design magazine. This impressive feat makes more sense when keeping in mind Leandro Belleti, one of the three chefs behind the project, also doubles as an architect. Belleti along with his partner Leandro Enriquez (a seriously badass pâtissier) and chef Daniel Scenna (the man behind Creme Brulee Catering) developed the concept of offering a dining experience that combined art, architecture, with a fresh take on what cocina fusion can look like.
Guests are brought up to the dining space on stairs and floors made from wooden crates that were used to ship VW motors and engines to Argentina. This rustic nod to a bygone era stands in contrast to the contemporary open concept kitchen and dining area, decorated with a changing collection of art from local artists (Mariano Sanchez’s work was last month’s eye candy), soft lighting, and intelligently placed details in the form of candlelight and flowers.
All of this contemporary whimsy sets the stage for the complimentary welcome cocktails handed out by handsome servers. I was lucky enough to be served their Campari-based concoction that combined the Argentine go-to-summer aperitif with fresh mint and splashes of what tasted like citric sunshine.
After choosing a bottle from their selection of wines from the Finca el Nevado family of vineyards, I was greeted by two different combinations of tostadas. One group was topped with a gorgeous cured ham (of the authentically Spanish variety) along with a soft mild cheese. The other group of happy little morsels were crowned with mushrooms sautéed in a reduction of something that was between malbec and heaven and paired with a brie that actually tasted like brie (no small undertaking in this far from France and Yanquilandia).
The next plate made my week. Porta Chiusa’s deconstructed interpretation (my pretentious naming not theirs) of ceviche served up a gorgeous thick slice of raw salmon lightly marinated in a blend of citrus juices on top of a bed of spicy sprouts. The quality of the salmon was by far the best I’ve had in Buenos Aires. When asked what his secret to getting ahold of this quality of fish was, Scenna gave a smirk only a Porteño could give and said “I know a guy”.
He went on to explain some of the freshest seafood finds it’s way from Chile to Argentina via plane every morning. The trick involves knowing where to go and getting there very early. A process these guys have apparently mastered.
The main course was a lively green curry consisting of buttery soft lamb and root vegetables. Just enough spice to make you feel like you’re eating curry but not enough to make the locals cry or faint. In addition to nailing the level of spice, the team knows what it’s doing in the desert department. Enriquez sent out a dream of a cheese cake topped with maracuya set on a bed of raw cacao balancing tang with the kind of earthy decadence that could make having a dating life obsolete.
The menu is changed out every week, but the seamless blending of mediterranean passion and ingredients along side Eastern flavors and techniques remains a consistent reason to check back with this team of passionate culinary magic makers. Also worth mentioning is the price – by far one of the most competitively pries puerta cerradas for the quality I’ve been to.
For the sake of context and humblebragging: I left saying “no really, that salmon though…”
Photo Credit: Daniel Scenna