There’s no doubt about it. Buenos Aires’ closed door restaurant scene is still very much a thing. Despite a steady influx of new contenders, few have managed to combine that trademark intimate, almost homey feel with a gastronomic experience worth writing home about. The second issue closed door fans face is finding a spot that manages to strike the balance between offering something special without coming off as stuffy or uptight. Lucky for us, there are still some places in town that know how to deliver just that – amazing food and a fulfilling experience without the attitude or hype. Here are three puertas cerradas experiences that achieve that allusive but wonderful balance.
Tierra Club de Vinos — A Wino’s Home Away From Home:
People from Australia, the USA, Guatemala, Italy and Colombia are sitting at the same table somewhere in Palermo Hollywood. A creamy hummus topped with achiote and served along something that looks like a chocolate cake (but is actually gorgeous black cornbread) entertains the guests while the tasting gets gearing up.
We are at the second “tasting + amuse bouche” closed door event organized by wine club Tierra Club de Vinos. A young venture created by four friends coming from four different corners of the world with diverse backgrounds and a common passion for good wine and food.
First, there’s Abigail Romero, born in raised in the suburbs of Buenos Aires. She’s what the team likes to call “the link” to the home turf, she’s also the operations manager, making all of the logistics and magic possible. The wine expertise is in the hands of Bertie Goddart, a British sommelier who made his way to Buenos Aires after exploring wine countries between Santiago and Mendoza.
Making the food are I-Latina’s former sous-chef Peter Drinan, a New Yorker that fell for the charms of cuisine in San Francisco but was formed in Buenos Aires, and Laura Jaramillo, who left her native Medellin for the Argentine capital by bus, taking the chance to explore all of South America’s flavors on the road. She is also the contestant who charmed Dueños de la cocina’s fans and jury with her creative almost narrative creations.
Tierra Club isn’t a closed door restaurant in the traditional sense. It is a club devoted to helping people approach drinking wine differently. As a part of their philosophy, food plays a major role in the understanding and enjoying wine. Unlike other wine clubs in the city, Tierra Club doesn’t just deliver bottles to your house, they deliver a whole tasting experience. And with a proper tasting comes a proper food pairing.
That is why twice a month they organize a closed door event where each wine is properly introduced and paired with a specially conceived tasting dish. That’s right. Here, the menu is thought of and build around the wine being offered — not the other way around. “We apply the reverse effect” explains Peter. “As a cook this is a challenge, but also a learning process”.
The result is simply amazing. The food is worthy of a high end restaurant, but manages to stay homey and unpretentious. Four amuse-bouches or tasting sized dishes are included on the menu, and right when you think it’s all done the cooks will show up with a batch of freshly baked cookies or any other treat that can give the tasting a sweet end note.
Four wines are featured but you rest assured that you won’t only be having four glasses as these guys want to make sure you give every label a second chance. Each glass is served along with a story. The story of the bottle, the qualities that caused it to be chosen by the group, but here again the fancy and encrypted vocabulary is left aside, making the introduction of each bottle decipherable for everyone.
Tierra Club tastings are bringing back the original concept of puertas cerradas giving the evening a laid-back and convivial feeling. The shared table and cozyness of the room — not to mention the friend-making effect of wine — invite guests to interact with each other.
A must try for wine amateurs wanting to lose the snobbiness and in place of a more human experience.
The tasting prices might vary according to the menu but are usually worth around AR $300. Club members get a special price for each tasting. Tierra Club also offers private events for up to 16 people. You can subscribe to the club for about 700 pesos and get a monthly selection of 4 labels specially curated by the group from some of the finest and more interesting boutique bodegas.
MASA Club de Tacos | Buenos Aires’ Supper Club:
Finding decent tacos in Buenos Aires is challenging – unless it’s a Thursday night, in which case we have found the ideal place to satisfy that craving. A cozy, intimate living room somewhere in Almagro where MASA Club de Tacos holds a supper club devoted to this Mexican culinary icon.
Let’s make one thing clear though, MASA’s tacos aren’t the usual Mexican tacos, nor are they any kind of Tex-Mex combination. Kevin Vaughn, the American cook behind the concept, takes the Thursday night dinners he’s been hosting for over 3 years now as a space to explore, with ingredients and concepts in order to come up with something fresh, different and yet delicious.
As a food writer and connoisseur, Kevin is under a constant exploration of the city’s culinary offers and keeps an open mind about adopting the trends, techniques or products that captivate his palate in the process. MASA’s menu can perfectly feature a traditional Mexican flauta alongside a spicy kimchi sauce for a Korean kick. A BBQ brisket can also replace the more traditional pork carnitas as a taco filling. Following this philosophy MASA also becomes a space of exploration for the clients who get a chance to expand their own taco horizons. Full disclosure — The Bubble is among the many places Kevin writes for, but this review is based on the genuine quality of the food and experience and was written from the most objective place possible. Questions of conflicts of interest aside — this man knows his tacos.
Unlike many closed door restaurants, MASA changes its menu every week making each experience unique, and allowing guests to go beyond scratching a restaurant out of their “places to eat at” list and actually joining a club where they will always be welcomed back by a surprising and delightful taco.
In fact MASA is thought by Kevin more as a supper club, than a puertas cerradas. “Supper is a really warm word that makes me think about family meals when I was a kid.” he told The Bubble. “And club is what I want also, something that people feel like they are a part of.”
Yet, many of the elements that shape the essence of a true closed door restaurant can be found at MASA. The secrecy is kept alive, even if social media exposure is important, the address is never revealed until the reservation has been confirmed. Each dinner takes place at the cook’s diner room where one communal table invites guests to share and interact. The ambiance at MASA is not only laid back but intimate, making the whole experience feel more like dinner at a friend’s.
MASA is also developing a series of Pop-up events along with San Telmo’s fast food eatery Matambre. Baptised Masambre, these events should be happening every month, giving the Buenos Aires taco scene the much needed element of surprise.
MASA’s dinners take place every Thursday evening and is around AR$ 200, plus drinks. You can take a look at every week’s menu through their Facebook Page.
Moment | Where Upscale Meets Cozy:
The magic of a closed door restaurant partly relies on the element of surprise. You never really know what you’re going to get. And with Moment, that element hits you when you first enter the Colegiales casona that houses this young restaurant. The Edwardian castle aesthetic gives way to a casual warmth that lets you disconnect from reality and take a quick trip back in time.
One you’re welcomed by Chef Federico Cassino and Sofía Rodriguez, the warm couple that has been making the magic happen for almost two years, and you get a taste of their cuisine, you’re suddenly transported to a cozy, intimate space that feels strangely familiar. Cassino has a special talent for making elegant dishes feel homey and comfortable at the same time.
“When we first created Moment, we were looking to offer our guests the opportunity to forget about what was going on out there for a while, so they could enjoy what was happening behind closed doors, the intimacy of the house, the comfort of the experience” Cassino told The Bubble.
Moment offers a three or five course menu where upscale techniques meet local ingredients that vary every month or so, based on what each season has to offer. With each bite you take, you’ll be able to realize Cassino is a chef that cares for the product and gets out there looking for the very best. The Chef is keen on sharing his knowledge and cooking philosophy through the cooking classes he organizes often at the restaurant.
Moment’s guest have the chance to choose their drinks from the menu, but also have the possibility to fully embrace the experience by taking the specially thought wine pairing. Wine plays a major role in this closed door. The offer varies constantly as different Bodegas are invited to join the experience. Moment also offers wine tasting on a regular basis, also opened to the public with previous reservation.
If you’d like to attend a Moment experience, you’ll need to book in advance through their Facebook Page or website. Prices tend to end up between AR $350 and AR $450 for the 3 and 5 course menus, plus AR$ 180 for the wine pairing.