Sunday, November 25, 2007

Casa Felix

It was my fourth time at Casa Felix, the hidden puerta cerrada restaurant that's part of a dining trend that's smokin' up the Buenos Aires night scene (there’s a New York Times piece on it, look it up). Casa Felix is helmed by chef Diego Felix, who although Argentine picked up his gastronomic training in the states and all over South America, chiefly in Paraguay. His strikingly beautiful girlfriend, Sanra, an American, works the pastry/dessert component. For 65 pesos/person (it used to be 70), you get this fantastically multi-layered, multi-course meal that's either vegetarian or pescatarian or vegan (your choice) involving fresh, seasonal, and sometimes organic players. Fourth time's the charm--as were the first, second, and third. Truth be told, I've never had an experience there that wasn't outstanding in some way.

Casa Felix used to be in an eclectic, funky space in Palermo Hollywood, complete with an open-air courtyard (it often reminded me of something you'd see in that hipster part of LA known as Silverlake). Now it's in Chacarita, a family nabe I never read about, in an even bigger, funkier space--also with an open-air courtyard. I was pleased to see that the ambiance hadn't been altered with the move, since I so loved the tree murals and the under-the-stars seating (weather permitting) of the old place, also because part of dining in someone else's house requires a leap of aesthetic faith of sort--i.e., that they won't have, as my brother Bo so charmingly put it, shitty taste in decor. (The concept of a closed-door restaurant eluded him, and he kept picturing us barging into someone's Roseanne-like living room decked with thrift-store art and a blaring TV used as a soundtrack.) Rest assured, Bo was comforted by what he saw.

In a crunchy little nutshell, we had an amazing meal. Each course kept topping the previous in complexity and taste. I think Diego's specialty lies in how he twines the salty, sweet, and sour in a compelling way--often mixing veggies and fruit so you get your vities and minerals all out of the way--the end product being some kind of taste bombshell. It was like having a wholesome frat (oxymoron much?) party inside your mouth--and with raw zucchini of all things! (Even my awesome mom can't get me to eat that.)

So here was last night's lineup:

(1) Tropical white wine sangria (with floating bits of pineapple and mango)

(2) Spicy black bean dip served with homemade bread, not pictured because I ate it all. [The bread was so pillowy soft, I wanted to doze on it.]

(3) Organic zucchini rolls stuffed with steamed beets, goat cheese, and pine mushroom with an apricot and saffron dressing. [This was to die for. Even the carrot slaw was crunchy sweet. Seriously, I think I heard Nannette moaning from the sheer deliciousness of it all.]

(4) Mbeyú with chunky tomato and pineapple salsa, scattered with Colombian or Bolivan peanuts. [The grilled mbeyú was addicting. I kept swiping off of other people's plate. Mbeyú is a Paraguayan carb made with yucca and taro, although to my rather uninformed palate, it tasted an awful lot like Japanese mochi, pounded rice. Actually, my thirteen-year-old budding foodie pointed that out.]

(5) Melon granita, to cleanse the palate and prep you for the main course, which was...

(6) Grilled grouper fish with sautéed seasonal veggies, lime-flavored mashed potatoes with yellow chilies, served with a side of black-olive tapenade. [Outstanding kaleidoscope of flavors: salty fish, mouth-puckeringly sour puréed papas--though I didn't detect any chilies--and sweet smashed olives. Each bite had something interesting. Swoon.]

(7) Carob and peanut butter cake with orange mousse. [This was good though to be honest, we were so stuffed at that point I’m not sure we did it justice. The orange topping was less mousse and more icy sorbet-like. I liked this, but I will forever plead my loyalty to their staggeringly good tres leches cake, first served back in February.]

(8) Cocido negro, a Latin American hot beverage involving burning the yerba maté with sugar to get that dark color. [Musky and sweet and oh-so comforting nearly 3 hours later...]

Good food + good company = one of life's greatest pleasures. And in this intimate, hidden diner, you get to revel in both. So...what are you waiting for--they only seat 12 a night! Make that reservation stat.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi from Cape Town, South Africa. I read about CASA FELIX on NYTimes site. As we are visiting BA in Dec 2008 I contacted Diego - and to my delight he replied today. Then I discovered your write up of it as well. Thanks so much, as I will be passing your words on to the rest of my friends who will be travelling with me. Happy eating. EdToit