A travelogue of our first trip to Buenos Aires


Saturday January 3 - Dinner at Casa Saltshaker

In our research about Buenos Aires, much has been made of the cuisine of the city, and we compiled quite a list of restaurants to try, including a place called Casa Saltshaker.

Casa Saltshaker is a supper club, that is, a 'private' restaurant run out of someone's house. In the States they're illegal (in BsAs too I think [see the chef's comment below]) - any place preparing food in exchange for money is generally subject to kitchen/food inspection, employment law, etc., - but they exist, especially on the west coast and around New York. There used to be one in Boston and we got on the reservation list (I had to be vouched for before they would take my reservation), but then they stopped serving, and I was disappointed we didn't get the opportunity to try it.

So when I heard about Casa Saltshaker in BsAs, I jumped at the chance. I emailed the proprietors (the host is Argentinian Peruvian and the chef is American) and got on the waitlist for dinner on Saturday January 3. They had someone cancel so we got in.

Going to a stranger's house for dinner with a bunch of people one doesn't know is an odd sensation. There were ten of us for dinner, with the chef, the host and a helper in the ordinary kitchen of an ordinary apartment in an ordinary neighborhood. You had to be social (not at all hard for me) because when you walk through the door you're handed a drink and are immediately surrounded by your dinner companions.

After some cocktail chatter, we sat down at the table. Everyone around the table was a native English speaker - eight Americans, a Brit and an Irish woman. This is vacation season for the locals - they're all at the beach because schools are out for the summer - so this time of year, Casa Saltshaker generally serves tourists. I was hoping to meet some natives, but maybe next time. Ages ranged from twenty-something to seventy-something; all were well-traveled and interesting people. Most had had friends refer them, and others (like us) found the place through online references (I found them through TripAdvisor).

The chef talked us through each of the courses, and I've listed them here, along with my translations (Dan, if I've gotten anything wrong, feel free to comment!). Each dinner has a theme, generally based on some historical occurrence that takes place around the date of the dinner, and the theme of our dinner was the Teapot Dome scandal, a land grab scandal that took place in the US midwest under the Harding administration in the 20s. For the dinner, every course had tea (the tea name is in quotations in the list below) in the dish, generally not used as a sauce but as a spice.

Ensalada de Arvejas y Espinaca "Menta Primavera"
Salad of Fresh Peas and Spinach with vinaigrette that included a mint tea
Wine - Trapiche Extra Brut

Sopa de Papas "Calma"
Cold potato soup that included some type of calming tea (probably chamomile but I didn't ask)
Wine - Gascon Viognier

Langanelli con Polo "Mercado de la India"
Pasta with Chicken with Indian-spiced tea
Wine - Gascon Rosado

Salmon "Alma China" y Polenta
Salmon with Polenta flavored with a tea that was really good but defies description, sorry
Wine - Alfredo Roca Pinot Noir

Tartita de Duraznos "Rooibos"
Fresh Peach Tart with a Shortbread Crust with an African tea that I swear smelled like cake
Wine - San Felipe Tardio

It was all excellent and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.


  1. I love the food descriptions as well as the picture of the yummy-looking half-eaten sandwich! Your "Hope It's Good" food blog was good practice.

  2. That tea does smell like cake! It's such a cozy, toasty aroma. Laurie

  3. Valyn,

    Closed door restaurants are not illegal here as long as you comply with various regulations. First off, there's no restaurant or liquor licensing here like there is in the states - so the "money in exchange for food" paradym doesn't hold here - in home places are commonplace and legal to operate. The primary things one is supposed to do is the chef needs a sanitation certificate from the health dept - I have one, the building dept requires we be zoned for commercial use, have two bathrooms and two exits - we have all that, the fire dept requires a ventilation system and a fire extinguisher sufficient for the kitchen - we have them, and the tax dept requires you pay taxes - we do. We're a registered business and all is above board - including if any department wants to inspect us. In the States, it's harder, which is why many of the "closed door" places operate as private clubs - it relieves them of some of the requirements for a restaurant.

    In terms of the teas you weren't sure about above - the mint tea was a blend of mint leaves and dried wild strawberries; the "Calm" blend is verbena, chamomille and rosehips; the Indian Market blend was black Assam tea with ginger, cinnamon, pepper, and cardamom; the Chinese Soul tea was green tea with dried pineapple and peach; and the African tea was rooibos root.


  4. Oh, by the way, the host, my partner and boyfriend, wants you to know he's Peruvian, not Argentine. ;-)

  5. Dan,

    Thanks for the clarification on all points, and apologies to Henry!

  6. My own opinion is that Palermo is also home to the best and most varied restaurants in the city, especially if you like ethnic food. You can find food from France, Spain, Italy, Scandinavia, Asia, North & Central America, etc. You could go out for a month and just eat at restaurants in Palermo and not miss out on anything.
    By the way, I rented one of the apartments in Palermo, Buenos Aires.



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