The Fantastic Mr. Feedbag

A website celebrating and enumerating Juneau, Alaska's food culture

Eater of worlds -or- Love in the time of no Taco Bell

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Being hopelessly lost is Buenos Aires is a pleasant experience. Every once and a while you find your bearings like tires finding purchase and slowly the turf becomes navigable.

There are a profusion of local restaurants that serve a limited range of cuisine that really isn´t that appealing to my food prefences, which trend towards endless breakfasts at Denny´s or hot and spicy ethnic dishes.

Empanadas and pizza conspiculously missing the garlic and roasted sides of beef are all well and good but Moons Over My Hammy they are not.

In the absence of the possibility of stumbling across a Taco Bell or pancake house, the thing I most was craving when I arrived here was something spicy. I´ve noticed that the Argentines don´t really go in for the spicy stuff. Even their fries are unsalted. It is disorienting to say the least.

Enter the Gibraltar in San Telmo.

It is an English pub that plays Premiership soccer and rugby on a muted flatscreen TV during the daytime. The ambiance is sort of shabby-chic Victorian and the music goes from Tom Waits and Merle Haggard in the daytime to electronic at night. There is a large main room with black leather couches in the front and bench seating under the gaze of stately portraits of stiff-lipped, long dead Brits. Above the bar is a library or study room that does not appear to have any stairs or ladders leading up to it. There are what appears to be leather bound books and perhaps even fine mahogany and ornate wooden cabinets. The bar is like some amazing hipster anthropomorphism that looks studious and temperate but is really a daytime drunk.

If you head to the back, you pass an open view of the kitchen and find yourself in a smaller room with a billard table that leads to an outside backyard area where smokers congregate on stone benches. I really love these styles of “indoor courtyards” that are walled-in and always seem to have plant life crawling up to a square of sky suspended above.

In the travel guide Time Out Argentina, the Gibraltar was mentioned as being a place for genuinely spicy currys and I was surprised having had a drink there the previous night when it was slammed with people. The Gibraltar is something of a living, evolving creature each day. It opens and noon and if you go there early it serves a proper English breakfast of sausages and baked beans. There are a few people lingering, usually expats reading books and slowly imbibing pints. In the early afternoon foot traffic picks up. At some magical moment each early evening, patrons pour in from work and parts unknown and pack the place to the gills and a doorman materializes outside to regulate the amount of people in the bar.

The picture above is a green curry. I have so far taken in the green and red currys, the pad thai with shrimp and chicken, the hotjunglecurrybeef with noodles and the beef and ale pie on a lark. All were amazing. The pad thai and the currys are rustic and fresh. Green beans are a big component and hold up well in the spicy broth of the curry. The Gibraltar likes to garnish everything with cilantro, so in a way it is like an infinitely superior version of Pel Menis. You know, if Pel Menis (Menis… is that pronounced like penis?) had more than one menu item and served booze and attracted a cosmopolitan crowd and had some atmosphere, it´d be the same place. If you are drunk and spiritually debased enough, you couldn´t tell the difference.

Apros pos of nothing, I´ve been writing this in a shitty internet cafe listening to the Cranberries and Sufjan Stevens on youtube.

The red curry had some real heft. I ate this plate, devastated it really, in a few savage minutes and shambled home to take a nap. It was that transcendent. The roasted peanuts and water cress are so crunchy good. I took to dunking chunks of the perfectly sticky rice into the broth and soaking in the spice like a human vacuum sealer. Before, meet after:

I think it is all the more impressive that I did all this damage with chopsticks.

Buenos Aires is a beautiful place. The people are so cool. I mean like Johnny Depp cool. They stay up late because it´s much easier on one´s constitution. But they aren´t really down with the exotic foods, which is so puzzling. I guess this is coming from the same mind that growing up assumed that all of Latin America ate some version of Mexican food. Not so. There is not, nor will there ever likely be, an unending proliferation of Taco Bell-themed restaurants resplendent in wild neon colors covering the Southern Hemisphere. And it is for the better. But, like all fantasies, it is hard not to seek out small bits of cognitive dissonance involving innermost secret desires.

The Gibraltar in San Telmo, address Peru 895, is one of these fragmentary dream scapes. I couldn´t recommend it more highly.

10 out of 10 Feedbags!


Written by The Fantastic Mr. Feedbag

October 4, 2011 at 10:40 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Yay, a Feedbag post from the Fantastic Mr. Feedbag himself! You should look for a German restaurant there. I’m sure there are some good ones! Keep posting!

    Yo Mama

    October 4, 2011 at 10:57 am

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