We intend not only to post recipes here, but also the occasional restaurant review. Of course, there are many great sites reviewing restaurants here in Buenos Aires – the chef at Casa Saltshaker has his writing site, Saltshaker.net, a new friend of mine gets in taxi every week and tells the driver to take her somewhere where he or she would eat at Go Where the Taxista Takes You and also writes articles for international and local publications, and there are others I’m sure. That said, we intend to chip in our little bit, as food is food. Plus, once we’re traveling, we can talk about things that we don’t always cook.
Alright, that said, let’s get to the food. Tonight we tried out a little bit of Russia (and the Ukraine!) here in Buenos Aires. We had tried once before and discovered a nice little Colombian place instead – very strange, same address and phone number, we had made a reservation and shown up before we realized our mistake – but had our story straight this time. Not having a reservation, we showed up early to an empty restaurant, but were quickly assured we had made the right choice, as over half of the tables were reserved.
After some discussion over the myriad of menu choices, we ended up choosing a bunch to share: perogies, borscht, blinies (update: I’m told from my Ukrainian side that in Ukrainian, these are called Nalysnyky, pronounced Nal-lis-nika), stroganoff with mashed potatoes, and ensalada rusa, a local concoction made from potatoes, carrots, peas, and mayo. Usually it’s rather uncreative, boiled soft, and contains canned, brownish-tinted peas. This one, however, proved popular even with those who systematically avoid the dish. Fresh peas and the addition of ham and chopped pickles made it a winner with all.
The rest of the dishes were pretty well done. The perogies apparently used to be made with empanada wrappers and served as giant boiled potato empanadas (we’ve actually done this at home, they’re not too bad, though you only need one or two for a meal), but they seem to pinch them off larger here, so they were closer to regular size. They did, however, give them twists that empanadas have, giving a South American twist on a Russian dish. I still prefer my mom’s and aunt’s and baba’s perogies, but these did in a pinch.The borscht was well received (Chris’ favourite borscht ever, out of a sampling of three experiences. It was especially good with the real black bread that we received with dinner, certified to be ‘just like they have in Russia’ by another food junkie who had been to Russia and was out with us this evening). The girls really liked the stroganoff, though I was ambivalent over it. I guess my idea of stroganoff is less flexible than theirs! Lastly, the blinis were tasty, nice spices in the meat with a dollop of sour cream on the side.
The environs also passed muster – a musician playing and singing in the corner, a lively crowd, impossibly thin blond waitresses, and the host/head waiter/owner? came, at some point, to every table, insisting on a shot of vodka on the house. Some tables had forgone the shot long before and simply ordered their own bottle for the night, lending the feeling of a cold Russian night forgotten amongst friends.
As Dan said in his review (at the old location), Ermak will never be accused of ‘great culinary creativity or offering haute cuisine’. It’s homestyle food, the way my baba and mom and aunts make it (I’m half Ukrainian, in case you didn’t know). Filling, warming, wrap-you-up-in-its-meaty-arms kind of satisfaction is served here, and it’s that feeling that will bring me back here.
Ermak, Billinghurst 815, 4862-0170
Added later: Funny enough, the next day we were wandering around Once close to our place and came upon a Russian import store. Looked like some nice stuff, but the real kicker were these Russian-painted mates. If you’re dying for one, the address of the store is Sarmiento 2174.