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A Taste of Argentina

Written by , published March 3, 2010

It's becoming a familiar scenario: A friend comes in from out of town, and I discover a new Austin restaurant. Usually, it's just a matter of my wanting to try a place I'd heard about and good timing. Recently, though, when my friend Candy was here for a convention, she came armed with her own recommendation. Of course, this particular friend knows Austin better than I do (although she lives in Victoria now), so it didn't surprise me. What's more, she's a foodie, so I figured her choice would be a good bet.

Candy's recommendation was Buenos Aires Café, an Argentine (what else?) restaurant known for using fresh, organic ingredients. (We went to the East Sixth location.) We managed to get a small table near the front, even on a Friday night when things seemed plenty lively. Candy opted for the Pastel de Papas, or shepherd's pie; she'd read rave reviews about this dish. I chose the Gnocci Quartet, despite her reviewer's advice to the contrary. How could I resist, after reading the description on the menu: "pumpkin-cinnamon, sweet potato-chipotle, cilantro-jalapeño, and potato-herb gnocchi tossed with roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and haricots verts and olive oil, finished with specialty sauces and fresh parmesan."

Candy's classic Caesar salad was just that ”classic” and my spinach salad, with feta cheese, Fuji apples, and spicy roasted pecans tossed in a sweet and tangy vinaigrette, proved a great beginning to the meal. Candy also ordered a pollo empanada: chicken, red bell peppers, green onions, and herbs enveloped in a rich, flaky pastry. I had a bite, and considered ordering another one of the savory concoctions for myself. 

But then, our entrées came. Candy's shepherd's pie: ground beef, green onions, raisins, green olives, herbs, and spices topped with mashed potatoes that had been baked into a crispy crust, was tasty, but after exchanging samples, we both agreed that my gnocchi was the best by far. The tender-yet-firm texture of the gnocchi with all those delectable flavors inside made for a wonderful combination. It was so good that no dessert was a no-brainer, despite the great-looking chocolate créme brûlée I saw diners enjoying at a nearby table. The plan for my next visit? Share an order of gnocchi and save room for the créme brûlée.

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