Itâ€™s becoming a familiar scenario: A friend comes in from out of town, and I discover a new Austin restaurant. Usually, itâ€™s just a matter of my wanting to try a place Iâ€™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 didnâ€™t surprise me. Whatâ€™s more, sheâ€™s a foodie, so I figured her choice would be a good bet.
Candyâ€™s recommendation was Buenos Aires CafÃ©, 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 shepherdâ€™s pie; sheâ€™d read rave reviews about this dish. I chose the Gnocci Quartet, despite her reviewerâ€™s advice to the contrary. How could I resist, after reading the description on the menu: â€œâ€¦pumpkin-cinnamon, sweet potato-chipotle, cilantro-jalapeÃ±o, 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.â€
Candyâ€™s classic Caesar salad was just thatâ€”classicâ€”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 empanadaâ€”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.Â
But then, our entrÃ©es came. Candyâ€™s shepherdâ€™s pieâ€”ground beef, green onions, raisins, green olives, herbs, and spices topped with mashed potatoes that had been baked into a crispy crustâ€”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 â€œno dessertâ€ was a no-brainer, despite the great-looking chocolate crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e I saw diners enjoying at a nearby table. The plan for my next visit? Share an order of gnocchi and save room for the crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e.Â