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Food and restaurants in Buenos Aires

Korean Barbecue in Buenos Aires – Who Knew?

Almost everyone knows about Buenos Aires’ Chinatown (check out Palitos for some of the best Chinese food in Buenos Aires), but do you know that Buenos Aires also has a Koreatown?

Smaller than its Chinatown counterpart, Koreatown is further off the beaten path and less well known.  From Wikipedia:

Buenos Aires’s ‘Barrio Coreano’ is in the neighborhood of Flores, specifically in the south of this neighborhood. The primary artery of the district is Carabobo Avenue, which houses various Korean businesses and organizations, including restaurants, beauty salons, a Korean school (Instituto Coreano Argentino) and churches, among others. In recent years, there has been a huge move from the Bajo Flores towards the Avellaneda Avenue, the reason being the increasing theft and insecurity around the slums close to Av. Castanares. What some might call these days, “The New Koreatown,” has been increasing in size at a faster rate while the shops in Av. Carabobo have been closing.  There are over 22,000 Koreans in Argentina, most of them in Buenos Aires, where the Asian population is around 2.5%.

Luckily, last Friday night, we were let in on the secret of Koreatown and Korean barbecue when we were invited by Kristin to take part in what she called “one of the best deals in Buenos Aires.”

No one seems to know the name of the restaurant, with the sign written only in Korean, at Av. Carabobo 1575, but once you climb the dingy stairs and pass through the security gate, you’re greeted with an authentic Korean barbecue experience. Immediately as you sit down, the food starts coming fast and furious.  These were probably the hardest working waiters I have ever seen in Buenos Aires and they didn’t stop moving the entire time we were there.

The all-you-can-eat smorgasbord includes kimchi (cabbage and tripe), oysters, seaweed, noodles, tofu, soup, a full cooked fish, egg with crab, and many other things I’d be hard pressed to name. Of course, it also includes a plate of raw beef, pork, shrimp and octopus that you grill on your table-top barbecue.  The food was spicy and flavorful, with the clear winner amongst all our friends being the spicy pork.

The cost of this meal? $60 pesos per person and $10 pesos for a liter of Quilmes. We left completely stuffed and satisfied, having had both seafood and spice – two rare treats in Buenos Aires.

After dinner, our group headed across the street to the “Chess Club” to reserve a private room for karaoke. Unfortunately, we were way too full and tired, so we headed home. But, don’t worry, we’ll definitely be back.

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June 1, 2010: D-Day for Imported Foods in Argentina

According to a verbal decree issued  on May 6, 2010  by Argentina’s interior secretary, Guillermo Moreno, today was to be the day that Argentina banned the import of foreign food products that had a domestic equivalent. This was another ill-thought-out plan by the government without any written guidelines regulating what would or would not be allowed. (Beer? Cheese? Pasta?)

There was considerable confusion amongst supermarket managers as well as significant backlash from Argentina’s neighbors as well as the European Union. Many countries complained that it violated World Trade Organization as well as Mercosur policies. The Argentine government had to start backpedaling. They issued numerous denials about  the ban and stated that it was all a misunderstanding.

For the moment, it appears that this ban has not been put into place, although one never knows if and when it will return. This is Argentina after all. In fact, a May 26th article in Businessweek notes that many products were being delayed at Argentina’s borders and ports and many business were applying self-imposed restrictions because of the level of uncertainty regarding the ban.

Deciding to “see for myself,” I took a trip to the Carrefour supermarket in Vincente Lopez today. I had a bit of a scare when the first thing I saw was a display of imported food on clearance. I thought, “Oh god, they are clearing out all the imports!” (As I quickly grabbed three bags of Snyder’s pretzel rods at 60% off.)

Luckily, it looks like that really was just a clearance sale on some items. The regular import section of the supermarket looked the same as it had last week:

So, I’m happy to report that yes, expats can still buy overpriced imported food.

I realized that I had never really paid close attention to the prices on imported products before, so I took note today.  Let’s look at some of these prices:

Wesson Canola Oil: $40,99 (US $10.47). Price in the US, $3.99.
Prego Pasta Sauce: $21,99 (US $5.62). Price in the US, $2.99.
Swiss Miss: $27,99 (US  $7.15). Price in the US, $4.52.
Campbell’s Cream of Shrimp: $26,99 (US $6.90). Price in the US, $3.79.
Campbell’s Cream of Celery: $20,99 (US $5.36). Price in the US, $0.88.
Snyder’s Cheddar Cheese Pieces: $23,99 (US $6.13). Price in the US, $2.51.
Sapporo Beer: $28,99 (US $7.41). Price in the US $2.69.

All I can say is that Argentina already seems to have taken care of the issue of buying local products by levying high taxes on imports. Everything is at least double the price you could find it in the States.  In fact, I am not sure who would buy these products other than expats craving a taste of home and the wealthy.

So, Argentina, I am going to say that you have nothing to worry about. Your protectionist policies are already secure.  Leave the few imports we have here alone so that us expats can enjoy a bit of a taste from home from time to time.

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The Quest for Sushi

While we love so much about Buenos Aires, we’ll be the first to admit that we have been less than enthusiastic about the sushi here. For a major cosmopolitan city, we expected more options and choices even though we realize that beef is the primary food here.  Luckily, our complaining about the sushi is now over.

Last night, we met our friend Eddie and his wife for dinner at Osaka on Soler and Fitz Roy in Palermo Hollywood.  Osaka is a Peruvian and Asian fusion restaurant and it more than satisfied our craving for good sushi.  The food was without a doubt some of the best we’ve had since we’ve been here. (We were not very impressed with Casa Cruz.)

The sushi rolls were creative and delicious, the sashimi was fresh and melted in your mouth, the ceviche was outstanding, and the hot dishes didn’t dissapoint. Even the spicy maki was actually a little spicy! And, while they didn’t have fresh tuna, we didn’t even notice in the end because everything else was so good.

While it is a little expensive, it is not unreasonable and the quality cannot be beat.  You will need to make a reservation in advance though as they were completely booked on a Monday night.  You may also run into some celebrities – we sat next to Benicio del Toro.

I’d definitely recommend checking this place out.

Osaka Reviews [Guía Oleo]

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